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Friday, 28 April 2017

Book Review: Alice's Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll

I'm not going to insult your intelligence by giving a plot summary for this book as I think every person on the planet knows the premise. However, for the sake of completion and satisfying my OCD tendencies... Alice is a young girl who falls through a rabbit hole into a fantasy world, meeting lots of weird and peculiar characters. And that's it.


"We're all mad here."

Well, the Mad Hatter isn't wrong. I started this book excited at the premise of reading a classic that I don't recall ever having read before. Within about ten pages, my excitement had quickly waned. I've come to the conclusion that people who love this book must have fallen in love with the book as a child and therefore reading this book will trigger feelings of nostalgia and memories of childhood. Because I simply hated every minute of reading this book. I went to bed every night and would find myself procrastinating on my phone instead of getting stuck into my book like I normally would.

I don't enjoy nonsense. I like things to be logical and follow some kind of structure... I guess that's the scientist in me. Of course, not everything can be logical in horror books etc, but this was like a different level of ridiculousness. Nothing made any sense, things were all over the place. We were just jumping around everywhere and I just wanted the experience to be over. If this book wasn't so short, I think it would have became a DNF for me.

Oh, and Alice literally has to the sassiest, cheekiest, rudest little girl I've ever encountered in literature. What a brat. I just wanted to put her in her place for the entirety of the novel. Nope, I hate Alice.

The only highlight for me was the illustrations, as they are simply beautiful. So I apologise to all lovers of Alice in Wonderland but it's just not for me. I'll give 1 star for the story as I just can't allow myself to give zero stars... and I'll give 1 star for the illustrations. So that's 2 stars out of 5 from me! And a reading experience I'd like to forget.

Johann
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Tuesday, 25 April 2017

Book Review: Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman

Richard Mayhew is a normal guy with a normal life, until one day he finds a young girl bleeding in the street. He lifts her up and takes her home, this Good Samaritan act quickly catapulting himself out of his safe, everyday life in London Above into another world called London Below. London Below is located down in the sewers of London and is a dangerous, magical place inhabited by people who have fallen through the cracks. He soon embarks on a mission with the injured girl, called Door, in an attempt to seek vengeance for her parent's deaths. Along the way, they meet an eclectic, diverse range of people (and animals) that live below the streets of London...


"I mean, maybe I am crazy. I mean, maybe. But if this is all there is, then I don't want to be sane."
This was my first Neil Gaiman experience, and it's pretty safe to say that I'm now hooked. The wit and humour in his writing is a joy to read. Already I can tell he is a deft hand when it comes to creating fantastical worlds that will suck you in and entrap you until you reach the final page. I devoured this book within a very small number of sittings, reading up to 100 pages in one go, which is very unlike me. I usually read in small chunks but more often.

What I loved most about this book was the creation of a world that is actually very similar to ours in a lot of ways, but has had a touch of magic added. London Below is basically a parallel of London Above, but with a few enhancements and mystical beings. The story is consistently full of suspense and moves at a quick pace, there was never a lull in the story in which boredom would set in for a few pages. As for the ending... wow. During the book I kept wondering how he would wrap it all up and end it, and what Gaiman executes is perfection. Loved it. Understated, yet poignant.

My only teeny tiny nit-pick for Neverwhere is the main protagonist, Richard. I wasn't a fan, he was just too whiney and annoying and not someone you'd really root for? His relationship with his fiance Jess (sorry, Jessica *rolls eyes*) alone was enough to make me dislike him. Dude, you're so under the thumb it makes me feel kinda nauseous. Ain't no woman that great! However, this minor annoyance attests to the fact that this story and world that Gaiman created was wonderful enough that I could overlook this character and still give this book a stellar rating.

I will now consider myself a Gaiman fan and look forward to reading more of his books. I can definitely see the attraction and why so many bookstagrammers rate him so highly. A truly magical writer. 5 stars out of 5 from me!

Johann
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Sunday, 23 April 2017

Book Review: milk and honey by Rupi Kaur

milk and honey is a collection of poems that explores different themes such as abuse, loss, pain, love, healing, femininity. The book itself it split into 4 chapters, the first chapter explores abuse, the second looks at falling in love, the third deals with loss and the fourth is about healing. This collection of poems is a stunning look into life, love and loss. 



you were a dragon long before
he came around and said
you could fly

you will remain a dragon
long after he's left

Okay, first of all, I have to open this review by saying I LOVED this book, but I completely understand why people may evoke the completely opposite reaction. It's a love or hate kinda thing, I get it, but I find beauty in simplicity - look at my bookstagram photos for crying out loud! From the very first page, I felt myself connecting with these poems and with Kaur's experiences. I myself may not have been a victim of abuse, but as a woman I can understand where such feelings would come from - the suggestion that your body exists merely to please someone else. I may not have resonated as strongly with the first chapter, "the hurting", but the rest of the chapters felt as though they were written for me, and that is how I feel poetry should be. You either connect with it or you don't.

