Thursday, 28 December 2017

The Nocturnal Reader's Subscription Box: December

Well, happy Christmas to me... this box was awesome! This is the only instance in which I will allow anything bearing a ouija board on it into my house. I can be a bit...uneasy when it comes to potentially inviting demons into my house. I have enough issues. ANYWHO, enough of my deep-rooted issues with demonic possession, let's look at this month's box!

I'm really excited about this month's books! I already had my eye on Tales from a Talking Board after seeing it a couple of times on bookstagram, because, come on, that book was made to photograph! It's this month's new release and synopsis is as follows:

"Can we speak with the spirits of the dead? Is it possible to know the future? Are our dreams harbingers of things to come? Do auspicious omens and cautionary portents affect our lives? Edited by Ross E. Lockhart, Tales from a Talking Board examines these questions - and more - with tales of auguries, divination, and fortune telling, through devices like Ouija boards, tarot cards, and stranger things."

Basically, this book is right up my street! As a lover of all things paranormal, I can't wait to get stuck in. The second book in the box, the previous release, is Vermillion by Molly Tanzer. Synopsis is as follows:

"Gunslinging, chain smoking, Stetson-wearing Taoist psychopomp, Elouise "Lou" Merriwether might not be normal 19-year-old, but she's too busy keeping San Francisco safe from ghosts, shades, and geung si to care much about that. It's an important job, though most folks consider it downright spooky. Some have even accused Lou of being more comfortable with the dead than the living, and, well... they're not wrong. When Lou hears that a bunch of Chinatown boys have gone missing somewhere deep in the Colorado Rockies she decides to saddle up and head into the wilderness to investigate. Lou fears her particular talents make her better suited to help placate their spirits than ensure they get home alive, but it's the right thing to do, and she's the only one willing to do it. On the road to a mysterious sanatorium known as Fountain of Youth, Lou will encounter bears, desperate men, a very undead villain, and even stranger challenges. Lou will need every one of her talents and a whole lot of luck to make it home alive."

I've never heard of this book before, to be honest, but it sounds good! And the cover is really striking! So we got two really photogenic books this month that ALSO sound like they've good content as well - winning. 

On my instagram I talk about NOS4A2 by Joe Hill a lot! It is one of the best books I've ever read and I always recommend to people who are looking for horror suggestions. So imagine my excitement when I saw that we got an awesome Christmasland tee! But I would expect nothing less when the guys at NRB collaborated with Mike over at Nameless City Apparel. 

The artwork this month is pretty creepy - it's influenced by a scene from Bird Box by Josh Malerman (a book I have yet to read but it's on my never-ending TBR pile). We also got yet another awesome mug designed and made by Exhumed Visions with a play on the iconic line from Jaws - "You're gonna need a bigger mug". I showed this mug to my brother and he said, "You're gonna need a bigger cupboard". He's right, my mug collection is outta control but you can never have enough, right? RIGHT? Also included in this month's box was a cool can holder inspired by Bentley Little's The Store, as well as a Shining Overlook Hotel carpet pattern roll of Washi tape!

Lastly - my favourite part of each month's box, THE PIN. And this month's pin was not a disappointment. It's a Ouija planchette featuring everyone's favourite demon, Pazuzu aka Captain Howdy, from The Exorcist. I think I have a new fave pin, guys!!

Now the impatient wait for January's box begins... January is Edgar Allan Poe's birthday month so we're being treated to not one, but TWO Poe items. There's still boxes left, so get them ordered if you haven't already. Use my code DRJOBIS15 to save 15%!


Saturday, 16 December 2017

Book Review: The Return of the King by J R R Tolkien

You know the drill - Sam and Frodo are on their way to Mordor to try and destroy the ring, but not without a companion lurking in the shadows... The armies of the Dark Lord are massing in an epic battle for Middle Earth... it's all come down to this!

"I will not say: do not weep; for not all tears are an evil."

And so my journey through Middle Earth has ended *cue hysterical crying*. Revisiting both The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings this year was a great decision - I'll be revisiting Hogwarts in a similar way in 2018. There is always time to reread your favourite books because you will honestly pick up or learn something different each time. This time around my overriding experience has just been an appreciation of the friendship found within these pages. It has also solidified Samwise Gamgee's position as one of my fave characters of all time. Aragorn may get all the heart eyes, but Samwise is truly special.

I thought at the end of my reread I would have a definitive conclusion on which of the three parts is my favourite. And to be blunt, I don't! I love them all for different reasons. The Fellowship is exciting because it's the beginning of the journey, the fellowship are all together... The Two Towers has some awesome parts and huge battles.... and The Return of the King just pulls at my heartstrings and breaks my heart because it's all ending!!

