The Passage

the-passageTitle: The Passage

Author: Justin Cronin

Summary: Amy Harper Bellafonte is six years old and her mother thinks she’s the most important person in the whole world. She is. Anthony Carter doesn’t think he could ever be in a worse place than Death Row. He’s wrong. FBI agent Brad Wolgast thinks something beyond imagination is coming. It is.

Unaware of each other’s existence but bound together in ways none of them could have imagined, they are about to embark on a journey. An epic journey that will take them through a world transformed by man’s darkest dreams, to the very heart of what it means to be human. And beyond.

Because something is coming. A tidal wave of darkness ready to engulf the world. And Amy is the only person who can stop it.

Rating: ★★★★★ 5/5

Review: It’s sort of a thing, now, that i read an epic apocalyptic distopian over the Christmas and new year period; this one was recommended to me by Claire over at Bitches with Books. The synopsis intrigued me, and though i was wary on the vampire front, i clung to their concept in I Am Legend and bought the damn book. So, going in i had very few expectations of this book. It blew me away.

I was literally sobbing by the end of the first chapter and i though, “Shit, this book is going to ruin me, isn’t it?” It did, and i loved every second of it.

Where to start? The book takes its time settling in. It introduces you to the characters mentioned in the synopsis, as well as a few others, before their paths cross. It doesn’t jump straight to the apocalypse, instead we follow its making as we meet our heroes, villains and those in between. This first part of the story is almost a book in itself. An extended prologue. It sets the groundwork for details and relationships and meaning that last literally all the way to the last page. At this point i was enjoying the book, but i wasn’t loving it.

Once the apocalypse comes, the narrative jumps almost 100 years in time, with a new location, a new cast of characters, and a new focus. I barely paused. I was fascinated by this new world and these new people. It was quite an experience leaving behind all the other characters, but i took the leap wholeheartedly, trusting that that first story i’d read would pay off, that the threads would meet. By halfway through the new story, i’m not sure i’d’ve been bothered if they hadn’t, but i was only more sure that they would.

I’m honestly finding it hard to articulate my feelings about this book, because it’s simply the entire book. I guess, with that, the key thing is the writing. I was immersed in it. It read as effortless, though i’d bet it was far from it. Nothing was spelled out, but everything was so clear. What some writers take paragraphs to explain, Cronin captures in a sentence or two. So many times i had to stop and marvel at the perfect simplicity in the writing. I even made note of a few my favourites:

“A blast of quiet that felt like noise.”

“An absence of torment so abrupt it was like pleasure.”

“…to his right, an abyss of blackness, a plunge into nothing. Even to look at it was to be swept away…”

“Courage is easy, when the alternative is getting killed. It’s hope that’s hard.”

I was just in awe of the writing, half the time. The other half i was swept up in the story. The story that encompassed so much, but seemed never to become muddled or confuse me. It was simple enough to follow, but interesting enough to keep me constantly thinking. I am a reader who is always looking ahead; i think about what facts and clues and hints i’ve been given, and where they might lead, what twists and turns are up ahead. With this book, though, i didn’t–i didn’t want to. I wanted to be caught up in the story, and i was. I didn’t try to guess what was coming, i just kept reading until i got there.

A big part of the story i keep coming back to is the relationships–all the different kinds. Family, friends, romance, loyalties, responsibilities… this books has all sorts of relationships, and none of them hog the spot light. None of them are forced or over done or saccharine or meaningless. In a lot of ways, they are all quiet. They are all part of the story, rather than being a story in themselves. There weren’t two characters who were ~destined~ to be together from the start. The focus was never on anyone’s–or any one–relationship. They all simply develop over time, when you aren’t quite looking, until the differences in how people interact and what they mean to each other just make a new sense.

I feel like this review is all over the place and that i’m not making any sort of sense; i’m rubbish at explaining why i loved something–it’s not always able to be articulated (case in point: i wanted to use the made up word “articulatable”).