The second chapter "the loving" explores those heady days of new relationships and falling in love. You would expect these poems to be more romantic, and while a lot of them were, some just weren't. You can see how some of the hurting and the abuse have been carried forward into her new relationship. The third chapter "the breaking" quickly contrasts the previous with heart-wrenching descriptions of what it feels like to go through a breakup and the loneliness that follows.

"the healing" chapter was my favourite, just full of uplifting, inspiring, thoughtful pieces.The poems are so powerful and full of emotion and they really touched me. It's a book I can't wait to revisit and read more slowly, as initially I feel like I just devoured it. I did re-read certain passages at the time, but overall, I'd like to immerse myself in it again. It's just deep, honest, raw, beautiful, heartbreaking, passionate...

I love knowing how writing this book helped heal her after her experiences, because simply reading it helped heal some of mine.

I'll leave you with one of my favourites...

i want to apologise to all the women
i have called pretty.
before i've called them intelligent or brave.
i am sorry i made it sound as though
something as simple as what you're born with
is the most you have to be proud of
when your spirit has crushed mountains
from now on i will say things like, you are resilient
or, you are extraordinary.
not because i don't think you're pretty.
but because you are so much more than that

Johann
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Friday, 21 April 2017

Book Review: Just After Sunset by Stephen King

Just After Sunset is the fifth collection of short stories published by Stephen King, containing 13 stories in total. A lot of these stories seem to focus on the aftermath of tragedy, and how people react. Whether this is pertaining to the loss of a child or the events of 9/11, it's a strong theme throughout this collection of short stories.


"Any parting could be forever, and we just don't know."

Usually I will review short stories collectively, but I had gotten a few private messages and comments about people wanting to know what I thought of specific stories, so I thought I'd give a brief review on all the stories included in this collection. I also feel like you should go into short stories blind, therefore I really don't want to say too much in terms of plot.

First up - Willa. I don't want to spoil the "twist" in the story, so I feel like I can't say much, but this short story was just "blah" to me. I feel like it's one that I'll forget pretty quickly - it just didn't leave a lasting impression on me.

The Gingerbread Girl - this was a highlight within this collection. The pace is relentless, almost like the pace of Emily... see what I did there? *insert smug face* This short story was full of tension and had me feeling nervous, it really had some classic King themes in here. It also reminded me a bit of Duma Key given the location!

Harvey's Dream - this one was short and sweet. Quite unsettling - I liked it!

Rest Stop - once again King explores the idea of pseudonyms and how they can have an influence on the person who creates them. It's pretty violent, visceral, raw... it was a good one!

Stationary Bike - I know my pal Abbie isn't a fan of this one, but I actually kinda liked it. I guess too much exercise can be a bad thing? It was an interesting concept and one that was hard to wrap my head around initially, but it wasn't as bad as I was anticipating.

The Things They Left Behind - an interesting look at the topic of survivor guilt following the events of 9/11. Ultimately it evolved into quite an optimistic conclusion, I feel? It's definitely one I won't forget.

Graduation Afternoon - MEH. I actually had to Google the synopsis of this one to remind me what story it was even referring to - already I'm starting to forget about it!! Not a good sign. Pretty boring.

N. - okay, let me tell you about N. This story (or novella, I guess) blew my little mind. I was getting strong Lovecraftian vibes from the get-go - it's reminiscent of short stories focusing on Cthulhu and his ability to drive people insane. An interesting exploration of OCD, with an absolutely outstanding mix of supernatural horror and psychological terror. I went to bed that night feeling generally unsettled and couldn't stop thinking about it - that's what I want from my horror stories! This was really the jewel in the crown.

The Cat from Hell - another awesome story! This one actually left me feeling nauseous by the end... I will no longer be able to trust cats again.

The New York Times at Special Bargain Rates - this was a decent story, also exploring post-9/11 themes, but ultimately I think it'll be one I forget with time.

Mute - ah, this one was great!! Just a fun short story, very enjoyable.

Ayana - this was actually a short story that I think has the potential to become a novel, maybe? Very intriguing and I wanted to know more.

