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Saturday, 18 January 2020

Book Review: Whoever Fights Monsters by Robert K. Ressler

If you’re a fan of Mindhunter, then this is one you need to pick up, especially since Agent Tench in the show is actually based on Robert K Ressler! Incase it isn’t obvious, as is the premise of the show, Whoever Fights Monsters follows the beginning of criminal profiling and its introduction into the FBI. And it’s truly fascinating!

“Whoever fights monsters should see to it that in the process he does not become a monster.” (Nietzsche)
Tonnes of cases are covered, but special attention is given to some criminals, like John Wayne Gacy, Richard Chase, David Berkowitz, Charles Manson, as well as some lesser known cases. It’s very well-written, but as is the case with the majority of true crime books, can be quite dry. That didn’t stop me flipping through the pages though, as it was incredibly readable.

One of my main complaints about the Mindhunter book was how egocentric John Douglas came across, and even though Ressler contributed hugely to the way criminals are profiled today, he seems very humble in comparison. I wasn’t rolling my eyes every 5 seconds, let’s put it that way... There is also no new information past the 1990s, so it’s perhaps slightly outdated in some ways, but for a history of the introduction of criminal profiling, it’s solid.

Keeping this review relatively short as people are either into true crime or they’re not - but if you are, this is worth checking out! As with all true crime, there are graphic descriptions and disturbing scenes, so beware! 4 stars.

Johann
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Book Review: Doctor Sleep by Stephen King

A worthy sequel to The Shining, Doctor Sleep revisits Danny Torrance as an adult, where he has unfortunately inherited his father’s alcoholism, but also retains his ability to “shine”. He encounters a young girl named Abra, who needs his help to fight the vampiric cult, the True Knot.

“There came a time when you realised that moving on was pointless. That you took yourself with you wherever you went.”
There’s so much I love about this book that I almost don’t know where to begin! The book opens strongly with throwbacks to the ghosts from The Shining, as we follow Danny and Wendy after their stint in the Overlook Hotel. These references to The Shining are scattered throughout the novel and I couldn’t help but revel in each of these moments. Doctor Sleep can easily stand on its own merit, but those little tie-ins truly enhance the experience.

It’s heartbreaking to see Dan struggle with the same illness that haunted his father. But I also appreciate that Dan has his own flaws and is not presented as a purely heroic figure. The fantastic characterisation follows with the introduction of Abra - another solid King child character. This girl is an absolute badass. I LOVE HER.

Admittedly the True Knot aren’t my favourite villains... I think Rose the Hat is brilliant, but a lot of the others became interchangeable for me. Although I wouldn’t even classify this one as being scary, some parts were pretty unnerving. The baseball boy parts in particular cut me up, they’re brutal.

Incase it isn’t obvious, I truly loved this one just as much on my reread. I just loved getting to revisit Dan Torrance as an adult and he feels so true to young Danny. Even though this one is a relatively recent King, the writing style etc did feel more akin to old King for me!

Love, love, love! 5 stars.

Johann
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Sunday, 5 January 2020

Book Review: Prosper's Demon by KJ Parker

A short and sweet review for a short and sweet novella! First of all, thank you so much to @torbooks for sending me a free copy! I dug the hell out of this one. This is not a horror book, by any stretch of the imagination - although a few parts are somewhat gory - it’s more of a fresh take on demonic possession.

“And belief, like love and sleep, is something you can’t do anything about. You can’t make it come if you want it, and you can’t make it go if you don’t.”
Our morally questionable narrator is capable of exorcising demons from those who are possessed. His methods are effective and he really doesn’t care about the mess he leaves behind whilst doing so. He encounters Prosper of Schanz, who is a man of science aiming to raise the first philosopher-king - it’s just a shame Prosper is possessed.

The writing alone blew me away. The prose is absolutely beautiful, yet manages to be both witty and satirical. The narrator’s dry humour simply had me cackling out loud at times! I would say it’s quite an intellectual read as well, it leaves with you lots to ponder and consider.

It’s so incredibly short, clocking in at just under 100 pages, but so much is packed in here. There’s impressive world-building and an intriguing storyline, it’s truly impressive when an author can be this effective within so few pages!

The less said the better! This is one to sit and binge in a couple of hours. Look out for it early 2020. It was a lot of fun! 4.5 stars.

Johann
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Friday, 3 January 2020

Book Review: Hell House by Richard Matheson

Hell House is basically The Haunting of Hill House on steroids. Both books centre around four characters who stay in a haunted house to try to investigate what is happening. We have Doctor Barrett, who’s intention is to prove his theory - he also brings his wife along cos she just can’t bear to be left alone... And then we have two mediums - one of which is Fischer, the only survivor of a failed investigation attempt 30 years earlier.

"As he crossed the entry hall, he had the feeling that the house was swallowing him alive."
Hell House is certainly disturbing. The kind of book where you send snippets to people accompanied by comments like “WHAT THE ACTUAL FUCK” I’m glad I was buddy reading this with Gemma @cemetery.of.forgotten.books as I needed someone to share in my disbelief! I can just imagine how controversial this book would have been back in the 70s, it’s pretty wild! The history of the Belasco house is vile and depraved.

One or two parts creeped me out - figures entering the room and breathing at the bottom of the bed... *shudders* There’s also a lot of sexual violence and for that reason I would not necessarily recommend this one to a newbie horror fan. That’s also a trigger warning! It gets pretty graphic and detailed at times!

