Monday, 13 February 2017

Book Review: Five Stories High

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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