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Thursday, 28 December 2017

The Nocturnal Reader's Subscription Box: December

Well, happy Christmas to me... this box was awesome! This is the only instance in which I will allow anything bearing a ouija board on it into my house. I can be a bit...uneasy when it comes to potentially inviting demons into my house. I have enough issues. ANYWHO, enough of my deep-rooted issues with demonic possession, let's look at this month's box!



I'm really excited about this month's books! I already had my eye on Tales from a Talking Board after seeing it a couple of times on bookstagram, because, come on, that book was made to photograph! It's this month's new release and synopsis is as follows:

"Can we speak with the spirits of the dead? Is it possible to know the future? Are our dreams harbingers of things to come? Do auspicious omens and cautionary portents affect our lives? Edited by Ross E. Lockhart, Tales from a Talking Board examines these questions - and more - with tales of auguries, divination, and fortune telling, through devices like Ouija boards, tarot cards, and stranger things."

Basically, this book is right up my street! As a lover of all things paranormal, I can't wait to get stuck in. The second book in the box, the previous release, is Vermillion by Molly Tanzer. Synopsis is as follows:

"Gunslinging, chain smoking, Stetson-wearing Taoist psychopomp, Elouise "Lou" Merriwether might not be normal 19-year-old, but she's too busy keeping San Francisco safe from ghosts, shades, and geung si to care much about that. It's an important job, though most folks consider it downright spooky. Some have even accused Lou of being more comfortable with the dead than the living, and, well... they're not wrong. When Lou hears that a bunch of Chinatown boys have gone missing somewhere deep in the Colorado Rockies she decides to saddle up and head into the wilderness to investigate. Lou fears her particular talents make her better suited to help placate their spirits than ensure they get home alive, but it's the right thing to do, and she's the only one willing to do it. On the road to a mysterious sanatorium known as Fountain of Youth, Lou will encounter bears, desperate men, a very undead villain, and even stranger challenges. Lou will need every one of her talents and a whole lot of luck to make it home alive."

I've never heard of this book before, to be honest, but it sounds good! And the cover is really striking! So we got two really photogenic books this month that ALSO sound like they've good content as well - winning. 



On my instagram I talk about NOS4A2 by Joe Hill a lot! It is one of the best books I've ever read and I always recommend to people who are looking for horror suggestions. So imagine my excitement when I saw that we got an awesome Christmasland tee! But I would expect nothing less when the guys at NRB collaborated with Mike over at Nameless City Apparel. 


The artwork this month is pretty creepy - it's influenced by a scene from Bird Box by Josh Malerman (a book I have yet to read but it's on my never-ending TBR pile). We also got yet another awesome mug designed and made by Exhumed Visions with a play on the iconic line from Jaws - "You're gonna need a bigger mug". I showed this mug to my brother and he said, "You're gonna need a bigger cupboard". He's right, my mug collection is outta control but you can never have enough, right? RIGHT? Also included in this month's box was a cool can holder inspired by Bentley Little's The Store, as well as a Shining Overlook Hotel carpet pattern roll of Washi tape!



Lastly - my favourite part of each month's box, THE PIN. And this month's pin was not a disappointment. It's a Ouija planchette featuring everyone's favourite demon, Pazuzu aka Captain Howdy, from The Exorcist. I think I have a new fave pin, guys!!



Now the impatient wait for January's box begins... January is Edgar Allan Poe's birthday month so we're being treated to not one, but TWO Poe items. There's still boxes left, so get them ordered if you haven't already. Use my code DRJOBIS15 to save 15%!

Johann
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Saturday, 16 December 2017

Book Review: The Return of the King by J R R Tolkien

You know the drill - Sam and Frodo are on their way to Mordor to try and destroy the ring, but not without a companion lurking in the shadows... The armies of the Dark Lord are massing in an epic battle for Middle Earth... it's all come down to this!


"I will not say: do not weep; for not all tears are an evil."

And so my journey through Middle Earth has ended *cue hysterical crying*. Revisiting both The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings this year was a great decision - I'll be revisiting Hogwarts in a similar way in 2018. There is always time to reread your favourite books because you will honestly pick up or learn something different each time. This time around my overriding experience has just been an appreciation of the friendship found within these pages. It has also solidified Samwise Gamgee's position as one of my fave characters of all time. Aragorn may get all the heart eyes, but Samwise is truly special.

I thought at the end of my reread I would have a definitive conclusion on which of the three parts is my favourite. And to be blunt, I don't! I love them all for different reasons. The Fellowship is exciting because it's the beginning of the journey, the fellowship are all together... The Two Towers has some awesome parts and huge battles.... and The Return of the King just pulls at my heartstrings and breaks my heart because it's all ending!!

The Return of the King has some crucial scenes with regards to Frodo and Sam's friendship; in particular, the lengths Sam will go to in order to ensure Frodo achieves what he set out to do - to destroy the ring. Gollum's appearances and interactions with the two of them are on point, as well! I also just love the entire sequence of Aragorn becoming King *heart eyes* This book also has one of the most epic parts of the series...

"But no living man am I! You look upon a woman."

YASSSS! This moment! During the book and when I rewatch the movies I always feel like I'm waiting for this moment. Some shade is thrown Tolkien's way for the lack of real female power in this story, but this scene SLAYS for me. There's much to learn within this story and a lot is still relevant today. The friendship that forms between elf and dwarf, regardless of prejudice. The hobbits who were at first deemed to be weak and useless, who then turn out to be some of the bravest characters in literature. The need to fight for the greater good, to combat the evil in the world - and to have a friend by your side as you do it. Because things aren't always easy, but if you have a good friend to support you, you can overcome anything.

I do have a couple of issues with ROTK though - I just felt like the entire scouring of the Shire was completely unnecessary. It felt a bit tacked on at the end. As others have said before me, you do feel like Tolkien found it hard to say goodbye to this epic story he had written, and so you keep getting ending after ending after ending. On the same note though, I never want this story to end sooooo it doesn't entirely bother me!!!

I am in awe of this world that Tolkien created - it truly is the benchmark by which all other fantasy is measured. These movies and the books are enshrouded in nostalgia for me and revisiting Middle Earth is always like coming home. As I was reading through the last 5 or so pages I could just feel tears running down my face! I don't think any other piece of literature has this effect on me every time I revisit. It's a journey I will take many times in my life and it holds a very special place in my bookish heart. I can't give it any less than 5 stars.

Johann
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Thursday, 14 December 2017

Book Review: Dolores Claiborne by Stephen King

Having been suspected of being involved in the death of her rich employer, Dolores Claiborne tells the story of her life to the police, from the disintegration of her marriage and suspicious death of her husband to the relationship she had with her employer, Vera Donovan.


"Sometimes you have to be a high riding bitch to survive, sometimes, being a bitch is all a woman has to hang on to."

Wow, this book is pretty unique - it's in the form of a monologue given by Dolores herself detailing the events leading up to her husband's death a number of years previously, as well as the more recent death of her employer, Vera Donovan. There's no chapters, no breaks, nothing. Just a continuous narration from our protagonist. It blows me away how, not for one second, did I feel like I was reading King's writing - I felt like I was reading Dolores' confession. King's ability to perfectly encapsulate and get into the head of a middle-aged woman astounds me. She has such a strong, believable voice. Bravo, King, bravo.

