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Monday, 27 March 2017

Book Review: The Devil Crept In by Ania Ahlborn

Stevie Clark's best friend, Jude Brighton, has gone missing. With each passing hour, Stevie knows that the likelihood of Jude being found alive and well is falling. But the problem is, no one seems to care as much as Stevie does, and he is adamant to find out what has happened to his best friend. Stevie soon learns about the similar disappearance a number of years ago of another young boy, Max Larsen, who's dead body was eventually found. Other strange things are occurring in the little town of Deer Valley... pets who no longer want to stay at home and go disappearing from yards. No matter how horrifying it may be, Stevie wants to know the truth, at any cost.


"Because it's never the way you want it, she thought. The universe doesn't care."

Okay, first of all, this was my first encounter with Ania Ahlborn, and I was BLOWN AWAY. I am a pretty fast reader I'd say, it's more finding the actual time to read that is difficult for me, but I started this book on Friday evening and finished it up on Sunday evening (it's about 400 pages, so a medium-sized book). My other weekend plans, such as revising for my PhD...kinda took a backseat as I raced through the book. It was unputdownable! Her writing style is so effortless and insists on being binged upon. Right away I was looking at her other books online, so thank you to the Nocturnal Readers box for introducing me to this awesome writer.

As for the story itself, WOW. It was creepy, unsettling, unnerving, horrifying... basically everything I want from a horror book. I feel like I don't want to say too much about the plot because I went in knowing NOTHING and I really think that enhanced my experience. So, just prepare to be creeped out! And prepare to fall in love with the character of little Stevie Clark. He was so well-developed and likeable and you are just on his side from the first page. The lengths he will go for his cousin and best friend is admirable for such a young child. When no one else seems to care and they have given up on Jude, Stevie is still there, trying everything in his power to solve the mystery. Great character. The character of Rosamund was also perfectly written. Her introduction was confusing at first, as I thought "Where is this going?" but then it quickly made sense and it all really paid off. Her storyline was heartbreaking and crazy insane all at the same time.

Okay, I don't want to say any more, because if you're going to go out and buy this book (which you should), you need to go in without knowing a thing! You won't regret it. 5 stars out of 5 for me! And a great new author that I can start obsessing over... awesome!

Johann
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Friday, 24 March 2017

Book Review: I Am Legend (and some short stories) by Richard Matheson

Robert Neville is the last man on earth...or is he? Following the outbreak of an incurable plague that has mutated every other human on earth into bloodthirsty, nocturnal creatures, Robert Neville must scavenge for food and supplies during the day, whilst hiding in his boarded-up, vampire-proof home at night. Living a solitary life for so long is not easy, and so he is constantly on the look-out for fellow survivors...


"The strength of the vampire is that no one will believe in him."
This was a buddy-read with my bestest friend, Abbie. We chose this because she is literally a speed-demon and if we had chose a long book, I would be lagging behind for too long! Turns out, I did lag behind anyway because even though we both finished I Am Legend pretty close to each other, my edition also had a selection of short stories written by Richard Matheson. So I'm only now "finishing" the entire book.

I had watched the movie I Am Legend a number of years ago. All I can remember about it is Will Smith and a dog... and that's it. Although what I've found really weird about my reading experience is that I did not cast Will Smith as the role of Richard Neville in my head - Abbie said she did.

I really liked this book, which was surprising to me given that its basically focused on one character. Usually I would find the lack of dialogue and conversation quite boring - although we did get some flashbacks to before the plague, which I particularly enjoyed, with some scenes being quite chilling. Similar to what Abbie said, the constant drinking and throwing whiskey around and smashing glasses did start to grate on me after a while. I understand his alcoholism - I'm pretty certain I might succumb to addiction myself if I was the lone survivor of some plague, but it just gets repetitive after a while. What was disturbing to me was his weird fascination with the female "vampires" - DUDE. What the fuck is wrong with you!!

Okay, so I feel like the last paragraph had a lot of complaining, so I'll talk about what I loved. I loved the SCIENCE. I was geeking out over Richard's thoughts about what possibly caused the plague. He was basically conducting his own research and it was like reading my day-to-day experiences in the lab - disappointment after disappointment. A theory that seems so promising quickly dispelled. Microbiology and bacteria are my forte, so his research around this area had me nodding along in agreement. So that was awesome. The "vampires" themselves were pretty damn scary. I got confused at times because I was like "Are they vampires or zombies? Or a mixture of both?" There were different types and it just wasn't explained very clearly at times.