The Return of the King has some crucial scenes with regards to Frodo and Sam's friendship; in particular, the lengths Sam will go to in order to ensure Frodo achieves what he set out to do - to destroy the ring. Gollum's appearances and interactions with the two of them are on point, as well! I also just love the entire sequence of Aragorn becoming King *heart eyes* This book also has one of the most epic parts of the series...

"But no living man am I! You look upon a woman."

YASSSS! This moment! During the book and when I rewatch the movies I always feel like I'm waiting for this moment. Some shade is thrown Tolkien's way for the lack of real female power in this story, but this scene SLAYS for me. There's much to learn within this story and a lot is still relevant today. The friendship that forms between elf and dwarf, regardless of prejudice. The hobbits who were at first deemed to be weak and useless, who then turn out to be some of the bravest characters in literature. The need to fight for the greater good, to combat the evil in the world - and to have a friend by your side as you do it. Because things aren't always easy, but if you have a good friend to support you, you can overcome anything.

I do have a couple of issues with ROTK though - I just felt like the entire scouring of the Shire was completely unnecessary. It felt a bit tacked on at the end. As others have said before me, you do feel like Tolkien found it hard to say goodbye to this epic story he had written, and so you keep getting ending after ending after ending. On the same note though, I never want this story to end sooooo it doesn't entirely bother me!!!

I am in awe of this world that Tolkien created - it truly is the benchmark by which all other fantasy is measured. These movies and the books are enshrouded in nostalgia for me and revisiting Middle Earth is always like coming home. As I was reading through the last 5 or so pages I could just feel tears running down my face! I don't think any other piece of literature has this effect on me every time I revisit. It's a journey I will take many times in my life and it holds a very special place in my bookish heart. I can't give it any less than 5 stars.


Thursday, 14 December 2017

Book Review: Dolores Claiborne by Stephen King

Having been suspected of being involved in the death of her rich employer, Dolores Claiborne tells the story of her life to the police, from the disintegration of her marriage and suspicious death of her husband to the relationship she had with her employer, Vera Donovan.

"Sometimes you have to be a high riding bitch to survive, sometimes, being a bitch is all a woman has to hang on to."

Wow, this book is pretty unique - it's in the form of a monologue given by Dolores herself detailing the events leading up to her husband's death a number of years previously, as well as the more recent death of her employer, Vera Donovan. There's no chapters, no breaks, nothing. Just a continuous narration from our protagonist. It blows me away how, not for one second, did I feel like I was reading King's writing - I felt like I was reading Dolores' confession. King's ability to perfectly encapsulate and get into the head of a middle-aged woman astounds me. She has such a strong, believable voice. Bravo, King, bravo.

Dolores made me laugh out loud (honestly, those stories about Vera's bowel movements), she made me tear up, and I was cheering her on every step of the way. She is a kick ass character, a strong female and one of King's best. And she perfectly demonstrates the strength of a mother's love, even though it may raise many questions about morality and how far we should go to protect those who we love. It took me a little longer to warm up to Vera, but I ended up loving her as well. It's just so awesome to read about two females who, even though they may have had some issues, had each other's backs. Dolores Claiborne may have given me a new favourite King character for the list, but it has also given me a new most-hated character too. Her damn husband, Joe. The way he treats Dolores and the things he says to her, as well as how he treated other characters (careful of spoilers) made me want to beat the crap outta him!! UGH. I HATE HIM!!

Even though this book has quite a few funny moments and hilarious quotes from Dolores, it does deal with some dark themes, such as domestic violence, alcoholism and sexual abuse. It's not a horror book either, although certain parts left me a little on edge, which I can't go into without spoilering! Although I liked the unique narration of this book, I personally was not a fan of the lack of chapters or section breaks, but I guess that's just a personal preference. I've had a few people on instagram say they prefer that as it actually helped them speed through the book. It just wasn't for me!

I almost wanted to find things I didn't like about this book as I've been on such a great run of awesome reads recently and sometimes I get self-conscious of giving so many books in a row a high rating - but WHATEVER. I loved it and that's it! I ain't gonna apologise for picking such great reads (or in this instance for Abbie picking a great read for me). 5 stars!


Saturday, 9 December 2017

Book Review: The Girl Next Door by Jack Ketchum

In 1950s suburban America, two teen girls are left in the care of their aunt following the death of their parents. The story is told through the eyes of David, the boy who lives next door and who is witness to the escalating abuse and torture that these girls endure at the hands of the aunt and the rest of the children in the neighbourhood. 

"My mom says Meg's the lucky one," he said. "My mom says she got off easy."