Dolores made me laugh out loud (honestly, those stories about Vera's bowel movements), she made me tear up, and I was cheering her on every step of the way. She is a kick ass character, a strong female and one of King's best. And she perfectly demonstrates the strength of a mother's love, even though it may raise many questions about morality and how far we should go to protect those who we love. It took me a little longer to warm up to Vera, but I ended up loving her as well. It's just so awesome to read about two females who, even though they may have had some issues, had each other's backs. Dolores Claiborne may have given me a new favourite King character for the list, but it has also given me a new most-hated character too. Her damn husband, Joe. The way he treats Dolores and the things he says to her, as well as how he treated other characters (careful of spoilers) made me want to beat the crap outta him!! UGH. I HATE HIM!!

Even though this book has quite a few funny moments and hilarious quotes from Dolores, it does deal with some dark themes, such as domestic violence, alcoholism and sexual abuse. It's not a horror book either, although certain parts left me a little on edge, which I can't go into without spoilering! Although I liked the unique narration of this book, I personally was not a fan of the lack of chapters or section breaks, but I guess that's just a personal preference. I've had a few people on instagram say they prefer that as it actually helped them speed through the book. It just wasn't for me!

I almost wanted to find things I didn't like about this book as I've been on such a great run of awesome reads recently and sometimes I get self-conscious of giving so many books in a row a high rating - but WHATEVER. I loved it and that's it! I ain't gonna apologise for picking such great reads (or in this instance for Abbie picking a great read for me). 5 stars!

Johann
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Saturday, 9 December 2017

Book Review: The Girl Next Door by Jack Ketchum

In 1950s suburban America, two teen girls are left in the care of their aunt following the death of their parents. The story is told through the eyes of David, the boy who lives next door and who is witness to the escalating abuse and torture that these girls endure at the hands of the aunt and the rest of the children in the neighbourhood. 


"My mom says Meg's the lucky one," he said. "My mom says she got off easy."

First of all, I need to explicitly warn potential readers that this book is very graphic and detailed, and it is NOT for the faint of heart. That being said, I can categorically state that this is the most brutal, disturbing, upsetting, traumatising book that I have ever read. I did not enjoy reading this book, it made me angry, upset, and downright incredulous that people are capable of such inhumane actions, because this is not just some sick and twisted idea that Ketchum came up with, it it based on a true story. For those who are not familiar, this case is based on the murder of Sylvia Livens at the hands of Gertrude Baniszewski and her children/kids in the neighbourhood. I read up on this case after finishing the book and somehow the events that actually happened are even worse.

Ketchum's writing in this is not flowery and beautifully written - it is full of short and abrupt sentences that just cut right to the chase. And this suits the type of story that he is trying to tell and the reaction that he is trying to provoke. And boy, does he succeed. It's not an easy read by any means, at times I just wanted to shut the book and throw it in the bin - but it's also an important book, because these things DO happen. People DO torture children (and adults for that matter). But at the same time, in the light of such acts of violence and human depravity, we need people who will act out against it. Granted, not everyone wants to read about it, but I think it's something we all need to be aware of. Sometimes not doing anything is almost as bad as those taking part in such crimes.

David is an interesting character, we learn everything that happens through his recollection of events. Although he never actually partakes in any of the abuse, is he complicit because he is aware of it, even though he is only a 12 year old boy? At times I just wanted to scream at him to tell someone, to tell his parents, but he goes through a range of different thought processes - from not thinking he's doing anything wrong as he PHYSICALLY isn't doing anything, to considering the fact that maybe Meg deserved it, to getting mixed up with his pre teen sexual angst and curiosity. The girl who bore the brunt of the abuse, Meg, is heroic in my eyes. She endures abuse and torture that you cannot even fathom, and yet she manages to hold onto her dignity - no matter how much they try to take it away from her. Any opportunity where she is close to giving in, all they need to do is threaten her sister and Meg will endure whatever they put her through. How I cried for this young girl. 

Rating this book was tough, as I cannot say I "enjoyed it". However, I found it hard to stop reading, and it evoked such a strong emotional reaction in me that can only be gained from solid writing and a well-executed story, with empathetic characters (in this case, Meg and her sister). It's a powerful book, one of the most powerful I've ever read, and Ketchum has achieved exactly what he set out to do: to horrify. 5 stars.

Johann
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Thursday, 7 December 2017

Book Review: The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde

Under the influence of a captivating aristocrat, Dorian Gray sells his soul in exchange for prolonged youth and vitality. Part of the deal is that a full-length portrait of Dorian will age and record his sins, whereas he remains unblemished. 


"Behind every exquisite thing that existed, there was something tragic."

Picking one quote from this book was like being asked to read just one book for the rest of your life - nigh-on impossible. I hadn't even thought about how difficult it would be until Tes (instagram @paperbackbones) pointed this out and then I got sucked into a vortex of reading different Wilde quotes online... that man was a goddamn genius.

This book has achieved a significant title in my reading life; the title of "Favourite Classic". It totally blew me away. To be honest, I only vaguely knew the storyline before picking this one up having encountered Dorian Gray in the TV show Penny Dreadful, but not the specific story that Wilde had created. I didn't think it would be so dark, so I was pleasantly surprised. The writing itself was just another level, quite possibly the most beautiful writing that I've had the pleasure of reading. As my buddy reader Abbie (instagram @ab_reads) and I discussed with each other, we quickly recognised so many quotes that are widely known and can easily be found on places like Pinterest.

The three main characters are really interesting, it seems to be that Dorian Gray represents a "normal person," Lord Henry is the bad influence, and Basil is the voice of reason. Dorian Gray himself is incredibly intriguing, at the beginning he is presented as the perfect specimen, and he is vain, but this vanity is only worsened following conversations with Lord Henry wherein he reminds Dorian that his favourable characteristics won't last forever. He wishes that he could forever resemble the picture of youth that Basil has captured in his painting, which is where things begin to go downhill...

Although Dorian is indeed captivating, I felt like a lot of my attention was actually placed on Lord Henry. He is the standout character from this story for me. His sass, his insights, his wit, his intelligence, it felt like Lord Henry was a representation of Oscar Wilde himself. And Dorian quickly falls under his spell. It's also interesting that although Lord Henry speaks of pursuing immoral behaviour, he himself never partakes in any. Perhaps towards the end of the book, he may lose some of his likability for other readers, but I still was a fan (I can't help but smile at his insights).

I honestly could talk about this book forever and the different themes that are found within, but this is not school and I'm not trying to achieve extra credit, so I'll keep those thoughts to myself! Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed every page of this classic and I'm particularly thankful that my boyfriend bought this book for me, as otherwise I'm not sure I ever would have picked it up. And now he'll be smug *rolls eyes*  But this gets all the stars!! I loved it!

