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Thursday, 17 January 2019

Book Review: The Catcher in the Rye by JD Salinger

Sixteen year old Holden Caulfield leaves his prep school in Pennsylvania and finds himself going underground in New York City for three days.

“I’d just be the catcher in the rye and all. I know it’s crazy, but that’s the only thing I’d really like to be.”

The Catcher in the Rye is one of those books that I probably would have benefited from studying in school. I’m sure there were plenty of themes and hidden meanings that were just going SWOOSH over my head, however the unignorable themes of teenage angst and rebellion are present from the very first page.

Holden himself is... complex. I felt quite sorry for him at points throughout the book, yet every time he said that something “killed him” how I wish I COULD kill him!! Repetitive phrases quickly become very irritating for me and that occurs in abundance in this book.

The plot itself is also very meandering... if I had to describe what happened, I would struggle. It actually reminded me a lot of American Psycho. The crazy narrative from our protagonist, repetitive sequences... but I absolutely LOVED American Psycho and found Patrick Bateman to be highly entertaining!

Holden clearly suffers from some mental health problems, I’m not a psychiatrist so I can’t diagnose, but there seems to be signs of depression as well as ADHD - potentially other issues too? And I can only feel sympathetic when a character demonstrates such struggles with their mental health. A particular scene towards the end - involving his sister - did make me feel very sad.

But at the same time, it was a slog to get through certain sections. So I feel very conflicted overall. I’m glad I read it though, I’m just not sure I’d ever pick it up again unfortunately! However the longer I sit and think about it... the more I find myself almost liking the book? I DON’T KNOW. It’s difficult - this review is a mess...

2.5 stars seems about fair!!

Johann
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Saturday, 12 January 2019

Book Review: The Gunslinger by Stephen King

Roland Deschain, the last of the Gunslingers, is after the Man in Black. Along the way he meets a young boy named Jake, who appears to be from a world that is different to Roland’s.


“I don’t like people. They fuck me up.”

Ah, Roland. I had forgotten how difficult it was to like you in The Gunslinger. Some of your decisions are questionable, but that is the price of obsession.

The Gunslinger is so unlike King’s usual style of writing; the prose is beautifully poetic as we are introduced to a world that is starkly different to ours, yet some similarities remain. The differences in language and terms used, as well as the general workings of this world, are a bit jarring on the first read, but a reread is really so satisfying and rewarding!

The Gunslinger works perfectly as a prologue to the series itself. It’s an introduction to this other world, and Roland himself - we get glimpses into his past, his present, and even a few subtle hints into what his future may hold. Roland is initially portrayed as the strong silent Clint Eastwood type (thinking of Tony Soprano here LOL), but over the course of the series he becomes so much more than this, and evolves into one of the most complex characters I’ve ever encountered in literature. Thank you, King, for such a fantastic character.

I will never cease to be amazed and intrigued by the world that the Dark Tower series is set in. And although I feel like The Gunslinger works as a pretty great prologue and sets the scene for the series, there are still a huge number of parts that are iconic to the story itself. We have Roland's past in Gilead with his mother and friends, we also have an epic demonstration of his gunslinging abilities in Tull, and of course, our introduction to Jake Chambers and his journey with Roland through the mountains, which is eventful in itself! And then the book culminates with the Man in Black having a palaver with Roland, where he is told his future. This part in particular is so enjoyable on a reread, picking up on the different predictions mades and ALLLL the foreshadowing. It's fantastic.

On my first journey to the Dark Tower, and also on this one, I read the revised edition of The Gunslinger, as King went back to the original and made some some amendments to make it both an easier read and to fix some consistencies. I really want to get my hands on a copy of the original version so that I can compare!

Such incredible world-building and I feel like King intrigues you enough to make you want to pick up the next book right away. But I won’t be... as I am waiting until February - like the good readalong host that I am! *Yes I deserve some credit*

I’m giving this rating only because I know what is yet to come... can't wait to carry on with my reread of my most favourite book series. 4 stars.

Johann
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Thursday, 10 January 2019

Book Review: Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie

A much-loathed man is found murdered with multiple stab wounds on the luxurious Orient Express with 13 potential suspects. Who did it?