First of all, I need to explicitly warn potential readers that this book is very graphic and detailed, and it is NOT for the faint of heart. That being said, I can categorically state that this is the most brutal, disturbing, upsetting, traumatising book that I have ever read. I did not enjoy reading this book, it made me angry, upset, and downright incredulous that people are capable of such inhumane actions, because this is not just some sick and twisted idea that Ketchum came up with, it it based on a true story. For those who are not familiar, this case is based on the murder of Sylvia Livens at the hands of Gertrude Baniszewski and her children/kids in the neighbourhood. I read up on this case after finishing the book and somehow the events that actually happened are even worse.

Ketchum's writing in this is not flowery and beautifully written - it is full of short and abrupt sentences that just cut right to the chase. And this suits the type of story that he is trying to tell and the reaction that he is trying to provoke. And boy, does he succeed. It's not an easy read by any means, at times I just wanted to shut the book and throw it in the bin - but it's also an important book, because these things DO happen. People DO torture children (and adults for that matter). But at the same time, in the light of such acts of violence and human depravity, we need people who will act out against it. Granted, not everyone wants to read about it, but I think it's something we all need to be aware of. Sometimes not doing anything is almost as bad as those taking part in such crimes.

David is an interesting character, we learn everything that happens through his recollection of events. Although he never actually partakes in any of the abuse, is he complicit because he is aware of it, even though he is only a 12 year old boy? At times I just wanted to scream at him to tell someone, to tell his parents, but he goes through a range of different thought processes - from not thinking he's doing anything wrong as he PHYSICALLY isn't doing anything, to considering the fact that maybe Meg deserved it, to getting mixed up with his pre teen sexual angst and curiosity. The girl who bore the brunt of the abuse, Meg, is heroic in my eyes. She endures abuse and torture that you cannot even fathom, and yet she manages to hold onto her dignity - no matter how much they try to take it away from her. Any opportunity where she is close to giving in, all they need to do is threaten her sister and Meg will endure whatever they put her through. How I cried for this young girl. 

Rating this book was tough, as I cannot say I "enjoyed it". However, I found it hard to stop reading, and it evoked such a strong emotional reaction in me that can only be gained from solid writing and a well-executed story, with empathetic characters (in this case, Meg and her sister). It's a powerful book, one of the most powerful I've ever read, and Ketchum has achieved exactly what he set out to do: to horrify. 5 stars.


Thursday, 7 December 2017

Book Review: The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde

Under the influence of a captivating aristocrat, Dorian Gray sells his soul in exchange for prolonged youth and vitality. Part of the deal is that a full-length portrait of Dorian will age and record his sins, whereas he remains unblemished. 

"Behind every exquisite thing that existed, there was something tragic."

Picking one quote from this book was like being asked to read just one book for the rest of your life - nigh-on impossible. I hadn't even thought about how difficult it would be until Tes (instagram @paperbackbones) pointed this out and then I got sucked into a vortex of reading different Wilde quotes online... that man was a goddamn genius.

This book has achieved a significant title in my reading life; the title of "Favourite Classic". It totally blew me away. To be honest, I only vaguely knew the storyline before picking this one up having encountered Dorian Gray in the TV show Penny Dreadful, but not the specific story that Wilde had created. I didn't think it would be so dark, so I was pleasantly surprised. The writing itself was just another level, quite possibly the most beautiful writing that I've had the pleasure of reading. As my buddy reader Abbie (instagram @ab_reads) and I discussed with each other, we quickly recognised so many quotes that are widely known and can easily be found on places like Pinterest.

The three main characters are really interesting, it seems to be that Dorian Gray represents a "normal person," Lord Henry is the bad influence, and Basil is the voice of reason. Dorian Gray himself is incredibly intriguing, at the beginning he is presented as the perfect specimen, and he is vain, but this vanity is only worsened following conversations with Lord Henry wherein he reminds Dorian that his favourable characteristics won't last forever. He wishes that he could forever resemble the picture of youth that Basil has captured in his painting, which is where things begin to go downhill...

Although Dorian is indeed captivating, I felt like a lot of my attention was actually placed on Lord Henry. He is the standout character from this story for me. His sass, his insights, his wit, his intelligence, it felt like Lord Henry was a representation of Oscar Wilde himself. And Dorian quickly falls under his spell. It's also interesting that although Lord Henry speaks of pursuing immoral behaviour, he himself never partakes in any. Perhaps towards the end of the book, he may lose some of his likability for other readers, but I still was a fan (I can't help but smile at his insights).

I honestly could talk about this book forever and the different themes that are found within, but this is not school and I'm not trying to achieve extra credit, so I'll keep those thoughts to myself! Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed every page of this classic and I'm particularly thankful that my boyfriend bought this book for me, as otherwise I'm not sure I ever would have picked it up. And now he'll be smug *rolls eyes*  But this gets all the stars!! I loved it!