A Very Tight Place - oh geez, literally the most disgusting thing I've ever read! Glad I read this on an empty stomach as otherwise I would have probably been running for the bathroom to be sick. It was just... horrific. I now join in King in having a fear of becoming trapped in a porta-loo! Fun story overall!

So that's it. I think the stories in this collection ranged from awesome to pretty good to forgettable, which is probably true for most of the short story collections I've read (although to be honest, I think all of Night Shift is memorable). Overall then, I'd give this collection of short stories 4 out of 5. A pretty strong collection, but I've read better. N. was the definite highlight for me!

Johann
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Wednesday, 19 April 2017

Book Review: The Stand Graphic Novel

The Stand is an epic apocalyptic tale, considered by many to be King's masterpiece. It tells the story of good vs evil, light vs dark. Following the outbreak of a virus dubbed "Captain Trips", the world is plagued by death. It is up to a number of survivors to overcome the encroaching darkness that is the Dark Man, Randall Flagg. This graphic novel is an adaptation of King's masterpiece novel.


"The place where you made your stand never mattered. Only that you were there...and still on your feet."

The Stand was the third King book I read, I believe... so that was a few years ago now. It used to be that when I thought about it or discussed it on bookstagram, I always felt like I just never loved it as much as everyone else seemed to. But after reading this graphic novel, I feel like it's just bad memory that made me feel this way, because this story is just epic.

The character development and story progression is simply outstanding in this book. King has created a plethora of characters that are all memorable in their own ways. Just think about how many amazing characters we meet here... Stu Redman, Tom Cullen, Nick Andros, Randall Flagg, Nadine Cross, Harold Lauder, Frannie Goldsmith, Glen Bateman, The Trashcan Man... I could go on. Each name is instantly recognisable and to obtain such a calibre of characters within ONE STORY is just unprecedented.

What could be said about The Stand that hasn't been said already? It's terrifying because it's something that could happen. Flu and viruses are something we all encounter quite regularly, and labs are constantly experimenting. The premise that a man-made virus could come along and wipe out 99.4% of the population literally makes me want to run and hide under the covers and never leave my house again.

As for the graphic novel itself, the illustrations are STUNNING. Out of this world. I would find myself just sitting and staring at different illustrations, completely distracted from the story. The characters are exactly how I picture them in my head, and in particular, the illustrations of Randall Flagg are incredible. The portrayal of how he attracts his followers and appeared to them in their dreams was pretty damn scary. I'd much rather have encountered old Mother Abigail when I hit the hay.

I've really started to get into graphic novels this year and this is my favourite so far. An absolutely outstanding adaptation of this epic novel, worth every penny I spent on it. 5 stars out of 5 from me!

Johann
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Sunday, 9 April 2017

Book Review: The Twelve by Justin Cronin

This is the second book in Justin Cronin's The Passage trilogy. The Passage focused on the outbreak of a virus created in a government experiment gone wrong, turning humans into blood-thirsty virals (pretty similar to vampires). As for The Twelve, there's two main timelines in this book; we go back to the very beginning of the plague, encountering some new characters, and we also visit Peter, Amy and the gang 5 years after The Passage ended.


"Kittredge had obviously misjudged her, but he had learned that was the way with most people. The story was never the story, and it surprised you, how much another person could carry."

Having read The Passage towards the end of last year, I was afraid my memory would fail me and I'd find it hard to remember all the characters and goings-on of the previous book. However, Cronin generously provides us with a Book of Twelves recap of previous characters at the very beginning of the book. Wikipedia also provided a nice refresher of the plot.

As with The Passage, Cronin's writing is impeccable. It's so easy to get sucked into this world he has created and not realise that an hour has passed since you picked up the book. My early morning car reading left me slightly late for work some mornings as I zoned out and become engrossed in this apocalyptic thriller - oops! Amazing, interesting, well-written characters - we revisit those from The Passage as well as being introduced to some pretty great new ones too!

One of my issues with this book, however, was the jumping back and forth between storylines and timelines. There's just so much going on that it can become slightly confusing at times. This wasn't really an issue with The Passage because in that book there was three distinct parts with three distinct chronological sections. I do still believe Justin Cronin is a master at weaving all the storylines together, and he did it perfectly in The Passage, but this was not handled as well in this book. His merging of storylines and characters was still amazing and impressive, I just felt there was too much jumping around this time.

This book was definitely more violent and gory than The Passage, and I did like that, because apocalyptic tales should be visceral and raw, in my opinion. However, there was one storyline I had an issue with and I don't want to say more as it would be a spoiler, but it was too stereotypical for me and left me feeling a bit disappointed in Cronin's decision to include it (for people who've already read this, it concerns Alicia - I'm sure you know what I'm referring to).