Also, a note to authors - please don’t give your main characters names that start with the same letter. I recently reread ‘Salem’s Lot which had a Mike, Mark and Matt... This one wasn’t as bad with Fischer and Florence... but I still found myself having to stop and think sometimes? I’m not sure if this is just an issue I have - perhaps I’m easily confused!

Overall, an entertaining yet incredibly dark haunted house story. Proceed with caution! 4 stars.

Johann
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Monday, 30 December 2019

Book Review: The Family Plot by Cherie Priest

A group of salvagers are given the job of stripping down an old mansion in four days. However it won’t be as easy as they had hoped...

“They echoed and scratched like a blade on the brittle, cheap wood of the attic’s subflooring - cutting letter after letter in an accusation that wouldn’t die.”
If you’re looking to develop an unhealthy fear of your bathroom, you gotta pick this one up! As a horror fan, I can’t help but LOVE a big gothic house, steeped in history and secrets. I mean, I couldn’t live in one, but I adore books and movies wherein an unsettling house is the main focus.

The Family Plot certainly brought the scares for me! It wasn’t pee your pants scary - very few books are, if any. But I did feel more at ease reading it during the daylight hours. There’s just something about a haunted house! My thought process runs along these lines - “This takes place in a house, you say?! But I live in a house! This could happen to ME” And then I start talking myself down “Ah, but my house is only 30 odd years old, you’re the first ones to live here... it’s fine” and a cool head prevails.... Until you consider what your house may have been built on...

Anyway, enough of my crazy thoughts... I did really like this one! The backstory was great, the unravelling of details and pacing was executed quite well, and there was an awesome poem towards the end that I really loved.

I had some minor issues though. The dialogue felt a little clunky at times, and the familial drama started to grind on me. Their bickering became quite irritating and it made them seem closer to teenagers than adults. Oh, and sometimes the main character would talk to the house and the ghosts? Mega cringe!

Overall, however, I would certainly recommend it. Especially if you’re a fan of southern gothic tales! And who doesn’t love a good ghost story?! With a creepy burial plot! And a creepy soldier!

Worth a read if haunted houses are your jam! 3.5 stars.

Johann
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Sunday, 29 December 2019

Book Review: The Testaments by Margaret Atwood

In the highly anticipated sequel to The Handmaid’s Tale, Margaret Atwood answers some of the questions that have tantalised readers for decades.

“You don’t believe the sky is falling until a chunk of it falls on you.”
I’m not gonna lie... I could read about Gilead until the cows come home. I find this dystopian world absolutely fascinating - and equally terrifying, given our current climate. Combine this with Atwood’s sharp, insightful commentary and her stunning prose, and you have all the necessary ingredients for an amazing book!

However, I do feel like it pales in comparison to The Handmaid’s Tale. It’s perhaps unfair to compare it to a book that has become so revered and well-loved, but I couldn’t help doing that as I was reading along. There are three narratives in The Testaments, and as many of the reviews I read agreed with, one of the narratives is just not as enjoyable as the other two. I can do without an annoyingly whiny teen, thank you very much. Aunt Lydia’s narrative was certainly the highlight of the book for me! I’d have been more than happy if the entire book was from her perspective.

That being said, it did feel a tad predictable at times... and some parts felt spoon-fed. A lot of the ambiguity that worked so well in The Handmaid’s Tale was missing here.

I’ve seen a lot of comments about how this novel was simply unnecessary and I can totally understand that viewpoint. I just really enjoyed being back in Gilead and I can’t deny that I found this to be a real page-turner! I had a good time! However on reflection I did end up deducting half a star from my original rating. 3.5 stars.

Johann
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Book Review: Full Throttle by Joe Hill

Well, this is the first time that a Joe Hill book has disappointed me. It’s a real shame, because I used to shout from the rooftops that I have basically loved every Hill I’ve read so far - but now there is a black mark on his record...

”A child has only two parents, but if you’re lucky enough to get to be an artist for a living, ultimately you wind up with a few mothers and fathers.”
Okay, let’s dial it back, perhaps I’m being a tad dramatic... it’s not terrible! There are a total of 13 stories in here, and a few are really good. But there is quite a lot of forgettable fluff. I can’t put my finger on what it is exactly, but I sometimes felt like the themes and topics included in this collection just bored me at times. It also bothers me that 4 of the stories that had been previously released, you can’t help but feel a tad short changed when you already have these ones.

In the introduction he talks about his relationship with his father and how if you are an artist you will ultimately be inspired by lots of different people through working with them and reading their work etc - which kind of lays the foundation for this collection. There are two stories he has written with King, both of which I had previously read. And then a number of stories where the inspiration source is clearly from other artists or authors.

Dark Carousel for example - strong Ray Bradbury vibes! The name alone just makes me think of Something Wicked This Way Comes. Unsurprisingly this was one of my favourites in the collection! Another favourite was In The Tall Grass, a really dark and disturbing tale where a pregnant woman and her brother hear a child shouting for help from the side of the road.

Twittering in the Circus of the Dead was another one that stood out, an entire story told through tweets! You are Released, previously included in the short story collection Fright or Flight, had the potential to be good, but fell short for me. The rest... probably quite forgettable.

In summary, it’s worth picking up for In the Tall Grass, if you haven’t read it yet! Otherwise... don’t rush yourself. 3 stars.

Johann
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