As for the ending...WOW. I was blown away. One of the best endings I've ever read in a book. It felt completely out of left-field and left me a bit gobsmacked. AMAZING. I Am Legend was a great, quick read and I have to give it 5 stars out of 5. Matheson's writing is simply outstanding and I want to read more.

With regards to the short stories, some were great and some were not so great. Prey was a brilliant short story, it reminded me of Battleground by Stephen King. Dance of the Dead was also pretty eerie. I didn't really include the short stories when giving my rating for this book, as I simply wanted to rate I Am Legend as a standalone book.

But yes! More Richard Matheson is definitely on my radar. Now for another buddy read with Sadie, Mindi and Ashley from bookstagram - can't wait!

Johann
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Sunday, 19 March 2017

Book Review: The Eyes of the Dragon by Stephen King

A beautiful YA fantasy novel focusing on the tale of King Roland of Delain and his two sons, Peter and Thomas, with the story being told by an unknown narrator. King Roland is killed by an unusual poison, with his son Peter being accused of murder and imprisoned at the top of a high tower, following the meddling of a certain Randall Flagg, the King's magician. What follows is an exciting story looking at themes including, but not limited to, friendship, loyalty, heroism and adventure.





"I think that real friendship always makes us feel such sweet gratitude, because the world almost always seems like a very hard desert, and the flowers that grow there seem to grow there against such high odds."

Stephen King? Young adult fantasy, you cry?! What's the Master of Horror doing in this genre? Part of the reason I found this book so sweet was that he had written it for his daughter Naomi. When she was young, he asked her what she liked reading about, and she said "Dragons", and this is what came next. He even named a minor character after her too - adorable!

Initially I felt apprehensive as I'm not a huge fan of young adult, nor am I really into the fantasy genre, apart from a few exceptions (The Dark Tower series, Lord of the Rings and Game of Thrones - okay, maybe I do like fantasy!!). This is also my friend Sadie's favourite King book, and she is a huge fantasy fan too, so there was also a little pressure to enjoy it, or else she might fly over here and resort to violence. But luckily within about 10 pages, I was hooked!

One of the best parts about this book was meeting Randall Flagg again. That guy really is everywhere, scheming and causing trouble. This time, he wants to see the Kingdom of Delain crumble and fall, all whilst he hides in the shadows and watches. Another highlight for me was the narrator himself, the storyteller. No-one, and I mean no-one, can fill this role like Stephen King himself. When he tells his stories to us Constant Readers, it feels like we're all sitting around a campfire, elbows on our knees, head in our hands, absorbing it all. So it was fun for him to tell this story in a more traditional storyteller prose, similar to his introductions where he speaks directly to the Constant Reader. The illustrations in my edition were incredible too, I loooove illustrations. It really helps bring the characters and locations to life.

This is a nice book to direct people towards if they don't like horror, but wish to read some Stephen King. It's also a nice starting point for young readers, a stepping stone to the more macabre and adult books. I can imagine myself reading this to a young child at bedtime (perhaps leaving out more adult parts at the beginning surrounding sex!). This book is really proof that King is able to transcend across any genre he likes. So far, I have read the following from King: horror, romance, fantasy, young adult, supernatural, sci-fi... the list goes on. And he has excelled at all of these.

So, enough fangirling for now... I give this fairytale 5 stars out of 5! It appears I'll be taking a short break from King, but sometimes it's good to branch out to other authors. This is me trying to convince myself. Anyway...until next time! Long days and pleasant nights.

Johann
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Sunday, 12 March 2017

The Nocturnal Reader's Subscription Box: Lost in the Woods

It's that time of the month again! No...not THAT time of the month, but the arrival of my Nocturnal Reader's Box. My family are severely harassed in the run up to the arrival of my box, with frequent messages home each day from work "Has it arrived yet?" "Let me know when it comes"... Then when I finally get that confirmation that it arrived, I basically race home from work. Anyway, enough about my excitement, let's look at this month's box! The theme was "Lost in the Woods"...


