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Saturday, 28 September 2019

Book Review: The Case Against Satan by Ray Russell

Susan Garth is a sweet little girl of high school age who suddenly develops an aversion to churches and a newfound fondness for vulgarity (as well as attacking the parish priest). If madness can’t explain her behaviour, the answer must be demonic possession.

“Capture the dragon, the ancient serpent who is Satan, and send him in chains into the Abyss, that he may no longer seduce the nations.”
If you go into this one looking for a terrifying demonic possession story, then you’re gonna have a bad time. Or you’ll just be really disappointed. BUT if you go in with an open mind, you’ll find a really thought-provoking story about one priest’s struggle with his faith.

Set in 1962, The Case Against Satan came before The Exorcist, before Rosemary’s Baby, and you can definitely see how subsequent books have been inspired by this tale. It was probably ahead of its time in terms of looking at demonic possession through a lens of “is this a possession or could it be explained by science or psychology?” It brings up lots of interesting points.

I’ve also found I really enjoy reading books that explore the Catholic church and have priests as main characters, probably due to my own upbringing and experiences, but I find them quite relatable. So this one ticked a lot of boxes in that regard!

Also, a little fun observation! I am wondering if King has read this before, as a few character names he used in his own early novels showed up (Barlow and Halloran!) But perhaps I am just reading into things too much...

Overall I would recommend this if discussion surrounding exorcisms and the potential causes is something you find interesting. Also given its subsequent influence on the horror genre, I feel like this one deserves a little more attention. There are a few creepy parts, but it won’t keep you up at night! 4 stars.

Johann
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Friday, 27 September 2019

Book Review: Stay Sexy and Don't Get Murdered by Karen Kilgariff and Georgia Hardstark

If you’re a fan of the My Favorite Murder podcast, then there’s a good chance of you enjoying this part memoir/part self-help book. Lacking in true crime itself (which totally works!), it shines a light on the other topics and discussions that come up regularly on the show, such as mental health issues, self-care and addiction.

“The epitome of ‘fucking politeness’ is learning how to act in the moment, instead of wishing you had later.”

For each of the catchphrases or slogans that the show has created, eg Fuck Politeness or Stay Out of the Forest, there’s essays from Karen and Georgia discussing their own life experiences or what that slogan truly means to them. I have heard the audiobook is fantastic as it is just like listening to the podcast, so I’ll have to check that out at some point too!

I laughed, I cried and I fangirled immensely over Georgia’s chapter on how Ray Bradbury’s writing effectively saved her life. One of the hardest essays to read was one where Karen writes about her late mother and her battle with Alzheimer’s. She describes a moment where their mother “came back” to tell her sister that she truly loved the two of them and I actually thought my heart was going to split in two.

But amongst all the tears and emotion, there’s so much humour, as to be expected from these two! Karen’s guide on how to be a latchkey kid is hilarious, as is her analogy that being an alcoholic is like shitting in a hot tub ie killing the buzz of everyone around you! LOL. And there were quite a few Stephen King references as well, which I particularly enjoyed... I feel like the story of how Georgia got into true crime is something that a lot of us murderinos can relate to.

This is everything I thought it would be - empowering, uplifting and honest. However, I would mostly recommend this to those who listen to the podcast, otherwise you’d be left scratching your head as to how the title fits and where all the gruesome, gory details are! Unless of course, you just like reading the memoirs of strong, funny women... then it could be right up your street! 5 stars!

Johann
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Book Review: White Teeth by Zadie Smith

White Teeth focuses on the later lives of two wartime friends - the Bangladeshi Samad Iqbal and the Englishman Archie Jones - and their families in London.

”Greeting cards routinely tell us everybody deserves love. No. Everybody deserves clean water. Not everybody deserves love all the time.”

Well. This was disappointing. Luckily I was a huge fan of Zadie’s writing itself, and so I’m not ruling out trying her other books... which means @ab_reads has not disowned me.

