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From My Bookshelf: Ending, Ravens, Dark

In honor of October and the spooky portion of fall, the three books I’ve pulled From My Bookshelf this month have dark and troubling themes, and take their readers on different degrees of horrifying journeys. The two novels are I’m Thinking of Ending Things by Iain Reid and Ravens Gathering by Graeme Cumming, plus Dark Tales, a short story collection by Shirley Jackson.

I’m Thinking of Ending Things
Iain Reid

In this deeply suspenseful and irresistibly unnerving debut novel, a man and his girlfriend are on their way to a secluded farm. When the two take an unexpected detour, she is left stranded in a deserted high school, wondering if there is any escape at all. What follows is a twisted unraveling that will haunt you long after the last page is turned.

In this smart, suspenseful, and intense literary thriller, debut novelist Iain Reid explores the depths of the human psyche, questioning consciousness, free will, the value of relationships, fear, and the limitations of solitude. I’m Thinking of Ending Things is an edgy, haunting debut. Tense, gripping, and atmospheric, this novel pulls you in from the very first page…and never lets you go.

The claims and promises in the summary of Iain Reid’s debut novel are absolutely backed up and delivered by the story. I hadn’t read very many thrillers before reading this one (for my 2017 Reading Challenge), but because of it and other books I’ve now read in the genre I can confidently say I’m a thriller fan. The simple plot allows the few characters to feel well-developed and individualistic, even as their lives intertwine in obvious and non-obvious ways. I’m purposely being vague here because this is a novel to start reading with no more knowledge than is presented in the summary.

Ravens Gathering
Graeme Cumming

As she let her gaze drift around her, she saw that there were more birds. Perhaps a dozen or so, perched among the trees that stood on the edge of the clearing. And yet more were arriving, swooping down through the gap overhead and landing on branches that overlooked them. The birds weren’t threatening, yet the sight of them all coming together in this dark and isolated spot was unnerving. Tanya reached a hand out towards Martin, and was relieved to feel him take it. She felt him move in behind her. After the uncertainty she’d experienced with him in a similar position only a few moments ago, she recognised the irony of her reaction. His closeness offered security.

“You know what they are, don’t you?”

A stranger’s arrival in a small village coincides with a tragic accident. For the Gates family in particular it’s more than a coincidence, but their unease increases following a brutal attack. As tensions rise, a dark past returns to haunt them and others, while newcomers to the village are drawn into a mystery with terrifying consequences. And no one can explain why the ravens are gathering.

Ravens Gathering twists and turns as the truth is gradually exposed in a gripping thriller with a supernatural edge to it.

I participated in the Blog Tour for this book in September of last year, and I was blown away both by the intricacies and horrors of the story, and Graeme Cumming’s ability to make the reader face his or her assumptions about certain events – I’m not sure that makes complete sense, but if you read the book I think you will understand (I talked about this a little more in my book review). This is the longest book I’m featuring in this post (around 400 pages), so if you are looking for a chunkier book to horrify you this October, I recommend this one (content warnings listed here).

Dark Tales
Shirley Jackson

After the publication of her short story “The Lottery” in the New Yorker in 1948 received an unprecedented amount of attention, Shirley Jackson was quickly established as a master horror storyteller. This collection of classic and newly reprinted stories provides readers with more of her unsettling, dark tales, including the “The Possibility of Evil” and “The Summer People.” In these deliciously dark stories, the daily commute turns into a nightmarish game of hide and seek, the loving wife hides homicidal thoughts and the concerned citizen might just be an infamous serial killer. In the haunting world of Shirley Jackson, nothing is as it seems and nowhere is safe, from the city streets to the crumbling country pile, and from the small-town apartment to the dark, dark woods. There’s something sinister in suburbia.

I read Shirley Jackson for the first time last October (this collection plus We Have Always Lived in the Castle), and fell in love with her stories and writing. Although I do admire her talent as a novelist, I’m featuring her short story collection here because they offer a bit of a range of thrilling, angsty, and murderous tales for the spooky season. “The Possibility of Evil”, “Louisa Please Come Home”, and “Paranoia” are three of my favorites, although there is not one in the collection I don’t enjoy.

Are you familiar with any of these books or authors? Do you have any spooky, scary, or thrilling book recommendations? I’d love to hear your thoughts, and let me know if any of the books above have a place on your bookshelves.


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