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Saturday, 16 March 2019

Book Review: Penpal by Dathan Auerbach

A man investigates the seemingly unrelated unusual, tragic, and horrific events of his childhood in an attempt to finally understand them.

"How far can you go into the woods?"

What a strange reading experience I had with this one. As I was reading it I was constantly questioning whether I was actually enjoying it? “Is this it? Where’s the creepiness?” But then during the last quarter or so, when everything started coming together and crazy things were revealed, I started to fully appreciate the creep factor. I looked back on things that weren’t initially unsettling, but with my new insight they quickly became very unsettling!!

After I finished I spent hours analysing and talking through theories with @brittreads and I’m STILL thinking about it over a week later, so it has really had an impact on me! It’s the kind of book that would certainly benefit with a reread.

I wasn’t a huge fan of the writing style though. As far as I’m aware this story started off as a reddit post, upon which Auerbach kept building the story - and it very much reads as a Reddit post. I love Reddit, but to read an entire book in this style was just... eh.

There’s also some parts were Auerbach just goes into far too much detail about mundane things that I don’t care about. For example, when the kids are trying to create this map. That was incredibly tedious - I almost wanted to skim over those parts to get to the good bits!!

This book has left me with more questions than answers, which usually annoys me, but I’ve found it quite fun to ponder and fill in the gaps myself, as well as read theories online etc. Certainly a memorable reading experience!

3.5 stars.

Johann
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Monday, 11 March 2019

Book Review: The Drawing of the Three by Stephen King

The Last Gunslinger, Roland Deschain, faces three mysterious doors which will lead him to different times within our world. From these, he must draw the three who will accompany him on his journey.


"Control the things you can control, maggot. Let everything else take a flying fuck at you and if you must go down, go down with your guns blazing."
So it turns out that my memory of the Dark Tower series is pretty patchy - I have forgotten so many details!! However, I could never forget THAT opening scene. One of the best I’ve ever come across - I was so shocked on my first read and it’s just as impactful on the second go around! 

The “drawing” of each of the characters is such a blast. Eddie is pretty likeable from the very beginning, he always brings some much-needed comedic relief to what can be a very heavy series at times. The introduction of Detta/Odetta is freakin’ explosive - she’s a firecracker! Although Detta’s dialogue does make feel quite uncomfortable at times - how I wish Roland had gagged her sooner!

One of my favourite parts of the entire series, and this book in particular, is Roland coming to grips with different things in “our world”. The observations he makes are absolutely hilarious. Like when he wonders why anyone would be addicted to cocaine or other drugs when they could have the more cost-effective and plentiful sugar instead. I’m with you, Sai.

However, one of my very minor complaints is how quickly Eddie falls for Odetta. I’m just not a fan of these romances that seem to bloom out of nowhere - even on my first read I was bit surprised when it materialised. But that’s not to say that I don’t love them as a couple because I do *hearts* they certainly grow on me! So this is really just me being incredibly nit-picky!

From here on out it’s an addictive and exhilarating journey, I’m already itching to pick up The Waste Lands! 5 stars!

Johann
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Sunday, 3 March 2019

Book Review: The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath

Esther Greenwood is brilliant, beautiful, talented and successful, but she is slowing going under - possibly for the last time.

“Because wherever I sat - on the deck of a ship or at a street café in Paris or Bangkok - I would be sitting under the same glass bell jar, stewing in my own sour air.”

Unfortunately I did not fall head over heels in love with The Bell Jar as I had hoped to, but I HAVE fallen for the writing of Sylvia Plath - and even Plath herself. My Pinterest board has recently been covered with her quotes, and I even bought a copy of her unabridged journals following a recommendation from @yleniareads That’s not to say I didn’t enjoy The Bell Jar, I really really liked it, it just wasn’t as life-changing as I had perhaps anticipated.

I resonated with Esther in a lot of ways - I lost my father at a young age and, without sounding entirely egotistical, I also have achieved a lot of academic success in my life, which ultimately leads to me expecting more and more, afraid of failure. The expectations I place upon myself are high, and my mental health will suffer when things don’t go as planned. So it was easy for me to relate to some of the feelings Esther has. And that’s always nice when we read!

Plath’s description of the bell jar itself is genius - that our protagonist feels suffocated, as if she has been placed under one. And every now and again she has moments of clarity, when the bell jar is lifted. Of course there are a lot of parallels between Plath and Esther, and I found it hard to dissociate the two at times. Reading this knowing Plath’s fate is almost uncomfortable, it feels as though you are reading her diary. It just made me feel sad at times :(

It’s a beautifully written book, sprinkled with little moments of dark humour. Some parts were less intriguing or interesting than others. I probably preferred the second half over the first, where we really witness Esther at rock bottom.

Overall, I may not have absolutely adored it, but the memorable quotes and imagery will prevail. I’m glad it has introduced me to the talent that was Sylvia Plath. 4 stars.

Johann
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Saturday, 2 March 2019

Book Review: The Silent Patient by Alex Michaelides

Alicia Berenson is in a psychiatric facility following the murder of her husband, but she refuses to utter a word. However a new psychotherapist, Theo, thinks he is the one to finally get her to speak.

“Her silence was like a mirror - reflecting yourself back at you. And it was often an ugly sight.”

Talk about a twist I didn’t see coming! It’s been a while since a book made me audibly gasp! So I can confidently say that if you’re looking for a psychological thriller that provides twists and turns... this one is worth checking out.