In reality, this should have worked for me. I enjoy stories that span decades, that follow multiple people and families. But this narrative just felt a bit TOO all over the place, with too many characters and a number of different storylines that felt completely unrelated until too late in the book. Like yeah, everything ties together eventually, but it just felt ridiculous to me.

None of the characters were particularly likeable either. I don’t need to like the characters in order to enjoy a book, but in this instance it was really off-putting. Samad, in particular, I just could not stand. The only one who I was rooting for was Irie, and she just didn’t get enough page time!

On the upside, I learnt a LOT about Jehovah’s Witnesses! I found those parts incredibly interesting, as well as the mixture of all the different cultures and religions. Smith’s writing and commentary is so witty and clever, I laughed out loud on a few occasions. So hey, it wasn’t all bad?

Overall, just not for me. I felt like it tried too hard! 2.5 stars.

Johann
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Saturday, 14 September 2019

Book Review: The Five People You Meet in Heaven by Mitch Albom

A maintenance man called Eddie dies and is sent to heaven, where he encounters five people - some known to him and some not - who each teach him a lesson.

“All endings are also beginnings. We just don’t know it at the time.”

If heaven truly exists, I sure hope it’s exactly like this! What sounds better than meeting up with loved ones who have gone before and have them explain to you the meaning of your life?

Religion and whether or not you believe in heaven or the afterlife is obviously a very personal thing and therefore I wouldn’t necessarily recommend this book to everyone. The book wasn’t overly religious nor was it preachy either, and I do think non-religious people could still enjoy the story, but that’s up to each reader to decide!

I do believe in God and I do believe in the afterlife - and I feel like that’s a difficult thing to openly admit on here, but I feel like it’s necessary to explain why I loved this book. It was a total comfort blanket for me - my beliefs are a way of coping with my dad’s death.

This is really a very touching story about the impact we have on those around us. The style and writing is simplistic, but it made me feel warm and fuzzy inside, and once again I was grateful to read a weepy book like this by the pool with sunglasses to hide my tears.

In conclusion, I wouldn’t recommend this to everyone, but if it sounds like something you’d enjoy or if you’re dealing with the death of a loved one, then give it a chance! 4 stars.

Johann
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Sunday, 8 September 2019

Book Review: Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoevsky

An impoverished ex-student in St Petersburg, Rodion Raskolnikov, formulates a plan to kill a pawnbroker for her money.


“Pain and suffering are always inevitable for a large intelligence and a deep heart. The really great men must, I think, have great sadness on earth.”

I’m still in shock over how much I enjoyed Crime and Punishment. SHOCK. I feared it would take me WEEKS and that I’d be begging for it to just end... but I flew through it in less than a week and quickly found myself looking at which Russian classic I wanted to tackle next!

All I can say is, if this one has interested or intrigued you, but it has intimidated you... do not be afraid!! It is incredibly accessible and bingeable. The perfect introduction to the Russian classics.

There is so much going on that it’s almost impossible to cover it all in a review. There’s a crime... and there’s punishment. And so much in between! The idea of temporary insanity, the effects a guilty conscience can have, questions about morality... and so on and so forth.

In terms of the characters, they were all so complex and well-fleshed out, and not always likeable, but my favourites were the ladies! Dunya, Raskolnikov’s sister, was the standout for me. She is so intelligent and strong-willed, with oodles of compassion for others. I also really liked Sonya, the love interest of Raskolnikov, and her dedication to her family, and found her mother Katerina to be an absolute hoot at times! Porfiry, however... god, some of his monologues were PAINFUL. I wanted to scream at him to get on with whatever he was saying!!

Oh, I almost forgot to mention, something I struggled with at the start was all the names and interchangeable nicknames etc. Thankfully my edition had a handy character list at the beginning, with each of their alternative names. But once I got into it, it was fine! Just be prepared to struggle with that at first.

Overall, a fantastic read that leaves you with a lot to think about. I’m glad that I tackled it and even more glad that I loved it! 5 stars.

Johann
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