“If you will forgive me for being personal - I do not like your face.”

If you will forgive me for being personal... but I do not like YOUR face, Poirot. I’m sorry, Christie... it’s not you, it’s me. I can fully appreciate that Agatha Christie is the Queen of Crime - the level of detail and planning that obviously goes into constructing such complex crime scenes and investigation work is impressive, but it’s really not to my personal taste.

The premise is exciting enough - all these strangers stuck on a train that has been sidelined by heavy snow and one of them is found murdered in his compartment - but that’s really where the intrigue ends for me. It felt very formulaic, which if all Christies are like this, I don’t think I could face another. The middle section in particular where Poirot interviews each of the passengers had me bored out of my skull! And the ending... I hated it so much, I rolled my eyes so hard I went partially blind!

As for Poirot himself, I cannot abide him! So self-congratulatory and smug at times. I also don’t like to have to work this hard when I’m reading FOR FUN. I felt like I was back in the lab searching through data and trying to keep the details straight in my head of who was where at what time and for how long.

I feel like I might be exiled from bookstagram/goodreads by all the Christie lovers, so please accept my sincerest apologies... Christie is clearly great at what she does, but it’s not my cup of tea. 2 stars.

Johann
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Monday, 7 January 2019

Book Review: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by JK Rowling

Talk about an emotional rollercoaster! Deathly Hallows is certainly the most dark book in the series, but Rowling injects enough humour and warmth to bring us some fuzzy feels, whilst dealing with all the emotional turmoil!


"You'll stay with me?" "Until the very end," said James.

And here upon shall commence my random fangirling over all the things I love about this one... Neville Longbottom and his unabashed braver... Molly Weasley screaming the iconic “NOT MY DAUGHTER, YOU BITCH!” (Everyone needs a mother like Molly!)... Snape’s backstory... Hagrid carrying Harry at that crucial moment... A special mention must go to the following part, which CRACKED me up:

“Our Headmaster is taking a short break,” said Professor McGonagall, pointing at the Snape-shaped hole in the window.

Complaints... I have a few. Don’t get me wrong, the crazy amounts of twists and turns surrounding the horcruxes and hallows are enthralling but at times I do find myself pausing to think - especially when it comes to the ownership of the elder wand - but I think that’s just me?! I also find this book has a different feel to the others since we’re not really in Hogwarts... which makes me sad :(

Although a major complaint I have is that such an important and crucial character, and one that I love, has an off-page death (I’m trying not to be spoilery here... just incase). WHAT THE HECK! It’s just kinda mentioned in passing and I’m sure on my first read my eyes were just bugging outta my head!!

However such complaints can’t take away from what I find to be a fitting end to the series. Sure, you feel like Rowling is pummelling your heart to a bloody pulp... but would you have it any other way? I’m missing my reread already, and I'm considering rewatching the movies as I’m just not ready to leave Hogwarts just yet.

All was well. 5 stars!


Johann
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Friday, 4 January 2019

Book Review: Krampus: The Yule Lord by Brom

Aspiring musician Jesse is caught up in the war between Krampus the Yule Lord and Santa Claus on Christmas Eve.

“Then let us go and be terrible.”

Well, colour me impressed. I’m not entirely sure what I had expected from this book, but I certainly didn’t think Krampus would be such a complex, well-developed and, at times, sympathetic character! Brom effortlessly blends his storytelling capabilities with a lot of the mythology that surrounds the origins and history of Yuletide and Father Christmas. I learnt a lot about Norse mythology and Brom even includes a little section towards the end where he details some of the research he came upon whilst writing Krampus.

It’s a fun read! And for the most part, it moves along at a consistent pace. Some parts did feel like they dragged on a tad, but I wonder if this is because I read it over quite a busy time and so I just felt like I was reading it forever? Brom is not only a talented writer, but also a fantastic illustrator and each chapter is accompanied with a delightfully devilish illustration.

I absolutely loved the portrayal of Santa Claus as an evil character and the battle between himself and Krampus was quite enthralling. Brom creates a fantastic backstory explaining the antagonism between the two. It was sad when Krampus was trying to understand why Yuletide traditions have died out - but also fucking awesome when he goes on a gruesome killing rampage... didn’t I say he was complex?!