Johann
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Wednesday, 6 December 2017

Book Review: Booth by Jason Pellegrini

As Joseph Bateman awaits his execution, he looks back over the events in his life that has led him to death row. However, during the execution, as the electricity runs through his body, he finds himself thrown into a foreign body and into an era over a hundred years before his own. His final challenge is to find redemption for his damned soul.


"Scars, no matter how long you give them, never heal."

When Jason Pellegrini contacted me about sending me signed copies of his books in exchange for an honest review, I was pretty excited about it! My bookstagram buddy, Sadie, had read this book Booth earlier in the year and had said it was a really great story, and pretty brutal at times. So suffice to say, I was looking forward to it.

The premise is really interesting - a guy who is on death row looks back over the events in his life that has led him to his current position. However, there is a chance for redemption - through going back in time and preventing one of history's most infamous murders. As soon as I read the synopsis I was seeing similarities between this story and 11/22/63 by Stephen King, which was actually confirmed by the author when he said that book did give him some inspiration for this story. But in no way are the stories similar beyond a bit of time travel.

This book is around 400 pages and yet I somehow managed to race through it in around 3 days, which is quick for me and my attention span! Part 1 in particular had me HOOKED. The backstory of Joseph's childhood and the events he endured whilst growing up was just captivating. However, I feel like I should warn potential readers that there are a number of rape scenes within this book. And it does get very intense and dark at times. The characters in particular tend to have quite racist viewpoints - but that's part of the plot. I feel like the author was using these rape scenes and race issues in order to really show us what led our protagonist down this path - although perhaps the rape scenes could just have been implied rather than described to us? Just a thought. The second part of the book, which centred around the actual time travel aspect, was slightly less interesting to me, but then I feel like it picked up again and the very ending of the book was brilliant.

The character development of the two main characters, Joseph and Alex, was very well executed. I felt so sorry for Joseph as a child and then as he grew up into the adult he became, I started to dislike the effect that Alex had on him *gives Alex the side-eye* but...then, I don't want to get into it too much as it will give things away!

I just really enjoyed this story that Pellegrini told - it was really unique and well-written. And it says a lot whenever I find it hard to put a book down, as my attention span is all over the place at times. On the whole, Pellegrini created a character in Joseph Bateman that was just very REAL. At times you hated him and then at other times you cheered him on - he just felt very human to me, as no one is perfect. Booth has a really strong plot and it's a great read if you're looking for something a bit different. It gets 4 stars out of 5 from me!

Johann
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Sunday, 3 December 2017

Book Review: 1984 by George Orwell

In Oceania, the Party scrutinises human actions with the ever-watchful Big Brother. Winston Smith, however, struggles with this oppression and the ban on individuality, leading to him disobeying the government by writing a diary in secret and pursuing a relationship with Julia.


"Who controls the past controls the future. Who controls the present controls the past."

What else is there that can be said about a literary classic such as 1984? A lot of people rank it as one of their all-time favourite books, and although I really enjoyed it, it won't be held in such high esteem for me. I flew through this book in a number of days, which often represents how much I'm enjoying a book - so yes, it was certainly an addictive and captivating read, but I had a couple of issues. 

In my opinion, this book could have been a bit shorter - there were particular parts, especially in the middle of the book, that could have been edited down a lot. There was a lot of repetition and going over things I already knew. And those excerpts from The Book... holy hell, I kept falling asleep in bed when I was reading those parts *snore*. As for the characters themselves, they weren't really likeable or well-developed, like they were fine, but I wasn't overly rooting for them. And the fact that Julia told Winston she loved him when they had yet to even converse... *rolls eyes* I also dislike the fact that Winston tells Julia TO HER FACE that he would like to rape and murder her - talk about wooing a lady... is this how they did it back in the day??

So, yes, although it seems like I have a number of issues with this book, it was still really brilliant. The entire concept was absolutely terrifying and it's scary how much of the ideas initially presented by Orwell in 1984 came to fruition in real life. It's a dark and relentless read, but crucially an important one. Orwell's depiction of a world where the government has total and unchallenged control, they can watch AND HEAR everything you do... if you think for yourself or demonstrate any sign of individuality, you might just be viewed as a traitor to the Party and subsequently "disappear". To live in a world where you are ruled by fear and oppression  - it truly makes my blood run cold.

The ending wasn't necessarily what I expected, or wanted, but it was perfectly bleak. The final line itself - unforgettable. A book everyone should read (just be prepared to be bored out of your tree at points) - 4 stars out of 5!

Johann
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Wednesday, 29 November 2017

Book Review: Locke & Key Volumes 3 & 4 by Joe Hill

This second master edition is comprised of arcs 3 and 4, Crown of Shadows and Keys to the Kingdom. Following directly after the events covered in the first master edition, more keys are discovered within Keyhouse as the search for the elusive Omega Key is turned up a notch...


"You were a cup with nothing in it until I came along to fill you up."

These volumes just keep getting better and better!! Admittedly, I felt like the beginning of Crown of Shadows lagged a little bit, but then it picked up towards the end and carried that pace right through Keys to the Kingdom. I'm itching to start the final master edition right away and finish the series, but I also want to savour it.... so I'll wait a bit....

As per usual, the characters are incredible - the Locke children in particular. I love Tyler and Bode, and although Kinsey can be kinda irritating at times, she's pretty believable as a teen and also well-developed. I have such a hatred for Zack, which I guess is the point? We're meant to hate him? But even his appearance gets under my skin, he's just so annoying to look at! I wanna punch his face with that angular jaw and lip ring (nothing against lip rings, his just bugs the hell outta me). I also feel like I'm waiting for the mother's role to progress - I can understand her trauma at the hands of the attackers and subsequent alcoholism...but maybe it's getting a bit tiresome and I just want her to do something else! I feel like something kickass is coming and I'm getting impatient!

The artwork continues to astound me, but sometimes it's difficult to fully appreciate it as I'm keen to flick through those pages and find out what's happening next!! I really really love this series, it's just so much fun to read - for anyone who has never read graphic novels before and isn't sure where to start, I implore you to give Locke & Key a whirl! You won't regret it. Another 5 star read for me this month - I'm on a roll!

Johann
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Sunday, 26 November 2017

Book Review: 11/22/63 by Stephen King

A school teacher, Jake Epping, travels back in time through a portal with the aim of preventing the assassination of JFK, often considered to be a huge watershed moment in American history. But first, he must create a life for himself in the years leading up to the assassination as he has some research to do. In doing so, he stumbles upon the town of Jodie and a beautiful librarian named Sadie Dunhill...


"We did not ask for this room or this music. We were invited in. Therefore, because the dark surrounds us, let us turn our faces to the light. Let us endure hardship to be grateful for plenty. We have been given pain to be astounded by joy. We have been given life to deny death. We did not ask for this room or this music. But because we are here, let us dance."

