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Thursday, 28 September 2017

Book Review: The Troop by Nick Cutter

A scouting trip on Falstaff Island goes disastrously wrong following the arrival of an emaciated man, asking for food. This man isn't just hungry, he's sick. Pretty quickly, the young boys are fighting for survival, both against this sickness and each other.


"Do you know how hard it is to kill something? Nothing wants to die."

Okay, so first of all - when Sadie and the guys at NRB kept pushing me to read this book, telling me I'd love all the horror and gore etc...they did NOT tell me that I'd also FEEL things other than fear and disgust. I teared up numerous times during this book, one part involving a turtle (it'll make sense if you've read this) and then I got emotional about the storyline surrounding the actual boys themselves. I did not sign up for this! But I loved it. Cutter really brought these characters to life and I was there with them every step of the way, through all the horror and terror...

Word of warning though - this book is only for readers who can tolerate stomach-churning descriptions and gore. Thankfully gore does not bother me, but there were still a couple of occasions where I was gritting my teeth and grimacing. Anything to do with eyes just unsettles me! There is also some animal abuse in this book, which I know can be a trigger for some people - again, this does not bother me as it's just fiction. If I can read about people getting brutally murdered, then I can read about animals too. It's not real!!!

I loved how Cutter used interviews and newspaper clippings, as well as log entries from scientific experiments to tell the story alongside events on the island. It helps tease the information for you, as well as building tension and suspense. It's a damn page-turner, alright!!

I couldn't put this book down and blasted through it in a few days. It's one that'll stay with me, what those poor boys had to go through. The horror and terror is magnified by the feeling of claustrophobia, being trapped on an island and not being able to escape from the horrific events unfolding around you. I loved, loved, loved this book. I'm officially a Nick Cutter junkie. Hook me up! This book gets 5 stars out of 5 and I strongly recommend it to lovers of horror!

Johann
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Saturday, 23 September 2017

Book Review: The Rats by James Herbert

There's a new breed of rat in London, England, and they're bigger, more intelligent and more vicious than their predecessors. These rats are thirsty for human blood and as they feed, their bloodlust becomes more and more rampant. As the rats wreck havoc on those living in London, the question becomes: how do you eliminate hordes of rats as big as dogs that are capable of chewing through basically anything?!


"The rats had had their fill of his body, but were still hungry. So they searched. Searched for more food of the same kind. They had tasted their first human blood."

The premise of this novel sounds pretty corny, doesn't it? But if you're after old-school horror that will chill you to the bone, then The Rats will bring it to you in spades. The pace is pretty relentless with the rats getting their teeth and claws stuck into humans right from the beginning. Herbert's descriptions of the mutilations and deaths are BRUTAL and awesome.

Before I read this I never really found rats to be that scary, but now I'm deeply unsettled at the thought of huge mutant rats. It's the fact that you can't really escape from them - they will gnaw their way through almost anything to get to you. And when they do, you are toast. These rats travel in packs too, so there really is no getting away.

An aspect of the book that I didn't expect was the humour, although at times I'm not sure if the humour was intentional or not. There was a chapter in particular about a Catholic woman who was supposedly sex-crazed and I was laughing the whole way through - she actually asked a priest to say a prayer for her in mass so that she could achieve some type of special orgasm. One of the highlights of the book for me! Some humour amongst all the torn-off limbs and eaten faces.

Overall, The Rats is a quick, fun read. I wouldn't say there is much character development, but given that it's a relatively short book, I came for the horror and that's what I got. When I bought The Rats I wasn't aware it was part of a trilogy, but now I'm definitely interested in reading the other two books. 4 stars out of 5 from me!

Johann
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Tuesday, 19 September 2017

Book Review: Last of the Giants: The True Story of Guns N' Roses by Mick Wall

Spanning from the formation of Guns N' Roses to their eventual demise and most recent reunion tour, Last of the Giants leaves no stone unturned. Mick Wall tells the true story of "the most dangerous in the world" through interviews with those involved, excerpts from autobiographies and first-hand encounters with the band. 


"Axl Rose really is that thing we so desperately want him to be: the last of the truly extraordinary, all-time great, no-apologies, no-explanations, no-quarter-given rock stars. The last of his kind."

