Monday, 13 February 2017

Book Review: Five Stories High

When I received this book in my first Nocturnal Reader's Box, I was very intrigued. It's quite an interesting premise - five different novellas, written by five different authors, but all focusing on the same building, called Irongrove Lodge. I thought the best way to review it was to take each story individually, as some were far better than others...

First up was Maggots by Nina Allan, and this was a very interesting one. It focuses on Willy Randle, a young man of university age, who has a perfectly normal life until one day after a fall, when he begins to have altered perceptions, starting to believe his aunt is not herself. He then decides he must investigate what is happening and therefore delves deeper into the mystery and secrets surrounding Irongrove Lodge. This was a good story to open the book with, in that it sucked me in and left me wanting to know more. A criticism of this story, however, is the writing itself - it was just not very good. Overall, I rated this story 4 stars!

The second story was Priest's Hole by K. J. Parker. This story is about a man who is hired by people who wants to use his unique skill - the ability to change his face. Of course, there are many reasons why you would want to hire such a person, such as providing an alibi, manipulating evidence etc. But then one day, he is stabbed when under one of his guises and he ends up encountering Irongrove Lodge, upon which he begins to question reality. This novella was just BAD. It was all over the place, I felt a bit confused at times, I just didn't enjoy it that much. Even thinking back now, I feel like I can't remember what really happened and I only finished this a few days ago - truly forgettable. It even reminded me of House of Leaves at some parts. 2 stars from me.

The middle story was a vast improvement from its predecessor and it was Gnaw by Tade Thompson. Now this story was amazing! Tara and Harry buy and move into the beautiful Irongrove Lodge, along with their two children, but they are not the only inhabitants of this house... Creepy written messages appear, as well as sounds of children laughing and running around. Gah, even writing about this is starting to freak me out. I don't want to say too much, but if you get the chance - read it! This was a great story, it even left me with a restless night. I really need to stop reading before bed... This one clearly gets 5 stars!

The next story was The Best Story I Can Manage Under the Circumstances by Robert Shearman. This story was just insane, it opens with a mother giving birth to a baby born without a body - so basically just a head. For his first birthday, she finds him a torso, and then follows the limbs. The narration then switches quickly to a young boy who is drawn into an strange and extraordinary place through a door in his bedroom wall. There he encounters a storyteller, who longs to tell him haunted house tales and kind of becomes a surrogate dad. He also shares a bed with a girl who is essentially put into the sister role. This story was just... batshit crazy. I will not forget it for a while! I'd give this one 3 stars.

The final story in the collection was Skin Deep by Sarah Lotz. Malika and Robin move into their new house, thinking it will be a real fixer-upper. However, Robin becomes a little too obsessed with renovating their new abode, it almost gets under his skin, you could say... The story is told from the objective of a number of different characters, and it was AWESOME. I loved how the story was initially told from the perspective of people like the estate agent, their friends, co-workers etc, before "The Butcher" herself, Malika, tells her side of the story. It was so creepy that I just blasted through it, as I couldn't put the book down. There was also a shout-out to my girl, Jillian Michaels, which I may have got a tad too excited about. This was a great story, well-told. Already planning to look out for more work by Sarah Lotz. My favourite story in the entire collection - 5 stars!!

Overall, this collection of stories was pretty enjoyable, with 4 out of 5 being very good. I'm so glad this book was included in last month's Nocturnal Readers box as I probably would never have found it otherwise - so thanks, guys! I'd love to give the book 5 stars, but that second story Priest's Hole was just so awful that I feel like I have to deduct a star... so it's 4 stars from me!

Next up, a Stephen King book that I'm VERY excited about...


Sunday, 12 February 2017

Book Review: Wraith by Joe Hill

Wraith is actually a prequel to Joe Hill's novel, NOS4A2/NOS4R2, and what a delightfully creepy story! It opens with a little backstory about Charlie Manx, which was just awesome. I totally wanted to know more about the origins of Charlie Manx. It then quickly switches to the main story, involving two prison guards and a group of convicts who are trying to escape. However, their plans quickly go awry and one of the convicts contacts Charlie Manx - someone who is known for helping people disappear. Little do they know they're on their way to Christmasland...

My favourite thing about this graphic novel was, of course, the illustrations. They were mind-blowingly awesome. Often I would just sit and stare in a daze. It was literally like Charles Paul Wilson III crawled into my brain and encapsulated exactly how I imagined Christmasland to be and then put it on the pages. It was beautifully creepy and macabre, and so sinister. I'm in love.

The story itself was fun, with some intriguing characters. I had initially gone into this thinking it was basically an interpretation of the book, so I was a bit disappointed to not encounter Vic McQueen etc, but it was nice to actually experience a different Charlie Manx-centric story. Kinda sad it was so short...I wanted it to go on forever! Overall, a nice quick read (but slowed down by ogling the photos) and I highly recommend it to all Joe Hill fans.


Saturday, 11 February 2017

The Nocturnal Reader's Subscription Box: Paranoia

My box finally arrived - albeit slightly later than most people's, therefore I had already been spoilered a few times on Instagram - sad face. Damn postal service!! But that didn't make me any less excited for this box. This month's theme was Paranoia, so let's delve in, shall we?