Let's start with the most important inclusion - the books! Two exciting books this month: the recent release The Devil Crept In by Ania Ahlborn and the more older release In A Dark, Dark Wood by Ruth Ware. I see Ania Ahlborn all over bookstagram these days, and I know my friend Sadie is a fan after having read some of her work recently, so getting her new release was pretty exciting. But you know what makes it even more exciting? IT'S SIGNED. Personally. To me. Johann. Cue excited shrieking!!! I only have signed books from Joe Hill and Jodi Picoult so far, so this is a great addition to my collection. The synopsis for The Devil Crept In is as follows:

Young Jude Brighton has gone missing, and while the search for him is in full swing here in the small town of Deer Valley, Oregon, the locals are starting to lose hope. They're well aware that the first forty-eight hours are critical and after that, the odds usually point to a worst-case scenario. And despite Stevie Clark's youth, he knows that, too; he's seen the cop shows. He knows what each ticking moment may mean for Jude, his cousin and best friend. It's just like the stories from years ago of that boy, Max Larsen, who was found dead after also disappearing under mysterious circumstances. And then there were the animals: pets gone missing out of yards. For years, the residents of Deer Valley have either murmured about or tried very hard to not talk of these unsolved crimes... or that a killer may still possibly be lurking around their quiet town. Now, fear is reborn - and for Stevie, who is determined to find out what really happened to Jude, the awful truth may be too horrifying to imagine.

That sounds pretty good, right? I'm planning to buddy read it with two of my fellow Nocturnal Readers, Sadie and Mindi. The second book is another one I've seen on bookstagram before: In A Dark, Dark Wood by Ruth Ware. The synopsis for this book is as follows:

Mystery novelist Leonora, known to some as Nora and others as Lee, lives a solitary but comfortable life in London. Her days hinge on routine: coffee, run, shower, write, repeat - until she is unexpectedly invited to a weekend away by an old childhood friend she hasnt seen and spoken to in a decade. Nora (Lee?) surprises even herself and reluctantly decides to make the trip to an eerie glass house, deep in the woods and far from the city. As the weekend progresses, old rivalries and new relationships bubble to the surface and the getaway takes a dangerous turn, leaving Nora (Lee?) battered and bruised in a hospital bed. As she struggles to reconstruct the sequence of events that brought her to the hospital, secrets emerge about her past and present that force her to question everything she knows about herself - and everyone she's ever loved.

This sounds similar to The Girl on the Train in a way, and I loved that book, so I'm looking forward to getting to this one too!

Although I'm not the kind of girl who would go camping, if I DID decide to go, I'd be pretty well equipped with some of the items in the box. There's an awesome Campfire Story Champion hat, as well as a multi-purpose survival bracelet! It has an emergency whistle, a flint/scraper and a compass. There's also a cool wooden bookmark with the following inscribed: "Here in the forest dark and deep, I offer you eternal sleep" As a tea-lover, I was also excited to find an exclusive tea blend from Wick and Fable, as well as a cute loose leaf tea steeper.

But that's not all! There is also an air freshener for your car - it's like they knew I needed a replacement, as well as a pin depicting a Sasquatch looking for somewhere to read - I swear, the pins they include are another level! A black envelope is also in there which includes a riddle that you can solve for a chance to win a subscription to Audible. Lastly, some artwork done by Onyx Studioz that is very pleasing to the eye. I swear, this box just gets better and better each month! Next month's box is "Trapped" and I hear this is a must for any Stephen King fans - let the countdown begin!!

Johann
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Saturday, 11 March 2017

Book Review: Joyland by Stephen King

In the summer of 1973,  a student named Devin Jones takes a job at Joyland, a North Carolina amusement park. Shortly after his arrival, his girlfriend finishes their relationship and breaks his heart. In an attempt to forgot about the girl, he quickly becomes engrossed in an unsolved murder that happened in Joyland a number of years ago. He also meets a young woman and her dying child, and begins to learn a lot more than he first anticipated he would at Joyland.


"I'm not sure anybody ever gets completely over their first love, and that still rankles. Part of me still wants to know what was wrong with me. What I was lacking. I'm in my sixties now, my hair is gray and I'm a prostate cancer survivor, but I still want to know why I wasn't good enough for Wendy Keegan."