It's no secret that GnR have been one of my favourite bands ever since I was young - I grew up in a GnR house. So I already know a lot of the stories, a lot of the rumours... and yet this book was still thoroughly enjoyable. I had forgotten so much of the absolutely insane shit Axl Rose and the rest of the band got up to - how are the original members still alive?! Given the number of times Slash was practically on death's door and brought back, the limits that Duff pushed his body to, as well as Steve Adler and Izzy Stradlin... and how did Axl's mouth not get him into far worse trouble??

My issue with biographies is that they can often be one-sided and biased, but I don't feel like that's the case here. Mick Wall doesn't hold back - everything is laid bare. All the dirty details - no matter how bad it makes the band members and members of the entourage or management team look. The number of times I laughed out loud or had to close the book because I was flabbergasted - honestly, I can't believe a lot of this happened. Mick Wall's writing itself flows well and is easy to read, he has constructed the book in such a way that it doesn't feel boring at any point. He also is a fan of using the last section of each chapter to tease the next - which made for some late nights and running behind schedule for the gym because I couldn't put the book down until I found out what he was referring to!

My only negative about this book was that sometimes it felt like certain anecdotes were repeated and that got a tad annoying at times. I perhaps would have liked a few more details on the recording of Chinese Democracy and what was going on behind the scenes, but apart from that, can't really complain.

Overall, this is a fantastic look back at one of the greatest (and most captivating) bands in history. I don't even think you need to be a die-hard GnR fan in order to enjoy this - although it does add to the experience! A great read, 4 out of 5 stars from me!

Johann
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Thursday, 14 September 2017

The Nocturnal Reader's Subscription Box: Monster Mayhem

This month's theme for the Nocturnal Reader's Box was Monster Mayhem! So expect the usual suspects like Cthulhu and Frankenstein... We also got possibly the coolest bookmark I've ever seen in my life, as well as the most frickin' insane water bottle!! Let's take a closer look at this month's contents...


Look at all the awesome! First, let's start with the books. The new release this month is The Wicked by James Newman, and the synopsis is as follows:

"After a fire consumes the Heller Home for Children, the residents of Morganville, North Carolina, thought they knew evil... They were wrong. Unaware of the turmoil in their new hometown, the Littles - David, Kate, and seven-year-old Becca - are moving from New York City to Morganville in hopes of repairing their own lives, which were recently shattered by an act of sexual violence. Before long, David realises that his family's troubles are worse than he could ever have imagined. An ancient demon lurks beneath the town of Morganville, an unholy creature conjured into existence by the Heller Home tragedy. Its name is Moloch. It is hungry for the souls of the townspeople. But worst of all, Moloch wants the children. It will not rest until it has them. All of them."



If you know me at all, you know I love a good demon story, so I am ALL ABOUT this book. Sounds really good!! The previous release in this month's box is Greener Pastures, which is a collection of short stories by Michael Wehunt with the simple description:

"They say there are always greener pastures. These stories consider the cost of that promise."

I haven't really read many short stories beyond those of Stephen King and Richard Matheson, so I'm open to trying a different author! I like that NRB pushes me to try new authors and after just reviewing a Nick Cutter book I received in their box yesterday, these guys have got good taste.

As for the rest of the bookish goodies... again, if you know me at all, you'll know I'm slightly obsessed with all things Lovecraft and Cthulhu so imagine my excitement when I received not just one, but TWO, art prints! These beauties were created by Ivan Belikov and are given the title: "The Great Old One". I got both the original artwork as well as the variant art print with a metallic finish because I'm SPECIAL. Or maybe because both Vince and Jessi were worried I'd throw a temper tantrum if I didn't get both... who knows!


Just look at the Great Old One in all of his magnificent glory! He gives me major heart eyes. I gotta get these framed. As for the rest of the bookish loot, look no further... 


In-keeping with the Cthulhu trend, we also got this EPIC metal water bottle to show your enrolment in the very prestigious Miskatonic University. Fellow gym-goers have already been casting their envious eyes over this beauty. Also included was this really cool Frankenstein tote (you can never have too many totes), as well as a Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde enamel pin and a cool notebook inspired by the 1981 horror flick, The Howling. We also got this unique organic herbal sleep oil called "The Sandman's Despair", which I'm dying to try!! Lastly, check out the absolutely awesome magnetic bookmark we got... The Night King of Pop!! AMAZING.