Overall, I loved being back in this world, I'm going to order City of Mirrors soon because I can't wait to finish off this enthralling trilogy. It gets 4 stars out of 5 from me!

After a break from my King, my TBR jar is letting me go back to him again! YAY. Until next time...

Johann
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Saturday, 8 April 2017

The Nocturnal Reader's Subscription Box: Trapped

Okay, so... let me tell you how awesome Jess and Vincent are at NRB. My first few NR boxes, I got them after my American friends and the wait was AGONISING. I tried to avoid posts on instagram, but sometimes it was unavoidable, especially if people posted them in their stories. Getting the box itself was still amazing, of course, but so much fun comes from the excitement of unboxing and not knowing what's in there! So, because these guys are awesome, they shipped the international boxes a week early and so I got my box around the same time as everyone else - HOW AMAZING. I opened this box with no idea of what was inside and it somehow made the experience even more exciting. I'm sure most companies would be like "Shipping isn't our problem, you get it when you get it", but NR are all about customer service and I'm grateful for this change in their shipping schedule!



Now, enough of me going on about how much I love this company...onto this month's box! The theme was "Trapped" and it did not disappoint!! We already knew there was going to be a few Stephen King items in this box, so excitement was peaking! Right, let me start with the books. I got a signed(!!) edition of Nick Cutter's latest release, Little Heaven. I was really happy about this, as Cutter's books are pretty popular on bookstagram, namely The Deep and The Troop, I even have one in my TBR pile. The synopsis for Little Heaven is as follows:

A trio of mismatched mercenaries - Micah Shughrue, Minerva Atwater, and Ebenezer Elkins, colloquially known as "the Englishman" - is hired by young Ellen Bellhaven for a deceptively simple task: check in on her nephew, who may have been taken against his will to a remote New Mexico backwoods settlement called Little Heaven, where a clandestine religious cult holds sway. But shortly after they arrive, things begin to turn ominous. There are stirrings in the woods and over the tree-tops - and, above all else, the brooding shape of a monolith known as the Black Rock casts its terrible pall. Paranoia and distrust soon grip the settlement. Escape routes are gradually cut off as events spiral towards madness. Hell - or the closest thing to it - invades Little Heaven. All present here are now forced to take a stand and fight back, but whatever has set its dark eye on Little Heaven is marshaling its powers - and it wants them all...
Ooh I am excited for that! Even reading the synopsis makes me feel a bit trapped and claustrophobic... Perhaps I'll get to buddy read it with a few of my fellow Nocturnal Readers! The other book in this month's box is Suffer the Children by Craig DiLouie, with the following synopsis:

It begins on an ordinary day: children around the world are dying. All children, everywhere - a global crisis beyond any parent's worst nightmares. Then, a miracle beyond imagining: three days later, they return. Shattered mothers and fathers see their sons and daughters happy and whole once more, playing and laughing as before - but only when they feed. They hunger for blood...and they can't get enough upon which to feast. Without it, they die again. How far would you go to keep someone you love alive?

That sounds CREEPY as hell, I love it! Already I'm thinking, if it was someone I loved, I'd do whatever it takes. Even if it meant harvesting blood for them - as long as I'm not the one drinking it!!

Now, the Stephen King items... I almost screamed upon finding a Cujo print signed by Dee Wallace! Beyond amazing. Check it out below:


There was also an Overlook Hotel glass that says "Where the son always shines" - I freaking love that! Too cool. We also got one or two Stephen King pins, I was ecstatic to find that I got two - one for Misery and one for Cujo. Both books in which the main character(s) find themselves trapped. Check them out below, as well as the Shutter Island matchbox we got by Jerilyn - major heart eyes. Shutter Island is potentially my favourite Leonardo DiCaprio movie! I still need to read the book.


On top of this, there was also a Chapbook: 120 Seconds to Light by G. E. Smith, a Girl in the Cell Anaglyph 3D art and Scream Queen 3D glasses. Last but not least, we got yet another tote - I love totes - and this time it was Lord of the Flies inspired. Yet another book in my TBR pile! Also one of the very few books my boyfriend has read - I'm hoping to read this soon so we can have some rare bookish conversations. Feast your eyes upon the tote!!


Oh, Nocturnal Readers Box, you guys outdo yourselves each month - I can't wait to see what's next. May's theme is Corporate Overlords... the countdown begins yet again!

Johann
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