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Thursday, 31 October 2019

Book Review: A Cosmology of Monsters by Shaun Hamill

Noah Turner sees monsters. His father saw them - and built a shrine to them with The Wandering Dark, an immersive horror experience that the whole family operates. The rest of the Turner family has experiences with the monsters too, but Noah chooses to let them in...

“I started collecting my sister Eunice’s suicide notes when I was seven years old.”
Are you a fan of Stranger Things? How about weird fiction? Or Lovecraftian stories? Or literary horror? If you answered yes to at least one of these questions, then you need to pencil the release date for A Cosmology of Monsters into your diaries! (it’s September 17th, FYI)

I don’t always need to care about my characters in order for a horror novel to work - sometimes I just really enjoy a slasher with indiscriminate characters - but when you really care about the outcome, the stakes are raised. The Taylor family were well-developed and incredibly interesting, and I still miss them after having turned the final page. Eunice, in particular, was a standout. I found her story heartbreaking.

I’d put this book in the tame category in terms of horror, it’s not created to terrify you, but there are monsters and murders galore, as well as a menacing dread that builds as you progress through the novel. It also ticks a few Lovecraftian and Stranger Things boxes as we have this inter dimensional city that wants your soul!

Speaking of Lovecraft, all the little nods and references to his work had me fangirling like crazy. Each part has the title of a Lovecraft story! However, you do not need to have read any Lovecraft in order to appreciate this one!

Hamill is one hell of a writer, so beautifully descriptive at times, and I look forward to devouring more of his books!

In summary... GET THIS BOOK! 4.5 stars.

Johann
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Book Review: American Predator by Maureen Callahan

When we talk about the most prolific and horrifying serial killers, such as Ted Bundy, John Wayne Gacy, Jeffrey Dahmer etc, we should be adding another name to the list - Israel Keyes.

“If he had been about five seconds slower getting out of his car and going into his apartment, he would have been The One that night.”
Prior to the hype around this book, and seeing that Last Podcast on the Left had covered him across a few episodes, I really had never heard of this guy before, which baffles me! Keyes was a true monster, evil incarnate. Some of the details of his crimes left me feeling sick to my stomach and incredibly uneasy before bedtime.

Well-written true crime books are hard to come by, which is why I choose to mostly get my true crime fix through podcasts, but American Predator is one of the best I’ve read. It’s informative and detailed, without becoming dry and tedious. Callahan tells the story of Israel Keyes by starting at what is technically the end, by kicking it off with his arrest. And this works really well, as the narrative is told in such a manner where you learn the crimes in a similar order to law enforcement.

Something I found quite alarming was the control that Keyes had over the investigation, as well as the stubbornness of prosecutor Kevin Feldis, who forced his position as interrogator when really this should have been left to those who had more experience. But hey, the criminal justice system be fucked up sometimes!

All in all, a fantastic true crime novel. This junkie would recommend adding it to your TBR! 5 stars.

Johann
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Friday, 18 October 2019

Book Review: Wolves of the Calla by Stephen King

The fifth book in the Dark Tower series finds Roland and his ka-tet in Calla Bryn Sturgis, where they must help the residents overcome a formidable enemy.

"Now I think that all of us are born with a hole in our hearts, and we go around looking for the person who can fill it. You...Eddie, you fill me up."

Even though this book took me what felt like a million years to finish, I thoroughly enjoyed pretty much every page (well... I’m not the biggest fan of the New York plot in this one, I’d rather have just stayed in the Calla!)

King is well-known for his depiction of small towns and bringing all the residents to life, and this one is no different! Lots of new characters to meet, as well as the reintroduction of an old one. I LOVED catching up with this character, quite a lot of time is spent filling in the gaps of his story and I was not complaining in the slightest!

The Dark Tower is such an epic tale where our ka-tet are mostly travelling around and on the move, so I liked just staying still for a while (apart from going todash) and allowing for more character development. Also a huge fan of the story behind the wolves and the roont children - I find it creepily fascinating!

I fangirl so hard over all the little references to pop culture and connections to other King books etc so I was in my element here! I guess not everyone enjoys that kind of stuff, but this gal does! And if you haven’t read the series before, this one ends in a way where you just NEED to know what happens next. But luckily I have so I’m okay waiting to read Song of Susannah - however, not for too long, because the Tower is beckoning...

An underrated DT novel, in my opinion. 5 stars.

Johann
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Book Review: A Spark of Light by Jodi Picoult

A desperate and distraught gunman takes a women’s health centre hostage.

“Laws are black and white. The lives of women are a thousand shades of gray.”

This was the first pick for my book club in work and I must say, it was an excellent suggestion! Incredibly thought-provoking and uniquely written, A Spark of Light really leaves an impression.

It doesn’t need saying that abortion is a hot topic now - although it’s pretty much always relevant - so it was fitting to read this at a time when there is a lot of talk surrounding criminalisation of abortion. We all have our own thoughts and views, and so does Jodi Picoult, but at no point did I feel like she was preaching about her own view. Both sides of the argument are eloquently and rationally put forward, with a range of characters who have had different experiences.

The story is told in reverse- so we start close to the end of the hostage situation in the health centre, and Picoult works backwards hour by hour. I wasn’t a huge fan of this. It removed some of the tension and suspense, and it got confusing at times trying to recall how each character ended up. However, in terms of the execution of the big reveals and how storylines fitted together, it worked well! So I can perhaps see her reasoning for deciding to tell the story in this way.

I learnt a number of things I didn’t previously know about the abortion procedure. Having a medical background, I thought I pretty much knew it all, but it turns out that I didn’t! Picoult clearly did her research for this novel - speaking to loads of different professionals and people from both sides of the argument.

This is not necessarily a book about abortion. It’s about the fact that we all have our own opinions and stances on certain topics due to our differing backgrounds and experiences. And Picoult does what she always does and makes you consider both sides.

I found this to be an excellent conversation starter, I could talk about it until the cows come home, but mostly it reminded me why I have always been a fan of Picoult’s bold and thought-provoking stories. 4 stars.

Johann
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Saturday, 5 October 2019

Book Review: The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman

A middle-aged man returns home to attend a funeral, where he finds previously forgotten memories beginning to return...

“Adults follow paths. Children explore.”
I went into this one thinking it would become an all-time favourite - and there is still the potential that it WILL become one - but it fell JUST short of the mark for me on this read. Everything was incredible - the writing, the themes, the imagery, the villain... my only issue was that I was left scratching my head every now and again? I wasn’t sure exactly what was going on at times and had to reread parts to try and follow the narrative.

Now maybe that was just a case of me stop-starting this one during a busy week, or maybe not everything is meant to be clear, but it did affect my enjoyment a little. This is why I feel like I might end up simply adoring it on a subsequent reread, therefore achieving that all-time fave status.

The main character himself is also one that a lot of bookworms will be able to relate to - “I lived in books more than I lived anywhere else.” Then you have the fascinatingly intriguing family that live in the farmhouse down the lane. And the villain is TERRIFYING! Especially when you consider the fact our protagonist doesn’t have his parents to turn to :(

One can never fault Gaiman’s writing - books where you want to highlight nearly every sentence because the writing is so bloody beautiful are precious to me! As for the commentary on memory and childhood, I will always savour the exploration of those themes.

All in all, a wonderful book that is worthy of a future reread. 4 stars.

Johann
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