Once again, the guys over at NRB have knocked this one outta the park! October's box will be their 1 year anniversary box and I can't believe how huge they've gotten within a year. I'm truly honoured to be a rep for such an outstanding company. The boxes they put out every month, in addition to the regular competitions they run, are just another level. Never mind the actual people behind it! October's boxes are currently sold out, but more might become available if people cancel their renewals (but why would they?!) - keep your eyes peeled anyway. And remember you can use my code DRJOBIS15 on any future purchases to save 15%! Until next month...

Johann
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Wednesday, 13 September 2017

Book Review: Little Heaven by Nick Cutter

A trio of mismatched mercenaries are hired by Ellen Bellhaven to check in on her nephew, who has been whisked away to join a backwoods settlement in New Mexico called Little Heaven. Ellen joins the mercenaries, Micah, Minerva and Eb, as they venture out on their mission. However, as they get close to the settlement, things start to turn a little.... ominous. Full of downtrodden inhabitants, who appear unhealthy and emaciated, and children who are demonstrating pretty cruel behaviour, Little Heaven tells the story of a settlement that might actually be a little closer to Hell than Heaven...



"The black rock stood within itself, brooding and implacable. It waited as it always had. For that wheel to come round again."

I finally broke my Nick Cutter virginity and it was everything I thought it would be! My two major takeaways from this book:

1). Nick Cutter is insanely good at character development - almost King-like, one could say.
2). He is very skilled at presenting lots of horror and gore without it becoming gratuitous.

Combine these two skills together and you've got an insanely good horror book where you actually care about the fate of the characters. The perfect page-turner. If you're not a fan of gore or if you're particularly squeamish, then sorry, Little Heaven might not be the book for you. And if you are... what are you waiting for?!

I was looking at other reviews online and I had seen a lot of comparison to Stephen King's IT. Apart from the story being told over two time periods, I honestly don't see much of a comparison. Sure, there's supernatural forces at work, and a lair in which the monster resides, but I didn't feel like the similarities were overpowering. Cutter is obviously inspired by King - but what horror author these days isn't inspired by the Master? I also felt like Cutter was influenced by Lovecraft - another Master of Horror - in the form of the monsters he creates in this novel. The illustrations throughout this book were a really nice way of helping to visualise how messed-up these creatures were. They were INSANE. Scary shit. And there's a lot of creepy crawlies too. Be prepared to feel your skin crawl as you read this!

I really liked ALL of the main characters in this book. Eb's sense of humour, Minerva's attitude and Micah's humanity were all contributing factors to this. I just felt like they were all very likeable, even though they were bounty hunters and murderers. Little Heaven is run by one of the most vile characters - Amos Flesher - even thinking about him turns my stomach. The religious cult out in the middle of nowhere gave me serious Jonestown vibes and I was glad to read that Cutter actually drew inspiration from this. The combination of the religious cult aspect with the supernatural forces at work made for a compelling tale.

You can tell how much I loved (or hated) a book by how much I have to say about it. I could go on and on about why I enjoyed this book, but also want to limit what I give away to potential readers. I'll conclude by saying that Cutter really impressed me with this book, and this is usually his least popular novel amongst his readers, so that really heightens my excitement for both The Deep and The Troop. Go get your Nick Cutter fix!! 5 stars out of 5 from me!

Johann
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Wednesday, 6 September 2017

Book Review: My Best Friend's Exorcism by Grady Hendrix

Abby and Gretchen have been best friends since fifth grade, but things change when they start high school. After getting lost and spending a night in the woods, Gretchen becomes slightly... different. Abby knows that something is wrong, coming to the conclusion that her best friend must be possessed. Nothing will stand in her way as Abby tries to save her friend from the devil, but will their friendship be strong enough to overcome such forces of evil?



"She and Gretchen spent hours ranking their friendships, trying to determine who was a best friend and who was an everyday friend, debating whether anyone could have two best friends at the same time."

