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  • Writer's pictureJae Mazer

Addicted to Words

To say that I am an avid reader is an understatement. I devour books. When I'm in a reading fit, I'll read a dozen books in a month. A slow month is four or five.

My parents were both avid readers. I remember, fondly, evening in the backyard, Mom and Dad reading novels on the patio. Books were everywhere. On vacation, in every room in the house, in the car. We would frequent places like little book shops and our local library. The memories of those places are ripe in my mind; the smells, the sounds, the feel of the books in my hands. And don't get me started on book fairs.

As a writer, who now has a website, I should probably talk about reading. So what are my favourite books? The list is long and mighty. But I do have a selection of books that are firmly cemented in my head and in my heart as words that moved my earth and stories forever planted in my own narrative.

Swan Song remains my favourite book of all time. My sister and I just discussed this recently at a book club we are a part of together. This book was required reading in my house; our dad gave it to each of us to read when we were very young. It is my absolute favourite book, and has been for decades, and my sister says it's in her top five, too. And it stands the test of time. I re-read it as an adult, wondering if I loved it so much because of nostalgia. And while I could feel the warm tingle of familiar nostalgia when I revisited the pages, the story itself moved me as if it was the first time I'd read it. A great, exhausting, emotional story of terror, survival, and hope. The first few chapters are the creation of pure horror. Brilliant.

Yes, I'm one of those people who love Stephen King. There isn't much he's written that I don't love. King tells a good story, plain and simple. He is a trailblazer in horror, creating some of the most iconic stories and characters of our time.

Narrowing down my favourite King novel is hard. There's so many I love. But this pair balances at the top. The journey from the beginning of The Talisman to the end of Black House is epic, to say the least. And this is one instance where I might say that Black House is on par with, if not better than, the first book. But it's pretty damn close. Travelin' Jack pops in my head from time to time, decades after I read the Talisman. When I picked up Black House, many years after I'd read The Talisman, I plunged back into this world like no time at all had passed. Phenomenal horror, emotion, and fantasy, all woven together with complex characters I have never forgotten.

I first read Tananarive Due's words in a short story collection she penned, called Ghost Summer Stories. That is a phenomenal collections of tight tales that will linger in your brain long after you put the book down. Then my best friend, knowing how much I liked that collection, bought me Due's The Between for Christmas. That book was phenomenal as well. So when I was shopping for books, I scooped up The Good House, knowing that this author was one I really enjoyed. I had no idea. The Good House is, hands down, the best haunted house story I've ever read. It scared me. Really scared me. It was haunting, devastating, and quietly creepy from the first word to the last. Throughout what is a terrifying story, Due paints the picture with gorgeous scenery, music that gets into your soul, and character's whose breath you'll feel in your ear as you read. I cannot recommend this book highly enough.

Hex was a book I picked up in early 2020, right after our first Covid lockdown. I, myself, love to write stories about folklore and witches, so the premise of this book intrigued me. It exceeded expectations, which is a tall order considering the amount of folk horror I read. The idea is unique, the horror hides in plain sight, and the characters are fascinating. I was on the edge of my seat for the entire read. There are more than a few emotional gut-punches throughout, and imagery that's both pretty and unsettling. This is a book I will read more than once, and love getting lost in every time.

This book was another Covid lockdown find. What caught my attention about this one was the cover; I saw it advertised on social media, and the image was so fascinating that I had a closer look. When I discovered what it was about I bought it instantly. This book is phenomenal. It is literary horror at it's finest. It is both ugly and pretty all at once, with a sense of quiet dread that builds throughout the bizarre and tragic storyline. The beautiful prose is really what elevates this book above most others, and the story is innovative, unexpected, and engaging. I would love to see this as a movie, but I'm not sure any filmmaker would be able to create the visceral and haunting images Kiste does with her creation of the Maidens.

This book is not an easy one to recommend. It is a difficult read, but also a book I had trouble putting down. It is horrific. Humans as livestock, and the physical mistreatment they suffer is horror enough, but the truly disturbing part is the humans on the sideline, and their complete emotional detachment from a process that was quickly normalized in this pseudo-dystopian society. This book is awful, uncomfortable, upsetting, and really the heart of true horror. It's a must read for any horror fan.

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