Let me preface this review by saying... prepare for a LOT of fangirling. When I first read this book it blew me away, and on my reread, it had the exact same effect. I would go so far as to say that this is one of the best books I've ever read. Usually I can find faults within all of King's works, but I'm sitting here trying to think of something I didn't like about this book and I've got nothing. Zilch. Nada. On my first read I sometimes felt a bit bored by the JFK plot, but I think that was because I was so impatient to get back to Jake's life and relationship with Sadie. Now on my reread, I already knew what was coming - the same urgency wasn't there - so I was able to appreciate that storyline a bit more and it's actually really piqued an interest in learning more about this moment in American history. Sooo...this time around, I ain't got any complaints.

King's writing is beautiful in this book. He evokes such a range of emotions in these pages, one minute I was laughing, the next I was crying. He makes me nostalgic for a time period and a country I didn't even live in! THAT in itself is a skill (Lana Del Rey also does this for me). A root beer never ever appealed to me until I read this book. His, or rather Jake's, reflections on life just really resonated with me, life CAN turn on a dime and this book is a constant reminder to just enjoy what you have when you have it - because who knows what is around the corner?

11/22/63 also stars two of my all-time favourite King characters - Jake and Sadie. I fell in love with Sadie as Jake did. Sadie is brave, headstrong, resilient, and given her past, her outlook on life is inspiring. As for Jake, some of the decisions he makes (without giving away any spoilers) proves that he is simply a good man. To take on such an arduous task, spanning years of your life, is admirable. And with these two amazing characters, King writes his greatest love story. It is beautiful and heartfelt and REAL. It shook me to my core. 

If anyone ever tries to tell you that King can only write horror, slam this book in their face! Although that's not to say that there aren't moments of horror... the events that occur in the Dunning household are truly terrifying, with some of the most graphic and unforgettable descriptions King has ever written. Credit must also be given to the ridiculous amount of research that must have gone into this book. The attention to detail is staggering - I personally cannot say how much of it is accurate as I don't know much about the JFK assassination - but I'm guessing King left no stone unturned. 

What's great about 11/22/63 is that you don't need to be a fan of King or of horror in order to fall in love with this book. I'm actually trying to convince my mum to read it as I think she'd love it, but she remains stubborn - I WILL break her!! On a final note, I'm intrigued as to what King's initial ending was - he says in the afternotes that Joe came up with a better ending than the one he had planned. I wonder if it would have left me so dehydrated....

11/22/63 remains my second favourite King book, BUT it is the best King has written, in my opinion. Does that make sense? It does to me. This book gets ALL THE STARS. Truly incredible.

Johann
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Saturday, 25 November 2017

Book Review: Kin by Kealan Patrick Burke

Naked and covered in blood, Claire Lambert emerges from a massacre that has claimed the lives of her friends. As the sole survivor, Claire wants revenge for the cannibalistic family responsible for the hell that she has endured. But she's not the only one, others have been affected by this nightmare and they too want this family of lunatics to pay...



"It seemed he always had blood on his hands no matter how hard or how often he washed them."

What did I just read?! As a forewarning (I feel like I'm forewarning a lot these days... I've been reading some sick shit it seems), this is not for the faint of heart. It's brutal and visceral and raw... yet oh so AMAZING. I blew through this book in a matter of days - it's pretty much the definition of unputdownable. I love reading books that just hook you from the very first page, or in this instance, the very first sentence.

From the get-go, I felt like I was watching a great horror slasher movie. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre vibes were overwhelming, but very quickly it became apparent that there was more at stake here than gratuitous blood and gore. There was also really great, well-developed characters that you begin to care about. I appreciate the fact that this book kicks off right after the massacre has occurred - of course there are flashbacks to what happened - but ultimately this story is about what happens next and how those left behind are affected when such atrocities occur. The survivor's guilt, the need for revenge, the urge to make those responsible pay for what they have done.

I'm also very excited to announce that I have a new favourite literary family - the Merrill clan. Holy hell, what a bunch of fucked up individuals. Momma-in-bed (yes, that is her name) was literally in one scene (or two perhaps, without giving anything away), and yet she will probably be what I first think of when I refer to this book in future. Even now, if I concentrate for long enough, I can smell her bedroom... *vomits everywhere*. I loved loved LOVED reading about this family and would implore Mr Burke to consider writing more about the heinous acts of the Merrills some day, because I don't think I would ever tire of it. 

When you combine horror and scenes that have me grimacing and closing the book to take a breather WITH great, complex characters that you actually LIKE - then this, my friends, is my favourite kind of book. Definitely one of my favourite reads from this year. And certain scenes will stay with me forever (if you've read, you KNOW what I'm talking about). Highly recommend to all horror fans. 5 stars from me!

Johann
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Sunday, 19 November 2017

The Nocturnal Reader's Subscription Box: November

The prospect of getting a box without a theme is actually pretty exciting as you literally can't even predict what books or related items you might get. And this box was full of great items! I actually got a few messages beforehand from people telling me that I'd love this box and that it was basically made for me. Vince and Jessi verified that it was in fact designed for me... honestly! ;)  okay, maybe that's a lie, but I loved this box. So let's look at what was included...



Firstly, the books. Two new releases this month and one of mine was signed - which is always a pleasant surprise! The first book was The Wilderness Within by John Claude Smith, synopsis is as follows:

"While visiting fellow writer, Frank Harlan Marshall, Derek Gray senses a palpable dread within Frank's house and the forest that surrounds it; a subtle malignant sentience. What should be a joyous event, as they await the surprise arrival of a long-lost friend, comedian "Dizzy Izzy" Haberstein, is fraught with unease Derek does not understand. Derek's confusion is upended by the chance meeting with musician Alethea, formerly of Dark Angel Asylum, a band that dropped out of sight once the leader, Aleister Blut, ended up in an insane asylum. As their relationship blossoms, Derek's disorientation at the hands of the forest manifests as his world turns sideways... and one of Frank's fictional creatures - a murderous monster named Average Joe - gains foothold in the surreal, psychological terrain. As the worlds of reality and fantasy meld, what transpires bounds from deeply profound to pure madness."

Sounds good, doesn't it?! And I love the cover of this one, so creepy and sinister looking. The second book is a collection of short stories written by Ronald Malfi called We Should Have Left Well Enough Alone (and my copy was signed!!). Synopsis is as follows:

"A new mother is pursued by mysterious men in black. A misguided youth learns the dark secrets of the world from an elderly neighbour on Halloween night. A housewarming party where the guests never leave. A caretaker tends to his rusted relic of a god deep in the desert... In his debut short story collection, Bram Stoker Award finalist Ronald Malfi mines the depths and depravities of the human condition, exploring the dark underside of religion, marriage, love, fear, regret, and hunger in a world that spins just slightly askew on its axis. Rich in atmosphere and character, Malfi's debut collection is not to be missed."


Looking forward to trying some Richard Malfi - I think short story collections are great for when you're introduced to a new author, you get to try a range of different stories and ideas all at once. Beyond the books, the rest of the box was awesome too! We got a Shirley Jackson cushion cover - one of the Queens of Horror, and a cool pennant that you can hang up and proudly display in your home.

We also got some awesome new coffee to try from Coffee Shop of Horrors, inspired by Richard Matheson's Hell House - I have it on good authority that it's delicious, I'll have to make a pot soon. And we as all know.... Winter is Coming.... there's definitely a chill in the air, but don't worry, your head and ears will be kept warm with a Night's Watch beanie from Game of Thrones!


