My favourite books!

Hey, hey!

So, it’s been making the rounds on Instagram and Twitter recently, where people have been posting their favourite books or their fav book stack.

I decided to have a go at this, and trust me – it was hard. I spent the last few weeks really curating my list and making some rules for my choices.

So, if you’re curious – first, here’s my rules.

  1. Only one book by each author. Of course, a behemoth like King has delivered A LOT of books I adore, and really Andrew Pyper would make up my top ten all on his own, so to really push the pedal – only one book from each.
  2. The book had to have a sentimental or specific reason as to why I was choosing it. Which helped whittle some of the books down.

That’s it. Lame yeah? 🙂

Ok, without further wait – my list. And this is in no particular order!

The Guardians – Andrew Pyper


Released in 2011, I just got around to reading it last month and it was a spectacularly moving piece. A coming-of-age, Canadian haunted house story, this left me stunned. I’ll be sharing more and more about this book in my upcoming PYPER-MAY-NIA celebration, but for now, just know that this has left an imprint on me for now and forever.


Those Who Came Before – J.H. Moncrieff

Released in 2019 through Flametree Press, ‘Those Who Came Before’ was an emotionally driven piece that focused on racism, bigotry and a mystery within a park. It was a phenomenal piece of writing from one of the best out there. Reading this left me emotionally drained and at times I had to really fight back the tears about the treatment of some of the people. J.H. held nothing back and I think the most insane aspect to this whole thing is that the book features a review quote from me on it!


Creature – Hunter Shea

Another release through Flametree, this one arrived in September of 2018 and introduced me to a side of Hunter Shea’s writing I’d not seen before. I’d read a number of his cryptozoology style books before, but this was heart-felt, character driven and even through ‘something’ was out there, it was a slow-burn horror. My Grandma Marshall had multiple sclerosis, so reading how this woman was affected and her struggle, while with a different affliction, really spoke to me. This was an amazing book.


Odd Man Out – James Newman

You want to read a psychological horror story filled with so many moments of dread and regret? ‘Odd Man Out’ was unflinching in its delivery and I made the horrible mistake of reading this on a flight back to Edmonton. I was at our remote Peace River clinic and had a 90 minute flight home. Figured, hey, I can knock this out in the airport and on the flight back. What a mistake. As we landed, I was just finishing it and started to read the afterword and wow, just wow. What a book. This came out in 2016, but still keeps finding new readers to ruin.


WOOM – Duncan Ralston

This may be an odd choice, but this one really delivers some devastating back story and psychological terrors. Ralston created a man that the readers can connect with, while at the same time feel repulsed by. Interestingly, as the story progresses and things unfold, it makes perfect sense but just leaves you crushed. This one also came out in 2016, but should be on every horror readers TBR.


Lisey’s Story – Stephen King

This one is a love it or hate it King read, but for me, this is the perfect Stephen King release. I remember hearing and reading about King being struck by a van while out for a walk and it shook me, it really did. When he survived, people were obviously elated, but at that time, I wasn’t fully following all of his latest releases. When I found out ‘Lisey’s Story’ was his imaginations take on if he’d died, I was stunned. I read this in two different airports and flights and I really should know better than to read while flying.


The Spirit – Thomas Page

I love a great Bigfoot book (see Creature above) and ‘The Spirit’ doesn’t fail to deliver in that regard. What I really loved about this book was the character that we get to see develop, both in the man tracking the creature, but also the creature itself. This one has been re-released by Valancourt in the Paperbacks From Hell series curated by Grady Hendrix, which is fantastic as it allows more people to access such a great book.


Remains – Andrew Cull

Perhaps the single, greatest look at grief and loss I’ve ever read, I’m still beyond humbled that I was able to Beta read this while Andrew was working on it. The book came out in late 2019 and I was so sad to see it not make it very far in the Stoker conversation. This book will make you want to rip out the pages and use them as tissue. Just brutal, bleak and corrosive to the soul.


The Name of the Wind – Patrick Rothfuss

The book that saved me as a reader.

Released in 2008, ‘The Name of the Wind’ quickly pushed Rothfuss into the ‘best author on the planet’ category and while he delivered big time with book two and two point five in the Kingkiller Chronicles, we all patiently wait for book three.

But for me, I was at a point in my reading life where nothing caught my attention and I wasn’t reading for months on end. Then one day, at the gym I was training at in 2013, my friend John Wesley suggested this book and Kvothe didn’t fail. Loved it and here I am, a reading machine.