When I started this book, I honestly didn't know what to expect. A throwback to the 80s? A horror spoof? A young adult book disguised as horror? Thankfully, it was a pleasant surprise. Yes, it feels spoofy at times and has its own sense of humour, but overall it's a really wonderfully touching book. I signed up for an exorcism, but what I really got and loved most about this book was the friendship between Gretchen and Abby. Not only do you get nostalgic for the 80s (an era that I didn't live in - 1989 baby here - and yet I still feel nostalgic for - explain that!), but mostly I felt nostalgic for those childhood friendships you form. There's really nothing like it. They're so pure and honest and you honestly feel like you're gonna be best friends forever.

The usual themes and tropes of possession stories are all accounted for and present in this book, but I still feel like Hendrix brings something different and unique to the story. It's a demon possession story, but with heart. I loved that each chapter was named after a song from the 80s, I loved all the cultural references, I loved that Gretchen went through a stage of crimping her hair... we've all been there, even growing up in the 90s - I've been there. There isn't much in terms of horror - some parts are squeamish and unsettling, but it's not going to keep you up at night. But that's not the point of this book.

It's a fun read ultimately, but also really sweet. It's heartwarming to see the lengths that Abby will go to in order to save her best friend - she's admirable, courageous, brave, resilient. And I cried at the end. I was not expecting tears, but they came anyway! Throughout the entirety of this book, I was thinking to myself "Yeah, this is a solid 4 stars" but that ending... I gotta give the book 4.5 stars out of 5. I loved this one, and would recommend it to anyone looking for a fun, quick read with a lot of heart (and demonic possession)!

Johann
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Friday, 1 September 2017

Book Review: The Beyond Experience by Michael Reid Jr

Dr Ethan Lewis is a scientific researcher developing a treatment for anxiety and depression wherein patients are "put under" using a cocktail of drugs and plant extracts, finding their symptoms alleviated upon awakening again. Alongside his lab partner, Kyle, they further explore the possibilities of this treatment, finding that it can be used to allow patients to experience a higher spiritual plane, almost as if they are in Heaven. Their friendship and working relationship is put to the test as they disagree over how best to progress with such a phenomenon, as Dr Lewis is both an atheist and a scientist, therefore he is searching for a logical, biological explanation for these experiences. Things quickly start to unravel as Dr Lewis' dark past is brought to the fore.


"Mostly I think of the things he won't be here for."

This book felt like it was written for me - Mike even likes to placate me by saying he wrote it with me in mind ;) People often question how I can be a scientist having grown up in a religious household - for a lot of people the two cannot co-exist. I'm not going to explain my beliefs or thoughts in this blog post as frankly it's not anyone's business what I believe, but I really enjoyed how Reid was able to create a book that transcended genres by having it be both scientific and yet also spiritual. Another personal aspect for myself is that "The Beyond Experience" allows people to communicate with loved ones who had previously passed on - my dad passed away when I was 10 therefore the idea of such being able to have such an experience hits home. I can fully appreciate the conflicts and intense desires that these characters go through when presented with the possibility of conversing with loved ones. All these personal interests led me to race through this book within 5 days, which is particularly speedy for me and really signifies how much I enjoyed this book.

I strongly feel like I need to commend the research Reid put into this book. As someone who has worked in scientific research for almost 4 years, the way he depicts academic life is spot on. It must have been difficult for him to present this side of the story in a way that is both accurate, whilst remaining understandable for those who perhaps don't have a scientific background - he really pulls it off. Reid also presents an impressive cast of characters within this book, they are all flawed and real in their own ways and greatly developed. You will cheer with them during the good times and commiserate with them during their bad times. The pacing of the story is perfect, I never felt bored at any point and constantly felt the need to pick the book up during any free time that I had!

Lastly, do not let the mention of the word "heaven" or "spiritual" put you off this book. It is not really about that - it's about so much more. How far we will go to get the closure we need from those who have passed on before us - it's about science and friendship and love. I felt EMOTIONS and I felt like this book really touched me. I really enjoyed it, it was such a unique reading experience, unlike anything I'd read before. 5 stars out of 5 from me!

Thank you so much to the author for sending me a signed copy of this book (and for Vince and Jessica for getting it to me!). 

Johann
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