I feel like every month I'm saying "This is now my favourite pin!" and this month is no exception. This Carrie pin is now my favourite pin!! NRB keep outdoing themselves each month with their pin choices, this one is particularly awesome as it has a sliding mechanism, so blood can slide out of the bucket!


Usually I end up throwing away the cardboard that the pin is attached to, but in this case I can't. It somehow makes it even cooler. Lastly, my recent Clive Barker obsession is no secret, especially when it comes to Hellraiser, so you can imagine my squealing upon seeing this month's artwork by Chris Gallen. It's soooooo ridiculously cool! Butterball is equally fascinating and disgusting.


Loved this box! A lot of my favourite fandoms and interests were checked off: King, Barker, Game of Thrones, coffee, and I've only read one Shirley Jackson so far but LOVED it. Looking forward to the December box already: it's going to have King, Joe Hill, William Peter Blatty (ALL MY FAVES), Josh Malerman and more... there's still some boxes available. Use my discount code DRJOBIS15 if you wanna treat yourself (or another) for Christmas! Until next month...

Johann
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Saturday, 18 November 2017

Book Review: Blanky by Kealan Patrick Burke

Following the tragic death of his infant daughter, Steve Brannigan is lost in grief, finding solace in alcohol and bad TV. His estranged wife can no longer be in the house where they lost their child, so Steve is left to himself in their family home. That is, until he hears a noise upstairs...



"All these moments, even the less pleasant ones, are snapshots we can never replace once they're lost."

I must admit, I get pretty nervous when it comes to reading the books of an author who is so present on instagram - particularly when it's someone I've conversed with a number of times and he's just SO NICE. But, in this instance, I really had nothing to worry about. Blanky is pretty awesome!! It's heartbreaking and terrifying in equal measures, reminding me of how I felt reading Pet Sematary by the King - and I think everyone knows how I feel about that book.

Burke's writing is incredible, it's intricate and detailed, yet so readable. And there's so much emotion in this book that you can really feel from the very first page. The very first line even! It's heartbreaking to even imagine what parents must go through following the loss of a child, and even sadder when it leads to the devastating disintegration of a relationship. I want to leave out as many details as possible, because there's so much I just didn't see coming and that's how this story should be experienced.

It's staggering how much Burke fits into such a short novella, that building sense of dread, you feel like you're on tenterhooks just waiting for the other shoe to drop. And Burke delivers. I actually would LOVE to see this adapted into a movie - there's so many terrifying sights that Burke describes that I think would work incredibly well visually. It would be pure nightmare fuel, but that's what we want when we read horror, don't we?

My only slight complaint would be that I wanted more - what can I say, I'm greedy when it comes to unrelenting terror. Don't get me wrong, it works perfectly as a novella, but... I just wanted to spend even more time in this story! Burke is a great writer, and I'm looking forward to reading more from him. 4 stars out of 5 from me! I highly recommend picking this one up for a quick scare. With heart.

Johann
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Tuesday, 14 November 2017

Book Review: Books of Blood Vol 1-3 by Clive Barker

Comprised of insane and downright horrifying tales from Clive Barker, Books of Blood is a strong debut release which led to King referring to him as "the future of horror". This edition contains Volumes 1-3, a grand total of fifteen stories (sixteen if you include the intro) - a large number of which have been subsequently adapted into movies. 


"Everybody is a book of blood; wherever we're opened, we're red."

Having already been blown away by The Hellhound Heart, I was excited to get into more Clive Barker - and oh boy, this did not disappoint. The sheer range of stories within these first three volumes of Books of Blood is staggering. And the quality remains consistently high throughout. Barker's imagination is unparalleled - I mean, King has a pretty awesome imagination too, but his skills are slightly different to Barker's. One minute you're reading about a serial killer who quite literally skins his victims and hangs them up like pieces of meat on the subway, and the next you're reading a pretty hilarious story about a guy and the demon currently inhabiting his house trying to outdo each other.

There's dark humour in some of these stories, whereas some are just pee-your-pants scary and will no doubt lead to some pretty disturbing nightmares. There's something for every horror lover in here. However, I do feel like it's necessary to warn people that a high proportion of these stories have a lot of blood and gore in them - it is the Books of Blood after all - so if you're not a fan of this, maybe this  collection isn't for you. I just don't want anyone to read these on my recommendation and think I'm some sicko (I kinda am, but that's a discussion for another day). BUT it's also important that I point out that the gore isn't gratuitous or included merely for the "shock value"  - in my opinion, anyway.

I'm still finding it so strange to be reading sentences that are meant to be graphic and disturbing, yet they're still poignant and beautiful. Barker has a real talent for examining the beauty of horror. He seems to have a fascination with the human body and it's reflected in his writing. The book just drips with sex and violence, and I'm more than cool with that.

I generally loved the majority of these, so it's difficult to pick a favourite, but standouts for me were: The Midnight Meat Train, The Yattering and Jack, Scape-Goats, Rawhead Rex... yeah, I'm close to just naming them all. However, a special mention must go to In the Hills, The Cities. I've honestly never read a story like this - such a unique, fascinating idea. Imagery I'll never ever forget. Wow. 

Initially I had intended to delve right into volumes 4-6 soon after finishing this... but I think I'm going to wait a while. Like a semi-reasonable junkie, I want to know that my next hit is still out there... just waiting for me to pick it up. This gets ALL THE STARS. 5 stars out of 5!

Johann
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Wednesday, 8 November 2017

Book Review: Locke & Key Volumes 1 & 2 by Joe Hill

Following a tragic home invasion and the death of their father, Rendell, the Locke children along with their mother, relocate to Keystone house in Lovecraft, Massachusetts. They begin to adjust to their new life with the aid of Rendell's brother, Duncan. The youngest child, Bode, soon discovers a number of magical keys that each have a different function and ultimately attract the attention of a strange "echo" that is hiding in a well.



"Kids always think they're coming into a story at the beginning, when usually they're coming in at the end."

Colour me IMPRESSED. I had been hearing for a while how absolutely incredible the Locke & Key series is and now I fully understand. This master edition is comprised of the first two story arcs; namely Welcome to Lovecraft and Head Games. These two arcs were an interesting introduction into the world and mythology of Keystone house. The first arc explores the different ways in which the children are adjusting to the loss of their father. Kinsey wants to avoid the unwanted attention, Tyler is regretful and appears to be falling into depression, whereas Bode is running around and exploring their new residence. The second arc, Head Games, is where the mythology really starts to kick in and we begin to learn more about these magical keys.

Joe Hill seems to have a flair for graphic novels - combine this with the insanely beautiful and detailed illustrations that Gabriel Rodriguez is capable of, and you're onto a winner! There's a decent amount of horror and violence in this story and they're depicted perfectly. My only criticism perhaps is that I'm not a fan of Dodge's appearance... I don't know what it is, I'm just not a fan! The characters themselves are pretty awesome, the three children seem like they're going to be the main characters throughout the entirety of the series and they're so well-developed and compelling. I love how they interact with each other in a manner that is just so believable. However, after talking to my friend Sadie, I do feel a bit suspicious of the mother in the family... she doesn't appear much and is relatively absent from the family. I just wonder what's going on there! 