All in all, a lot of fun, and one I’d suggest for reading over the festive period if you’re into mythology, fantasy and horror! What a combination of all three! 3.5 stars!

Johann
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Thursday, 3 January 2019

Book Review: NOS4R2 by Joe Hill

Vic McQueen has a special gift for finding lost things. All she has to do is jump on her bike and the Shorter Way Bridge will guide her to whatever she is looking for. Until one day she finds trouble in the form of Charlie Manx - a vampiric old man who feeds on the souls of children.



“Gold don’t come off. What’s good stays good no matter how much of a beating it takes.”

I have this terrible habit where if I don’t read Joe Hill for a prolonged period of time I forget how amazing Joe Hill is and then when I read some of his work I’m thinking to myself “omg Joe Hill, you are literally ranked just under your father in my faves list, I love you” well... this is a habit I need to BREAK.

My initial review for NOS4A2 when I first read it back in July 2016 just HEAPS praise on Hill and how original and inventive and unlike anything else this book was. I was worried a reread would change my opinion. But no... if anything I love this book even more! This book is 700+ pages but it doesn’t feel like it, and that to me, is the sign of a fantastic read where you simply can’t stop yourself from turning the pages. It's difficult not to make comparisons with Stephen King, and although I can see some similarities, make no mistake about it, Joe Hill has his own unique voice and with some pretty amazing unique ideas. This book was like no other book I've read before, very original and it captivated me from the very first page. It was thrilling, fascinating, touching, scary, gruesome...the list goes on.

Our heroine, Vic McQueen, isn’t all that likeable when we first meet her as an adult, but she grows on you and Hill fully develops her into a character that you really root for. And sweet sweet Lou - he deserves the world. Charlie Manx is one of the BEST villains I’ve ever had the pleasure of coming across. He’s absolutely hilarious whilst being incredibly fucking terrifying at the same time. But even more horrifying than Manx is his little helper, Bing. Bing is the lowest of the low... he’s sick and twisted and much more of a human monster than the supernatural Manx. He gives me the heebie jeebies!

NOS4A2 simply doesn’t fit into one genre box, it ticks a lot of them - horror, fantasy, suspense, humour, a little bit of romance... it has everything! And those Stephen King Easter eggs fill me with such joy.

This book is firmly in my top 5 books of ALL TIME! Christmasland is one of my favourite fictional places and I’ve no doubt I’ll be paying another visit. It really holds up on a reread. 5 stars!

Johann
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Wednesday, 2 January 2019

Book Review: Blaze by Stephen King/Richard Bachman

If you love Of Mice and Men, then this would be a great King to pick up! Both feature a couple of guys just trying to make ends meet, one of which is the “brains” of the two and the other is this 6 foot 7 gentle giant that isn’t too bright due to the beatings he took as a kid (poor Blaze!)

"It was a dirty world, and the longer you lived, the dirtier you got."

The story unfolds with two separate timelines: we have current day where Blaze is trying to kidnap a baby in order to make some money, and then we have the past which details Blaze’s childhood and friendship/partnership with George. Blaze has been dealt a bad hand in life, you can’t help but wonder what kind of life he might have had if things had been different. King does a terrific job of making you sympathise with this tragic character - I may have shed a few tears! I much preferred the flashbacks to Blaze’s past than the present events though. King is well known for his sprawling epic books that can really give your biceps a workout, but in Blaze he shows that he is capable of a wham-bam-thank-you-mam story. There's no real filler, the story moves along at a moderate pace and nothing feels wasted.

King issues an apology at the beginning in a little introduction and explains how he initially thought it wasn’t a great book. Apparently he wrote it around the same time as Carrie but it was left on the back burner until years later when he decided to realise it as Richard Bachman’s final novel. It fits into the Bachman style in terms of the ending (the Bachman books tend to have distinctively dark endings that lack any semblance of hope), but it also felt a lot like a King novel to me. We actually had a likeable character to root for! Blaze is great, he’s just like Lennie :(

All in all, one of the better Bachman books in my opinion. Probably second best after The Long Walk. Worth a read!

Johann
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