The Art of Racing in the Rain – Garth Stein

Perhaps one of the most emotionally devastating books I’ve ever read, my former boss, Graham suggested I give this a go. The timing was, of course, horrible. Our dog, OJ, had recently suffered a traumatic spinal injury which left him paralyzed for several months and even to this day, he has hind end issues. A story told through the eyes of a dog can only end one way, and boy when I got there, wow. Allergy city for hours.

Released in 2008, this has recently been turned into a major motion picture, but one I personally don’t believe I’ll watch, instead letting how this book affected me to stay that way.


Last Days – Adam Nevill

I’m admittedly late to the Nevill game. I’ve watched ‘The Ritual’ which I loved, but haven’t read it yet, and have read his two short story compilations that have three stories each and they were stunning. But ‘Last Days.’ This book was amazing. Nevill created creatures that may very well be the most evil things to ever dance across the paper and it’ll be a long time before I get the images out of my head that he described.


Tamer Animals – Justin M. Woodward

Released on day one of 2019, Woodward’s ‘Tamer Animals’ was a new voice in the coming-of-age, urban legend world and one that he completely crushed. The story is captivating and by the time we get to the ending, we’re left exhausted, repulsed and clamoring for more. Luckily, ‘Rotten Little Things’ delivered with a new story in the same world and I’m excited to see what else is in the works from this universe.


The Forgotten Island – David Sodergren

What Sodergren created here on this island was a stunning achievement and when you realize this was his first release – you’ll shake your head about how talented he is. Released in 2018, Sodergren gave us characters to root for, hate and most importantly – a reason to avoid islands in the middle of nowhere. Strikingly, the creatures he conjured were amazing and will make you second guess any strange movements in the shadows.


The Neverending Story – Michael Ende

Originally published in 1979, Ende’s classic book has an interesting history. Ende’s father was Edgar Ende, a German surrealist painter whose work is said to have inspired Michael Ende and his imagination and when you look at some of his father’s works and then think of some of the scenes – it really does make sense.

Michael Ende, himself, hated the movie that was released based on his book. The main crux was that the movie was only based on the first half of the book. For fans of the movie though, the book can be an odd beast, as the second half is very different in tone and story to the first half.

I personally, love the entire book and it has moments of extreme light and extreme darkness.

If you’ve followed along with any of my posts etc, you’ll know that this book blessed us with the name of our son, Auryn, named after the amulet.

I highly recommend you give it a read and for me, the movie still holds up to this day.


The Ocean At the End of the Lane – Neil Gaiman

Gaiman has such a sublime writing style and when he comes up with an idea, it’s as though he is writing it directly in your head. ‘The Ocean…’ was such a fantastic tale, a story that grabbed me and pulled me along and just filled that spot you need filled from time to time.


A Monster Calls – Patrick Ness

One of the most devastating books I’ve ever read, this story kicks you down both in it’s arrival into the world, but also in the story within the pages. I loved the book, loved the movie and it’s hard to say anything that hasn’t been already said about this piece.


The Road – Cormac McCarthy

Maybe the bleakest book ever written, McCarthy crafted a gem here that sucks you in and leaves you bleeding to death. This book was awful in the best way possible. I’ve not read it in a number of years and see my paperback copy staring at me all the time. It may be time to dive back in and see how traumatized I’ll be once again.



There we go! Those are my top reads, and while I may have forgotten one or two, these are the ones that have truly wormed their way into my brain.

Have you taken the time to have a think as to what your favorite books of all-time are?

If not, have at it and please let me know what your’s are!

Book Review: Wounds: Six Stories From the Border of Hell by Nathan Ballingrud


Title: Wounds: Six Stories From the Border of Hell

Author: Nathan Ballingrud

Release date: April 9th, 2019


Well then.

After having just sprinted through Mr. Ballingrud’s debut collection ‘North American Lake Monsters,’ I knew I needed to jump into this one ASAP and now that I’ve finished it, it’s going to take some time to recover. Much like the first time I read Volume One of ‘Books of Blood’ by Clive Barker (I still need to read Volume Two!), I was left speechless and at awe at what just exploded forth from the pages.