First of all, the most important part...the books! I have to admit, I already knew from Instagram that one of this month's books was American Psycho by Bret Easton Ellis, so I was REALLY excited as this is one of my favourite movies, but I've never read the book. So when I was unboxing...imagine my dismay when I didn't see American Psycho - I saw The Silence of the Lambs instead! Fair enough, that should be a decent read too, but I was all set up for American Psycho and felt a little deflated - maybe half of us were getting American Psycho and half getting The Silence of the Lambs? But NO! This was actually a hideaway box made to look like a book! And American Psycho was nestled away inside... cue my excitement again. The box itself is absolutely beautiful, and the inner lining is divine, as shown below.

So the synopsis for American Psycho itself is as follows:

Patrick Bateman is handsome, well educated, intelligent. He works by day on Wall Street, earning a fortune to complement the one he was born with. His nights he spends in ways we cannot begin to fathom. He is twenty-six years old and living his own American Dream.

I'm pretty sure the majority of us have seen the movie but I am still pretty excited to read the book, as the book is nearly almost always better. As well as the book itself, we also got the coolest little Patrick Bateman pin with the infamous catchphrase "I have to return some videotapes" - I totally fangirled over this, the business cards scenes are some of my favourites in the movie. "But wait. You ain't seen nothin yet. Raised lettering, pale nimbus. White."

The other book in the box is by an author who has been referred to as "Britain's answer to Stephen King", colour me intrigued. The book is "Under a Watchful Eye" by Adam Nevill, and the synopsis is as follows:

Seb Logan is being watched. He just doesn't know by whom. When the sudden appearance of a dark figure shatters his idyllic coastal life, he soon realises that the murky past he thought he'd left behind has far from forgotten him. What's more unsettling is the strange atmosphere that engulfs him at every sighting, plunging his mind into a terrifying paranoia. To be a victim without knowing the tormenter. To be despised without knowing the offence caused. To be seen by what nobody else can see. These are the thoughts which plague his every waking moment. Imprisoned by despair, Seb fears his stalker is not working alone, but other is involved in a wider conspiracy that threatens everything he has worked for. For there are doors in this world that open into unknown places. Places used by the worst kind of people to achieve their own ends. And once his investigation leads him to stray across the line and into mortal danger he risks becoming another fatality in a long line of victims.

That sounds pretty good, doesn't it? Excited to get to that one! As for the rest of the box, there was also a sexy looking notebook, with the Philip K. Dick quote "Strange how paranoia can link up with reality now and then." - and you know me, I love a notebook. There's also some awesome sunglasses in a beautiful case, to avoid any potential stalkers... And lastly, there is a beautiful piece of artwork called "The Ones Who Watch at Night" by Renate Postma.

Another stellar box! Roll on next month when the theme is "Lost in the Woods..."


Sunday, 5 February 2017

Book Review: Bag of Bones by Stephen King

Bag of Bones focuses on the story of Mike Noonan, a best-selling writer who's wife unexpectedly passes away. Following her death, Mike suffers from writer's block and begins to have nightmares concerning their lakeside house, Sara Laughs. Mike decides he must go back to their lakeside house in order to confront his fears. Upon his arrival, he meets a beautiful single mother and her daughter, only to find out that a crazy millionaire wants to obtain custody of the young girl, who is his granddaughter. Mike decides he must help the young mother and daughter, but other sinister forces are also at work...

"And perhaps the greatest blessing was that we never knew how short the time was."

I truly believe that no one can depict grief like King can. Between this and Lisey's Story, King seems to have a unique talent for describing those feelings of loss and the process of grief itself. And that is part of the reason why I love King so much, it just feels like he gets you and he is able to connect with his reader so easily. Bag of Bones opens with Mike Noonan trying to cope following the unexpected death of his wife Johanna to a brain aneurysm, and these opening scenes are just heartbreaking to read. Mike's grief is so prominent and it's very easy to empathise with this character.  The reality of Johanna's death really hits Mike when he realises that she will never move past page 103 in her current read (this really struck a cord with me). Shortly after her death, the nightmares surrounding their lakeside house begins...

This book did actually unsettle me at times. There's just something about creepy happenings occurring in your house. It's those kind of storylines that freak me out the most - the ones that quite literally hit close to home. It's kinda why movies like Paranormal Activity are so effective. Some of the scenes King described left me with the hairs on the back of my neck standing up. Serves me right for reading alone in bed late at night...

The characters themselves are pretty special. Mike Noonan is just a damn good man. He is caring, generous, thoughtful, and that somehow makes it more difficult to watch him suffering through the loss of his wife. Although Johanna is strictly not a "live" character, she is very much present in this novel, and again, she is a genuinely good person. So her death is even more tragic. Upon meeting Mattie after his arrival at the lakehouse, you find yourself willing Mike to move on, almost like you want to tell him that it's okay. Often when I encounter this kind of a scenario in a book, I am like "HOW DARE YOU! She's barely cold in her grave!" but you can feel Mike's pain and he is clearly a good man who deserves some happiness in his life.

How many times do I need to emphasise that King is literally the BEST at developing characters and their relationships. People who say King is all about horror and scares, need to read books like these in order to truly understand what King is really all about. Yes, this book could be considered "horror" in a way, but it's not your usual haunted house storyline at all. It's so much more than that. As for the "baddies" in this book - they were horrible, vile characters, particularly the character Max Devore.

The twists and turns and unfolding of events in this novel was very impressive. I was constantly wondering what was coming next, how everything was linked, and I'm very happy to say that it all paid off. One minor complaint is regarding some of the scenes towards the end that made me feel slightly uncomfortable. I felt like perhaps it was maybe a bit too much...however it did really have an impact on me, and perhaps that was King's intention? So maybe it did work then?

Anyway, all in all, a great book. 5 stars out of 5 for me! I'm on a run of great King books!


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