This book just hits all my likes: apocalyptic, dystopian, sci-fi/horror mix, strong female characters. It’s excellent writing, well constructed and followed through on every point to the final page. I sobbed at the start and i sobbed at the end. The ups and downs in the books were not a punch in the gut of my emotions–they crept up on me, then engulfed me.

I never imagined a book of this length could be this good. The longer a book is, the more chance there is of there being something i don’t like. I was not prepared for this. I was not prepared to love everything about this book. But here i am, ruined and in love. And with the sequel already ordered.

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Prudence and the Crow: December 2016

img_20161218_145356After last month’s parcel—how much I loved it and how much fun I had making the little stop motion video—it should come as little surprise that I ordered a Prudence and  the Crow parcel for December. A little Christmas present to myself, I decided, was a brilliant idea.

It came mid-December, and I filmed and made another little video. However, December was a pretty hectic month for me, and I’ve only now really found the time to sit still with my thoughts and actually get myself together enough to share it all online.

As with the first parcel, I chose sci-fi as my genre. I also tried to complete their form a little more, giving them extra scope and suggestions for book choices. Specifically I mentioned that I would like to read more female science fiction authors, and that if they knew of any in some way similar to John Wyndham (my fave), i’d be a happy bunny.

Below is my silly little unboxing video and details of what was inside my parcel…

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img_20161218_145514The envelope this month had a woman and a bird on it, under the stars. I don’t know the reference, but I love the artwork, and it wouldn’t look out of place in a frame on the wall.

There was a winter-themed ‘this book belongs to’ label and two unusual stamps. I especially like the one with the constellation on.img_20161218_145544

More tea and nibbles; I love them!

img_20161218_145829A Prudence and the Crow pencil, and adorable little doily and—thanks to the little video I made last month—i was rewarded with a rare merit badge! I shall wear it with pride! ♥

There was also a collection of postcards, one of which included a personal message, which was very lovely and much appreciated!

img_20161218_145943img_20161218_150105The star of the show, of course, I the book. And as requested, I received a female science fiction author I had not read before: Anne McCaffrey. The books is called The Ship Who Sang’; the title alone intrigues me! It also came in a beautiful and festive holly-patterned book bag, which I love.

This subscription box is such a delight, I can’t wait to order and receive more in the future. Thank you Prudence, and thank you Crow! ♥

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2016 End of Year Book Survey

2016-end-of-year This is my fourth time completing this end of year book survey (2013, 2014, 2015). As always, posting on the 1 January marks the anniversary of me starting this silly little blog. FOUR YEARS! It some how seems like no time at all and all the time in the world simultaneously. I love this bookish blog of mine, and i have hopes (and plans!) to do more with it in the coming months and years.

This survey is put together and hosted by The Perpetual Page-Turner, and as with last year, i’ve just omitted any questions that don’t work for me and my own style of reading, writing and being. Feel free to leave any comments, if you’ve read or want to read any of these books, and point me towards your own completed survey, if you’ve done one! Happy 2017!

2015 Reading Stats

Number of books read: 22.5
Number of re-reads: 0
Genre most read: Science fiction

Best In Books

Best Book You Read In 2016?
Without a shadow of a doubt: A Long Way to A Small Angry Planet.

Book You Were Excited About & Thought You Were Going To Love More But Didn’t?
I’m sad to say it was Castle in the Air. I loveloveloved Howl’s Moving Castle, but the sequel wasn’t what I expected, and I just didn’t love it as much.

Most surprising (in a good way or bad way) book you read?
Definitely Why I Write, because while I thought it would be a simple little read about writing, I got a hell of a lot more, and I LOVED it.

Book You “Pushed” The Most People To Read (And They Did)?
I bought a friend a copy of A Long Way to A Small Angry Planet for Christmas, because I think she’ll enjoy it, and i’m still trying to bully convince my SO to read it.

Best series you started in 2016? Best Sequel of 2016? Best Series Ender of 2016?
I don’t read a lot of series, so by default the answers are A Long Way to A Small Angry Planet, Castle in the Air and Emperor of Thorns, respectively.