I'm dying to read on and find out what happens next! At the back of this edition there's a teaser of each of the different keys and I'm just so intrigued as to how they're all going to come into play. I'd highly recommend this to Joe Hill fans (or even Stephen King fans), and also those who already enjoy graphic novels! Really solid introduction to this series, I give it 5 stars out of 5!

Johann
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Tuesday, 31 October 2017

Book Review: Pet Sematary by Stephen King

Louis Creed and his family have recently moved to the town of Ludlow, Maine. Behind their house there is a path that leads to a 'Pet Sematary', where the children of surrounding areas have buried their beloved pets in years gone by. Deeper in the woods there lies an ancient Indian burial ground, that Louis discovers has some sinister properties when their family cat dies...



"Cause what you buy, is what you own. And what you own... always comes home to you."

It's no secret that Pet Sematary is my favourite King book, but this is the case for a number of different reasons. When I first started reading horror I couldn't imagine words on a page actually scaring me, I always felt like I needed something visual to keep me up at night. Then I found Pet Sematary... I'd never had an experience before where I actually felt scared to turn the page - this was  of course in the climax at the end of the novel. My heart was racing, my palms felt sweaty, I just kept thinking, "There's no way this book is going to go THAT dark" (clearly I didn't really know King yet!!). And then it did. And a King junkie and Constant Reader was born. IT was my first King, but Pet Sematary was where I became hooked.

**NB Plenty of spoilers ahead**

Now it's time to get personal... grief and loss has been a huge part of my life. When I was younger, my dad was diagnosed with MS, a debilitating disease that quite literally drained the life from him in front of our eyes. I guess this is similar in some ways to the Zelda and Rachel storyline, apart from the fact that my dad was never angry or resentful over his illness - or if he was, he never showed it in front of me. He progressively got more and more ill, over time losing his ability to speak, walk, eat. Death was ultimately a relief. But what about those who are left behind? It's strange because even though I was only 10 when he died, which is around 18 years ago, there are still days or times when the unrelenting grief can come out of nowhere and floor me. The loss of a parent is something you never get over, it is simply something you learn to live with. The only thing that can possibly be worse is the loss of a child. King's depiction of the grief and loss that both Louis and Rachel go through is so accurate it hurts. This book really resonated with me on a deep level, as I had never before read such a harrowing and realistic outlook on death and loss. There are so many passages that I've made a note of and will revisit over and over again.

The way King crafted a book that is terrifying and heartbreaking in equal measures will never fail to astound me. Because this book IS terrifying - to lose someone is terrifying, to have to try to move on is terrifying, for them to come back "different" is also terrifying. Sometimes on instagram I will see people criticising Louis' decisions or making out that he's a bad parent and it makes me want to scream. Grief and loss does not allow for rational thinking. It does not allow for good judgement. It can be all encompassing to the point where you feel like you can't breathe. I defy anyone to tell me that if in a similar position you wouldn't even consider it (not forgetting the fact that there are other forces at work here). I know I would. Couple that with the overwhelming devastation and loss and your decision is pretty made. So to label Louis as a bad parent is absolutely ridiculous to me. Don't get me wrong, there was Ellie to consider, he still had that to live for, but in those heady initial days following such a heartbreaking loss, rational thinking ain't happening.

It's a bit of a slow-build this book, but the pay-off is worth it. I enjoyed getting to know the Creeds, watching them form friendships with the Crandalls across the road. All the good stuff, you know, before shit hits the fan. And when shit hits the fan, it is almost too much to take. Gage's little Star Wars shoe in the middle of the road... the cap full of blood. Images that send chills down my spine. Then the unbearable dread as Louis digs up that coffin, not knowing what exactly he is going to be presented with. The way Louis initially thinks that Gage has no head as there is a dark moss covering his face... THIS IS THE STUFF OF NIGHTMARES. The little figure appearing in Louis' room as he sleeps, the child's laughter that Jud can hear... Ellie having these vivid dreams and knowing that her family is in danger. This is really a masterclass in how to craft well-written, piss-your-pants horror. I bow to you, Sai King. 

Some of King's best writing in here and one of his best endings too. There's also some unforgettable characters in Louis Creed, Jud Crandall, Victor Pascow and Zelda. PUH-LEASE can I find a Jud Crandall that can act as a father figure to me?? The adaptation for this book is also pretty decent: Louis is a hot dad, Fred Gwynne was born to play the role of Jud, Zelda will trigger a cold sweat to run down your back...

I could quite honestly write an entire thesis on Pet Sematary, so I'll end it here. All I'll say is this: if you didn't feel something when reading this book...... you need to check yourself *insert sassy emoji* Always my number 1 King book. 5 stars from me - obviously.

Johann
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Tuesday, 24 October 2017

Book Review: The Hellhound Heart by Clive Barker

In a quest to satiate his darkest pleasures, Frank Cotton obtains and opens Lemarchand's box, summoning the cenobites who instead of granting him pleasure and entry into this promised new world, torture him and trap him within the box. However, his brother's wife, Julia, who had a previous dalliance with Frank, has found a way to bring him back - and it involves blood.


"No tears, please. It's a waste of good suffering."

Well, I had to use that quote, didn't I? Even though there was literally a plethora of amazing quotes I could have used. Having seen Hellraiser before having read this book, I would not have predicted that Clive Barker was a beautiful writer. When you experience all the guts and gore and disgusting sights and fucked-up ideas in Hellraiser,  you just don't expect the creator to have such a wonderful way with words - although I guess the same can be said for Stephen King. 

I straight up LOVED this book. It's a relatively small book, a novella in fact, but it packs a PUNCH. There were slight differences from the movie, of course, but nothing too drastic. In the movie, the cenobites are better developed and have more dialogue, but I still think their presence in the novella is effective. These sadomasochistic beings don't differentiate between pleasure and pain - something that Frank learns pretty quickly. The way Barker depicts the cenobites is terrifying and my only real complaint with regards to this story is that I'm left wanting more. I'm literally dying to learn more about the cenobites and what happens in their realm, more specifically what horrifying torture is inflicted upon others. What can I say, I'm a sicko!? There's a substantial amount of violence and sex, mirroring that fine line between pleasure and pain. Frank and Julia seem to suit each other in that they're both pretty unlikeable and selfish individuals, with Julia willing to go to extreme lengths in order to get Frank back.

I can already tell that Clive Barker is a master story-teller. He left me feeling unsettled, intrigued, and most importantly...wanting MORE. I found this to be an addictive read and couldn't put it down, even though I already knew the general story. It's a great introduction to Barker's work as I'm already getting extremely excited for my next venture, which will be the first Books of Blood - highly recommended by every Barker fan on instagram. So, if you're a hardened horror fan and love all things gory and disturbing, this would be a starting place for getting into Barker - maybe you'll start to become obsessed like me! This gets a 5 star rating!