What I liked: All of it! All of it! Alright, but seriously. This thing opened up with ‘The Atlas of Hell’ which threw us into the swaps in New Orleans and finished with ‘The Butcher’s Table’ which is one I’m going to have to return to and re-read. In between we get a stunning story in ‘The Diabolist’ which was far more emotional than I’d expected. ‘Maw’ piggy-backed off of that story, but then we fall into the apex of the book with ‘The Visible Filth.’ All of these stories were dark, grimy and make you feel like you need a shower.

What I didn’t like: Not much, really. If I had to nit pick, I’d maybe say ‘Maw’ didn’t connect with me all that much, but the story itself was fun. I think just being sandwiched into between ‘The Diabolist’ and ‘The Visible Filth’ worked against it.

Why you should buy it: ‘Wounds’ really is a stunning collection, filled with cinematic story telling and lush descriptions of some of the vilest acts out there. I couldn’t help but smile at just how brutal Ballingrud was going in some places and while I still haven’t watched the movie based off of ‘The Visible Filth’ I’ll be trying to find some time to fit it in here. Ballingrud really does deserve to be highlighted as an author to move up your TBR immediately and now I’ll wait excitedly for whatever his next project will be!


Book Review: Go Fish by Ian Rogers

go fish

Title: Go Fish

Author: Ian Rogers

Release Date: April 15, 2020


Ian Rogers has been a Canadian author that is frequently recommended to me and while I still have his release ‘Every House is Haunted’ to read, when Tor announced this novella release as a Original, I was excited to snag it and read it asap. At a brisk 50 pages this was an easy one sitting read and I think I finished it in around a half hour, which for anyone looking for a slump buster or a distraction from a slow spot on a long read, this fits the bill perfectly.

What I liked: The story is straight forward enough – a trio of paranormal investigators arrive at a seemingly abandoned warehouse in Toronto to determine what was behind a horrendous murder. It’s from that simple premise that Rogers created an entire world in a very small page count. This should easily appeal to fans of The X-Files, Fringe or even the BPRD series. The trio have great banter and even though you’ve just met them, you feel like you know each character almost immediately.

The ‘reason’ for the murder is fantastic and I loved the description that Rogers delivered to us readers.

What I didn’t like: For a book this short and sweet, there’s not a lot of meat to pick over, but if I had to really find something, I’d say I wished there was a touch more at the ending, maybe a group debriefing or something to give us a sense of what is next for the trio.

Why you should buy it: You actually don’t have to if you’re budget strapped right now. You can read the book for free on Tor’s website. If you’re like me, and struggle to read like that or have the time to sit at your computer and read, the ebook is only 99 cents.

This was a really fun time. Rogers created a fully formed world with characters that you could see and touch in only 50 pages and the ‘battle’ or ‘fight’ that occurs as the climactic moment was action packed. This would be a great introduction to Rogers’ work, but for fans of his already, I suspect this will be a great addition to his bibliography. Now, I just hope we get more of this group and if there are already stories featuring this trio, please somebody, let me know – I want to dive in to those stories immediately!


Book Review: North American Lake Monsters by Nathan Ballingrud


Title: North American Lake Monsters

Author: Nathan Ballingrud

Release date: June 28, 2013

I’m absolutely late to the Ballingrud party and after seeing the praise heaped on his last collection Wounds, I knew I needed to dive in and start my journey into his fiction.

I love to have a short story collection on the go almost all of the time, reading one story each night after finishing my longer reads and this one fit the bill perfectly. Even more intriguing was the announcement that HULU was adapting the collection into a series titled ‘Monsterland.’

What I liked: this collection ran the gamut of subject matter and I found some of them immediately pulled me in, while a few were a bit more of a slow burn. The two stand out stories for me were easily ‘The Crevasse’ co-written with Mr. Bailey and ‘North American Lake Monsters.’ In ‘The Crevasse’ we follow along on an expedition in Antarctica when something goes horrifically wrong. It is during these actions that one of the characters discovers that maybe there is more under the ice than we believe. Truly amazing. The title story was a unique look at the re-infiltration of a man into his family after being in prison. A discovery by his daughter causes some amazing ripples through the familiar unit. I loved every sentence in this.

What I didn’t like: For me personally, some of the stories didn’t have any sense of closure, or the ending just went off in such an odd tangent that I was left perplexed. The easiest example of this was in the story ‘S S.’ This was an ‘American History-X’ style look at a high school kid walking a thin line of morals versus acceptance. The ending was something so unpredictable and head shaking I was left confused. Some people make like how this plays out in the stories, but I felt a bit let down with a number of them.