Wednesday, 6 December 2017

Book Review: Booth by Jason Pellegrini

As Joseph Bateman awaits his execution, he looks back over the events in his life that has led him to death row. However, during the execution, as the electricity runs through his body, he finds himself thrown into a foreign body and into an era over a hundred years before his own. His final challenge is to find redemption for his damned soul.

"Scars, no matter how long you give them, never heal."

When Jason Pellegrini contacted me about sending me signed copies of his books in exchange for an honest review, I was pretty excited about it! My bookstagram buddy, Sadie, had read this book Booth earlier in the year and had said it was a really great story, and pretty brutal at times. So suffice to say, I was looking forward to it.

The premise is really interesting - a guy who is on death row looks back over the events in his life that has led him to his current position. However, there is a chance for redemption - through going back in time and preventing one of history's most infamous murders. As soon as I read the synopsis I was seeing similarities between this story and 11/22/63 by Stephen King, which was actually confirmed by the author when he said that book did give him some inspiration for this story. But in no way are the stories similar beyond a bit of time travel.

This book is around 400 pages and yet I somehow managed to race through it in around 3 days, which is quick for me and my attention span! Part 1 in particular had me HOOKED. The backstory of Joseph's childhood and the events he endured whilst growing up was just captivating. However, I feel like I should warn potential readers that there are a number of rape scenes within this book. And it does get very intense and dark at times. The characters in particular tend to have quite racist viewpoints - but that's part of the plot. I feel like the author was using these rape scenes and race issues in order to really show us what led our protagonist down this path - although perhaps the rape scenes could just have been implied rather than described to us? Just a thought. The second part of the book, which centred around the actual time travel aspect, was slightly less interesting to me, but then I feel like it picked up again and the very ending of the book was brilliant.

The character development of the two main characters, Joseph and Alex, was very well executed. I felt so sorry for Joseph as a child and then as he grew up into the adult he became, I started to dislike the effect that Alex had on him *gives Alex the side-eye* but...then, I don't want to get into it too much as it will give things away!

I just really enjoyed this story that Pellegrini told - it was really unique and well-written. And it says a lot whenever I find it hard to put a book down, as my attention span is all over the place at times. On the whole, Pellegrini created a character in Joseph Bateman that was just very REAL. At times you hated him and then at other times you cheered him on - he just felt very human to me, as no one is perfect. Booth has a really strong plot and it's a great read if you're looking for something a bit different. It gets 4 stars out of 5 from me!


Sunday, 3 December 2017

Book Review: 1984 by George Orwell

In Oceania, the Party scrutinises human actions with the ever-watchful Big Brother. Winston Smith, however, struggles with this oppression and the ban on individuality, leading to him disobeying the government by writing a diary in secret and pursuing a relationship with Julia.

"Who controls the past controls the future. Who controls the present controls the past."

What else is there that can be said about a literary classic such as 1984? A lot of people rank it as one of their all-time favourite books, and although I really enjoyed it, it won't be held in such high esteem for me. I flew through this book in a number of days, which often represents how much I'm enjoying a book - so yes, it was certainly an addictive and captivating read, but I had a couple of issues. 

In my opinion, this book could have been a bit shorter - there were particular parts, especially in the middle of the book, that could have been edited down a lot. There was a lot of repetition and going over things I already knew. And those excerpts from The Book... holy hell, I kept falling asleep in bed when I was reading those parts *snore*. As for the characters themselves, they weren't really likeable or well-developed, like they were fine, but I wasn't overly rooting for them. And the fact that Julia told Winston she loved him when they had yet to even converse... *rolls eyes* I also dislike the fact that Winston tells Julia TO HER FACE that he would like to rape and murder her - talk about wooing a lady... is this how they did it back in the day??

So, yes, although it seems like I have a number of issues with this book, it was still really brilliant. The entire concept was absolutely terrifying and it's scary how much of the ideas initially presented by Orwell in 1984 came to fruition in real life. It's a dark and relentless read, but crucially an important one. Orwell's depiction of a world where the government has total and unchallenged control, they can watch AND HEAR everything you do... if you think for yourself or demonstrate any sign of individuality, you might just be viewed as a traitor to the Party and subsequently "disappear". To live in a world where you are ruled by fear and oppression  - it truly makes my blood run cold.

The ending wasn't necessarily what I expected, or wanted, but it was perfectly bleak. The final line itself - unforgettable. A book everyone should read (just be prepared to be bored out of your tree at points) - 4 stars out of 5!


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