Johann
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Monday, 23 October 2017

The Nocturnal Reader's Subscription Box: 1 Year Anniversary

First of all, Happy 1 Year to Vince and Jessi at Nocturnal Reader's Box! I think I've gotten all the boxes apart from the first 2. And they've all been amazing - in fact, they just keep getting better. They said they were gonna go all out for their 1 year anniversary box and they most certainly have delivered. So let's take a look at this month's box...


So we got three books this month - THREE - that's two new releases and one previous release. One of the new releases is What the Hell Did I Just Read by David Wong, the third book in the John Dies at the End trilogy. We were lucky enough to get the second book in a previous box, but apparently they can all be read as standalone novels. The synopsis for this one is as follows:

"It's the story "they" don't want you to read. Though, to be fair, "They" are probably right about this one. To quote the bible, "Learning the truth can be like loosening a necktie, only to realise it was the only thing keeping your head attached." No, don't put the book back on the shelf - it is now your duty to purchase it to prevent others from reading it. Yes, it works with ebooks, too; I don't have time to explain how. While investigating a fairly straightforward case of a shape-shifting inter dimensional child predator, Dave, John, and Amy realised there might actually be something weird going on. Together, they navigate a diabolically convoluted maze of illusions, lies, and their own incompetence in an attempt to uncover a terrible truth that they - like you - would be better off not knowing. Your first impulse will be to think that a story this gruesome - and, to be frank, stupid - cannot possibly be true. That is precisely the reaction 'They" are hoping for."

I always think these books sound so unique and intriguing! I also hear they're pretty hilarious too - I'm looking forward to getting to them... eventually. The other new book this month was The Valancourt Book of Horror Stories Volume 2 - a collection of short stories by a variety of different authors. The description on the back is as follows:

"Spanning two hundred years of horror, this new collection features fourteen gems of the uncanny, ghostly, and macabre, including two original tales and many others that have never or seldom been reprinted, by: Mary Elizabeth Braddon, John Buchan... and so forth."

The perfect collection of stories for October! The third and final book we got this month is a previously released book: Cold Moon over Babylon by Michael McDowell. Vince and Jessi are huge fans of this book and I trust their taste, so this will most certainly be a good one! Synopsis is as follows:

"Welcome to Babylon, a typical sleepy small town, where years earlier the Larkin family suffered a terrible tragedy. Now they are about to endure another: fourteen-year-old Margaret Larkin will be robbed of her innocence and her life by a killer who is beyond the reach of the law. But something strange is happening in Babylon: traffic lights flash an eerie blue, a ghostly hand slithers from the drain of a kitchen sink, graves erupt from the local cemetery in an implacable march of terror... And beneath the murky surface of the river, a shifting, almost human shape slowly takes form. Night after night it will pursue the murderer. And when the full moon rises over Babylon, it will seek a terrible vengeance..."


So excited for all these new reads!! And check out this month's artwork by Ivan Belikov in the above pic, inspired by the NRB logo. One of the coolest we've got so far (alongside the Cthulhu one, of course).

As for the rest of this month's items, we got an awesome glass inspired by the funeral parlour in American Gods (which is also on my never-ending TBR pile), a patch featuring the terrifying Sadako Yamamura aka the creepy girl from The Ring, some bookmarks and stickers, and a candle inspired by Ray Bradbury's Something Wicked This Way Comes, which smells GLORIOUS. 


Subscribers also got the opportunity to chose between a tee and a tote bag for this month's box. I was lucky enough to receive both the tee and the tote, featuring a design inspired by Stephen King/Richard Bachman's The Long Walk. It's just TOO. COOL. You can see my tee below:


Each month we get an awesome enamel pin, which has quickly became my favourite part of each box and something I look forward to every month. Having recently just started my Edgar Allan Poe journey, I was very happy to see that we got a pin inspired by Poe's "The Raven". Look at how beautiful it is!!!


So, as you can see, this month's box was JAM-PACKED and everything in it was amazzzzing. Looking forward to November, where we'll see a cenobite and items inspired by Shirley Jackson, Stephen King and Richard Matheson... DYING. Boxes are currently sold out, but December boxes will go on sale November 1st - SO BE READY. Use my code DRJOBIS15 to save yourself 15%! Until next month...

Johann
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Book Review: The Walking Dead Compendium 2 by Robert Kirkman

Compendium 2 is made up of issues 49-96, i.e. volumes 9-16. Following the loss of the prison and the devastation that followed, Rick and the group must move on. They very quickly come upon a community protected by walls, but the solace does not last long...


"After everything we've been through, all the people we've lost... I suddenly find myself overcome with something I thought we'd lost... hope."

It's difficult to review these comics as they're so fast moving and so much happens!! That's one of the major positives of The Walking Dead - it doesn't really get stagnant. Even when the survivors settle down in one location for a while, there's always new dangers and new characters constantly being introduced.

The general outline and journey of the survivors is similar to that of the show, but there's still huge differences with regards to individual character storylines, so even as a fan of the show, I'm kept on my toes.

This compendium was exciting because characters such as Abraham, Eugene, Rosita etc were introduced, as well as those who reside at Alexandria. And then towards the end we get to meet Jesus and those over at Hilltop! And Negan is mentioned!

But amidst all the excitement of meeting those characters I know from the show, ultimately... The Walking Dead is bleak. So bleak. It can be exhausting and relentless, but a zombie apocalypse ain't gonna be all sunshine and rainbows! But this compendium really drives the message home that humans are he real danger. Rick and co know how to deal with the walkers now, that's easy (most of the time), it's the people are also just trying to survive that are the problem.

Perhaps a bit slow at times but it never lost my attention. I give it 4 stars out of 5! Taking a short before Compendium 3, but I'll be back!

Johann
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Wednesday, 18 October 2017

Book Review: The Two Towers by J. R. R. Tolkien

The second volume in The Lord of the Rings, The Two Towers focuses on the disintegration of the Fellowship, as Frodo and Sam go off on their separate journey towards Mordor whilst Merry and Pippin are taken captive by some Orcs. Meanwhile, Aragorn, Legolas and Gimli decide that they will attempt to pursue and rescue Merry and Pippin.

"It's like in the great stories, Mr Frodo. The ones that really mattered. Full of darkness and danger they were. And sometimes you didn't want to know the end... because how could the end be happy? How could the world go back to the way it was when so much bad had happened? But in the end, it's only a passing thing... this shadow. Even darkness must pass."

As a child, The Two Towers was always my favourite movie, and I think I used to say it was my favourite book too, but as I've gotten older my favourite movie is now The Return of the King. I'm still unsure as to whether my favourite book will change as well, we'll soon see! I loved this reread though, there's so many great quotes and events jammed into The Two Towers, but I do have my complaints too.

Firstly, the positives! My eyes brim with proud tears as I reflect over how Aragorn has grown - it is in The Two Towers that he really starts to demonstrate his leadership skills at the Battle of the Hornburg. You can quite literally see me standing at the sideline waving my huge Aragorn flag. MAKE THIS MAN KING. I fear that every LOTR review will basically just be me rambling on how about how much I love Aragorn, but the heart wants what it wants. I mean, can we just...