I've been on such a great run recently with King books, and this one was no exception. From the very first page, I was drawn in and constantly writing down quotes in my little notebook. It literally felt like this book was speaking to me personally. The sense of nostalgia and the loss of your first love is overpowering. It's a sweet look back on the heartache and self-doubt that comes with such a loss.

The plot itself at Joyland was possibly a tad predictable at times, but that didn't make it any less enjoyable. The characters themselves were some of the most likeable King has ever written - Devin himself, Annie and Mike. I wanted to spend more time with them, but I also feel like a lot of the charm of this book is in the fact that's it's relatively short and sweet. Devin is a good man, sweet, dependable, reliable. Wendy Keegan is a goddamn fool for breaking up with him! You can tell from the very beginning that he is just a lovely guy, and his relationship with both Annie and Mike is a perfect example of this.

This is a great book to suggest to people who are possibly interested in reading King, but don't like horror. It's a murder mystery essentially, with a teeny tiny bit of horror. This feels like King at his best, you can almost imagine yourself being in Joyland with Devin that year. He creates a world for you and then invites you to step into it and immerse yourself in it.

My only complaint really is how predictable the story felt at times, and given that I just don't think it's on the same level as my more recent reads, I'm going to deduct a star and give it 4 stars out of 5! A quick, fun read. As my friend Sadie says, it would be perfect to read this in the summer.

Johann
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Saturday, 4 March 2017

Book Review: Duma Key by Stephen King

Duma Key focuses on the story of Edgar Fremantle, a self-made millionaire who becomes injured at work after a crane crushes his pickup truck. Following the loss of his arm, amidst other injuries, Edgar becomes a little too much for his wife to handle and she asks for a divorce. He leaves behind his wife and two daughters and heads off to Duma Key, a stunning but eerily quiet stretch of the coast where he has rented a house. Very quickly upon his arrival, he encounters the charismatic Wireman and the old lady he looks after - Elizabeth Eastlake. Although suffering from dementia, Elizabeth's tragic and heartbreaking history begins to unfold, while at the same time, Edgar finds himself able to paint striking, haunting pictures. However, the ability to paint such pictures seems to come from some other outside force...


"We can't imagine time running out, and God punishes us for what we can't imagine."

It's been a while since I posted a book review - three weeks to read Duma Key! But let me emphasise that this was due to being busy and not because I wasn't engrossed in this story. This book is held with high regard amongst the King community on bookstagram and pretty soon after starting this book, I realised why. This book easily has two of King's most likeable characters in Edgar and Wireman. What a duo. Their friendship just lifts up from the page from the get-go. There's just a real respect and love there and the lengths they will go to for each other and for their friendship is pretty astounding. I think these two characters are a huge part of what makes this book so enjoyable. And what makes their inclusion even more fascinating is that they're just pretty normal guys. Normal guys going through a kinda crazy situation. King's ability to build a story based on his characters is simply unparalleled. In addition to the friendship between Edgar and Wireman, the relationship between Edgar and his daughter, Ilse, is just so sweet and believable. King clearly draws on his real-life relationships when putting his character's relationships on page, which explains why they're just so real and touching.

As for the story itself, it was captivating. From the very beginning, I just had no idea where King was going to go with this one, and I was kept guessing for the majority of the book. The story actually gets pretty scary at times, there's some parts that made my hairs stand on end and were quite unsettling. I quite enjoyed the supernatural force at work within Duma Key, I liked the story behind it and thought King executed it perfectly. I also feel like King was commenting on the mixed blessing that comes with having an artistic talent and how often such talents come with their own drawbacks.

Now I am not one for locations such as the Floria coast, I'm not a beach kinda gal, but King really sells Duma Key to me. The location of this novel is GORGEOUS. His descriptions of sunsets and the beach and the house itself is just beautiful. He builds a real atmosphere, and if it wasn't for the scary forces at play, I'd move to Duma Key, like yesterday.

As for the ending - PERFECT. King's endings are often criticised but this one cannot be faulted, for me, personally. The book continually built up to a crescendo and didn't fall at the final hurdle. This one will stay with me for a long time, and has even forced itself into my top 5 King books. Outstanding.

Johann
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