Why you should buy it: Ballingrud writes at an elevated level that is still highly accessible. Where I struggle at times with Ligotti’s literary approach, Ballingrud took that and made it readable for every horror fan, which was great. It’s something not a lot of people want to discuss, but at times horror fans can be intimidated by some authors purely because they are worried they don’t want to feel dumb or don’t believe they are smart enough to ‘get it.’ No worries here – dive in and have fun. And of course – with so much variance there is definitely something for everyone.

I haven’t seen a confirmed release date for ‘Monsterland’ so you still have time to read this and discover the source material before it graces our screens. As for me, I’ll be jumping into ‘Wounds’ tonight.


Book Review: The Guardians – Andrew Pyper


Book Title: The Guardians

Author: Andrew Pyper

Release date: January 1st, 2011

“There was something wrong about a house people chose not to live in.”

Look, there really is no secret to my adoration of Andrew Pyper and his books. At this point the only two I haven’t read from him were ‘The Guardians’ and ‘Killing Circle.’ Why hadn’t I read them? Two reasons really – 1) Pyper is my grounding author. If I have no Pyper to read, what can I turn to when I’m struggling or in a slump? 2) God forbid, what if the unfortunate happened and for some reason I didn’t like one of them? I know, I know, probably not going to happen, but it’s a worry.

Then life hit. It’s a weird world we’re living in and with COVID-19 creating so much unknown and for many people a loss of enjoyment of normally enjoyable activities, reading has become a solitude for many.

For me – I went two days in a row without reading a book. That’s substantial. So, I decided to abandon my two current reads – and decided to dive into ‘The Guardians.’

I now really regret having waited so long to read this.

What I liked: This may very well be the first coming-of-age thriller/horror story I’ve read from a Canadian author, especially one of this magnitude (does The Troop count?). For me, Pyper is the best writer on the planet for a reason – every single sentence he writes is sublime, but he is always willing and capable of writing the gore-iest, scariest scenes out there. The book takes place in two time periods – Grade 11 in Grimshaw and present day aka 20 years later after the events in the past. We follow Trevor (Trev to his friends) as he returns to Grimshaw after a close high school friend dies. It is through the past and the present that we learn about the secret they kept from all those years ago, and how that secret created ripples through each of their lives until now.

Pyper crafted a gem here. In Canada the writing and pacing of this is akin to the show ‘Corner Gas’ or for the newer crowd ‘Letterkenny.’ This is small town Canada to a T. If you’ve grown up in the middle of nowhere you understand the phrase “Every small town has it’s secrets. Every small town also learns how to forget them.”

We get to see the relationships between the four friends, all members of the local hockey team ‘The Guardians’ and its through this friendship that unspoken things are agreed upon as only childhood closeness can allow.

I absolutely loved the ‘Memory Journal’ aspect that then lead into the present day going’s on. The book is filled with sorrow and despair at how things were and how they are now, but Pyper makes you connect with the characters, feel for them, but also desire to know just what happens.

What I didn’t like: It’s hard to sum up, but what I didn’t like was the main character Trevor and how much he reminded me of myself. Trevor left small town Grimshaw and owned a night club and was a big deal, according to him. He doesn’t want to go back, but he knows he must for his friend and to try and put closure on what happened all those years ago. I did a similar thing. For me, I longed and desired to leave where I grew up as fast as I could and for many, many years, I had my nose raised at those that stayed behind and never left. But who am I to judge? If they are happy, great. It’s their life. It took me many years to let myself let go of my snobbish views. So, reading how Trevor was acting and reacting reminded me a lot of my younger self. Uncomfortably so.

Why you should buy this:  This book is going to stay with me forever, really. The small town setting, the characters, the happenings. It was just a perfect read at a time I needed a perfect read. It was also one of the scariest, nerve rattling books I’ve read in some time. Every time we learned more about the Thurman house and what was going on there, it became creepier and creepier. Pyper did such a stunning job of crafting a heartfelt story that is interconnected by a phenomenal ghost story.

I now only have ‘The Killing Circle’ left to read from Pyper and I’m probably going to jump into that in the next day or two. I’ve tossed aside the notion that I may not enjoy it, because frankly, Pyper is the perfect author voice for this reader. Time and time again he’s answered this horror fans call with a stunning read and he did it once again here.