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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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