You can tell Michaelides has meticulously plotted out the story, there’s lot of little details that become very rewarding and perhaps also little hints as to what is going on. He builds the suspense very slowly, where you know something is wrong but you can’t put your finger on it, until it all comes together in an explosive finale. Very impressive!

However, my issue with thrillers (the majority of them anyway) remains the same - once I finish one I’m left with a feeling of “well, that’s that!” and I just don’t really think about it again. They don’t satisfy me in the same way as a lot of the other genres I read. I won’t remember these character’s names... (in fact I had already forgotten, I needed to check the book for this review) and the details already feel quite hazy, to be honest. Whereas when I consider possibly the only thriller I’ve truly LOVED, Gone Girl, I remember so much!! It left an impact!

But then again, not everyone is looking for a lasting impact - this is a great book to lose yourself in and be entertained for a few hours. So on that basis, I’d definitely recommend it! 3.5 stars.

Johann
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Wednesday, 27 February 2019

Book Review: Normal People by Sally Rooney

Connell and Marianne grow up in the same small town in rural Ireland, but the similarities end there as they are from two very different worlds.

“Most people go through their whole lives, without ever really feeling that close with anyone.”

I’ve seriously been putting off writing this review because I just don’t know what to say!! I feel like I can’t put into words why I loved this book - I just did. As someone who went through very similar experiences to the characters, in terms of both school and university, I felt like I was reading about the intertwined lives of two of my close friends.

There is something incredibly beautiful in its simplicity. It’s about normal people, people who you feel like you may know, living relatively normal lives. And yet it’s written in a really impactful way. When I wasn’t reading the book, I was thinking about Marianne and Connell and wondering how they were getting on... are they okay?!! *weeps*

Without giving anything anyway, I have to come to like the ending after initially being annoyed by it. I feel like it is yet another reflection of how real life just is sometimes - we don’t always grow or progress or move past our issues. More often than not, life isn’t wrapped up in a neat little bow.

Normal People is one of those books that I LOVED and yet wouldn’t necessarily recommend it to everyone. If you like the sound of a book that covers topics like mental health, socioeconomic status, and the relationship dynamics between two people who are just destined to be in each other’s lives...then yes, pick this one up!

I’m so thrilled that I enjoyed this book so much and that I can really shout about, and support, an Irish author as talented as Rooney. 5 stars!

Johann
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Monday, 25 February 2019

Book Review: Carter and Lovecraft by Jonathan L. Howard

Daniel Carter is an ex-homicide detective, now a private investigator, who inherits a bookstore in Providence from someone he’s never heard of. Then people start dying in mysterious ways, and while Carter doesn’t want to be involved, he’s beginning to suspect that someone else wants him to be.

“He couldn’t see how you could share the shit out of somebody with math, but it seemed you could.”

Holy moly! This was the exact kind of read that I needed after finishing The Alchemist. Going back to my horror roots and my love for Lovecraftian fiction (although I guess I wouldn’t specifically categorise this as horror, more weird fiction with some creepy parts)

But anyway... this was a hell of a lot of fun! I feel like Howard handles a lot of the Lovecraft’s mythology and themes and tropes very well. You can tell he knows his shit! And he gives us a kickass character in the form of Lovecraft’s descendant - his great-great (I don’t know how many greats and frankly don’t care) granddaughter, Emily Lovecraft. The relationship and interactions between her and our main character are really entertaining and full of witty banter!

It’s surprisingly funny at times and there are lots of pop culture references, which I always enjoy. AND there’s a bookstore that features a lot in the story! Although I’m not quite sure how a non-Lovecraft fan would find this one? A lot of the plot relies on references or tie-ins to Lovecraft’s work and although it is explained I can’t really say how confusing it might be for someone who hasn’t read his work. And I do believe a lot of my enjoyment was tied to me nerding out over the Lovecraft connections.

The ending in particular had me SHOOK and I’ll certainly be ordering the second book in the series. Overall, really well-written and a lot of fun! I would highly recommend to all Lovecraft fans! 4 stars.

Johann
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Saturday, 23 February 2019

Book Review: The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho

Santiago, an Andalusian shepherd boy, yearns to travel in search of a worldly treasure. His quest will lead him to riches far different than he ever imagined.


“And, when you can’t go back, you have to worry only about the best way of moving forward.”

Let me preface this review by saying that although I did not like this book, I totally appreciate the meaning behind the fable and the message being put forward here (well... part of it). It was just done so in the most tedious and boring way possible.

Even now, just typing the words “Personal Legend” makes me want to scratch out my eyeballs. Maybe that’s to do with the manner in which “legend” is used in present day... but I found it cringe-worthy. Throughout the entire novel you are just bludgeoned to death with the concept of your Personal Legend. I hate the notion that if you REALLY want something and you try hard enough that the universe will help guide you to your Personal Legend. I just don’t believe life works like that!

I am all about pursuing your dreams and not being afraid to do so. And that’s the message I can get behind - but the rest was just utter nonsense to me. Perhaps I am not spiritual enough to fully embrace The Alchemist. I was rolling my eyes so often that I almost detached my retinas...

I’m really trying to think of something positive to say - it was short? And there were some nice illustrations... but that’s all I got. I guess the writing wasn’t bad, it was more the story that I found very boring. I also found it to be quite preachy and condescending at times. And now I’m back to being negative... I TRIED!

If you are a big fan of this book (and I know there are many), I hope I don’t come across as mean or insulting. I’m truly happy that this book enlightened you in some way or that it resonated with you, but ultimately, it just wasn’t for me.

One and a half stars.

Johann
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