*sighs*

Another positive - in the second half of the book we get so much Gollum and that greatly pleases me. He is such an incredible character that no scene can possibly be boring when he's there. He cracks me up by how he constantly refers to Frodo as the good master, whereas Samwise is the nasty one! We've already observed how strong and brave Samwise is, and that's built upon in this volume, where at times he literally carries and drags Frodo onwards in their journey. Also *potential spoiler alert* the scene where he thinks Frodo is dead and decides that he'll carry on with the mission of destroying the ring... MY HEART. Samwise just wants to be at home with his feet up, but here he is, with the whole weight of Middle Earth on his shoulders.

Also, young Johann was a complete moron. I used to complain all the time about how much I hated the Ents and how those chapters were so boring that I wanted to cry. It's strange to observe how your reading tastes change as you get older, because I was ALL OVER those chapters this time around. The Ents are awesome! You also can't talk about The Two Towers without referring to Shelob's lair. I find that chapter so uncomfortable and unsettling to read, because... spiders, man. But the tension and dread that Tolkien builds is terrifying. 

I guess my main problem with this book is the separation of the two storylines into Book 3 and Book 4. I mean, we don't get to see what Sam and Frodo are up to until halfway through, and then that also means we don't get to check in with Aragorn etc for the remainder of the book. I personally am not a fan of this, I'd rather we moved back and forth between the two storylines, because I start to miss characters when I don't get to see them for a while. And dare I say it, but it meant the second half of the book can slightly boring at times... it's just Sam and Frodo walking basically - but thank god for Gollum!

If you had to force me to chose, I would perhaps rank The Two Towers over the Fellowship. I think. Gah, this is too difficult! But I'm really intrigued to see how I feel after my reread of Return of the King. This one, however, gets 5 stars out of 5! It's sad that my journey through Middle Earth is coming to an end soon, but we can always go back, can't we?

Johann
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Friday, 13 October 2017

Book Review: Gerald's Game by Stephen King

Jessie and Gerald Burlingame head to their holiday home by the lake in Maine for an afternoon of... certain activities. However, things quickly take a turn when Gerald drops dead from a heart attack, leaving Jessie handcuffed to the bed. Jessie is left to face all of her worst fears, as the voices in her head take over...


"Some nightmares never completely ended."

As someone who has a relatively short attention span, the premise of one character trapped in one location for almost the entirety of the novel didn't necessarily excite me, I really thought I'd struggle. However, I have to commend King for writing such a tense, nail-biting, exhausting, unputdownable story. This book played on my mind, it gave me nightmares; for the first time since Pet Sematary, my blood actually ran cold whilst reading a book. I really loved this book, as I finished it I even thought "This is now one of my top Kings"... but in hindsight, it might just edge into the top 10.

Gerald's Game is not for everyone, some people might actually find it boring and some might get upset at the difficult themes that are described in explicit detail, such as sexual abuse. It's an uncomfortable read for sure, but I almost feel like you need to go through that in order to fully understand Jessie. It's extremely gory at times too, which for a hardened horror fan like myself, is something I actually really enjoy, but I know not everyone will feel the same way. It's strange, because although I loved this book, I wouldn't necessarily recommend it to everyone. 

My favourite aspect of this book was Jessie, who has shot right up the list to becoming one of my favourite King characters. She is brave, she is strong, she is resilient. What she went through during her childhood is quite simply one of the most horrific things I've ever read about, in any novel. I loved her references to how she was no longer going to be under the control of any man, following what she suffered at the hands of her father, as well as how she was treated during her marriage. Jessie is AWESOME. I was rooting for her the whole way and am literally in awe of her survival instincts. Me, I would have just lay there and accepted death, for sure. King does such a great job in presenting her character development throughout the novel.

A lot of people on instagram were eager for my opinions on the ending of Gerald's Game and here it is... I thought it was brilliant. It actually makes Jessie's experience more terrifying for me. I won't go into too much more detail as I don't want to spoil for anyone, but it was horrifyingly amazing and I'm a big fan.

So, yeah, it's awkward to really love a book and yet still feel slightly apprehensive about recommending it to people! But if it sounds like the kind of book you'd enjoy - go for it! I honestly thought I wouldn't be a fan and I've been proven wrong. Now I get to watch the adaptation on Netflix and I'm really looking forward to it, I'm sure I'll have some opinions on that soon too. Do you even need to ask? - 5 stars out of 5 from me!

Johann
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Monday, 9 October 2017

Book Review: Sleeping Beauties by Stephen and Owen King

A strange epidemic spreads across the world wherein once all the women fall asleep they become cocooned in an unusual waxy material. Disruption or tearing upon of this cocoon will cause the female inside to act in a homicidal manner. Sleeping Beauties focuses on the events occurring in a small town, Dooling, West Virginia, and in particular Clint and Lila Norcross, Clint being the psychiatrist in the local female prison, and Lila being the town's sheriff. One woman, however, seems to be the key to unravelling exactly what is going on...


"Sometimes you get what you want, but mostly you get what you get."

I'm going to keep my review as spoiler-free as possible, as I know so many people are still reading it. So I'll just present some overall thoughts and opinions. Okay, so, I enjoyed this book, but it's not without its faults. Part 1 was brilliant, this idea presented by the Kings is so unique and interesting and to see how it all unfolds and the effect it has on the world, and in particular, in Dooling, is really exciting. Part 2, however... oh, it was a slog at times. It reminded me of my experience with The Stand where I just thought, "Oh get on with it!!!" I feel like this book could do with some characters being cut out and a number of pages trimmed off it.

Speaking of characters, there is a LOT in this book, but surprisingly I was able to keep up with who everyone was and how they were connected to each other etc. Sometimes I did have that split second of "Wait...who's this again?" but usually within reading a sentence or two I was back on track. So yeah, there isn't too many in terms of keeping up with the characters, but in my opinion, there were a few characters who I could just have done without. King is the King of character development and creating memorable characters that you just never forget - however, I think quite a lot of the ones in here are forgettable for me, apart from Evie and Lila. The rest, meh.

In terms of the collaboration between father and son, it was seamless to me, it didn't feel like it was splintered and all over the place as the voice switches from Owen to Stephen and back again. Of course, some parts felt distinctly Stephen, and others felt non-Stephen (I haven't read any of Owen's work beyond this so I can't comment on his writing style). The first half of the book felt like a Stephen King idea to me and a current-day King read, however the second half just lacked that punch that King usually delivers.

I guess my main complaint that is I didn't really FEEL anything reading this. I felt interested, sure, but I wasn't really expressing any emotions. Each and every character could have been killed off and I'd have been like *shrugs*. I did enjoy it overall, don't get me wrong, it's a great idea, a great premise, but the second half let me down and so I'd give this book 4 stars out of 5. Which perhaps seems high after all my complaining, but that first half of the book was SO good and I still found it hard to put the book down even when I got to the second half! Overall, a decent book!

Johann
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