Favourite new author you discovered in 2016?
Has to be Becky Chambers—I can’t wait to read more from her.

Best book from a genre you don’t typically read/was out of your comfort zone?
I don’t read so much non-fiction, so i’ll say We Should All Be Feminists

Most action-packed/thrilling/unputdownable book of the year?
Through the Woods was very moreish in several ways. It was interesting stories well-told, the art was gorgeous, and the horror/mystery kept me reading to find out what was happening.

Book You Read In 2016 That You Are Most Likely To Re-Read Next Year?
Why I Write. It’s short, brilliant, relevant and informative. I’m pretty sure i’ll at least be re-reading sections for quotes and inspiration.

Favourite cover of a book you read in 2016?
I love covers that are simple, striking, with negative space, so it has to be Slaughterhouse Five:

S5

Most memorable character of 2016?
Oh, Mr Olderglough from Undermajormono Minor. What a straightforward, quirky fellow. I loved him.

Most beautifully written book read in 2016?
With beautifully written short stories an accompanying beautiful artwork, this one has to be Popshot Magazine: The Adventure Issue.

Most Thought-Provoking/ Life-Changing Book of 2016?
Why I Write. This book inspired me significantly this year. In terms of writing generally, but also in my motivations with my writing. It also engaged me in politics in a way nothing else ever has (that’s not to say i’ve been disengaged with politics, only that this book engaged me in an entirely new way and re-engergised me).

Book you can’t believe you waited UNTIL 2016 to finally read?
It always surprises me when I sit on a Christopher Brookmyre book for so long: Dead Girl Walking.

Favourite Passage/Quote From A Book You Read In 2016?

Nothing in the media provides pleasure as reliably as books do—if you like reading.
And a good many people do. Not a majority, but a steady minority.
And readers recognize their pleasure as different from that of simply being entertained. Viewing is often totally passive, reading is always an act. Once you’ve pressed the On button, TV goes on and on and on… you don’t have to do anything but sit and stare. But you have to give a book your attention. You bring it alive. Unlike the other media, a book is silent. It won’t lull you with surging music or deafen you with screeching laugh tracks or fire gunshots in your living room. You can hear it only in your head. A book won’t move your eyes for you like TV or a movie does. It won’t move your mind unless you give it your mind, or your heart unless you put your heart in it. It won’t do the work for you. To read a good novel well is to follow it, to act it, to feel it, to become it—everything short of writing it, in fact. Reading is a collaboration, an act of participation. No wonder not everybody is up to it.

– Ursula Le Guin ‘Staying Awake While We Read’ (from The Wild Girls, Plus…)

Shortest & Longest Book You Read In 2016?
Show Me the Map to Your Heart & Other Stories is 36 pages
The Passage is 963 pages

Book That Shocked You The Most
The Scorch Trials surprised me by how BAD it was. I slogged through half of it before having to give up.

Favourite couple of 2016
Rosemary/Sissix from A Long Way To A Small Angry Planet for the representation alone: Same sex, interracial and polyamorous ♥

Favourite Non-Romantic Relationship Of The Year
Lucy/Mr Olderglough from Undermajordomo Minor. Their conversations were highlights for me. I could have read a whole book of them alone.

Favourite Book You Read in 2016 From An Author You’ve Read Previously
Undermajormono Minor. And now I sit and wait patiently for deWitt to write another book. *twiddles thumbs*

Best Book You Read In 2016 That You Read Based SOLELY On A Recommendation From Somebody Else/Peer Pressure
Popshot Magazine: The Adventure Issue, which wasn’t technically a recommendation, but was bought for me on a whim by my SO.

Best 2016 debut you read?
A Long Way to a Small Angry Planet

Best World building/Most Vivid Setting You Read This Year?
Emperor of Thorns, and more generally the Broken Empire Series as a whole. So many little throw away details amongst the larger image of the world—i only want to know MORE.

Book That Put A Smile On Your Face/Was The Most FUN To Read?
For all it wasn’t the utter delight it’s predecessor was, Castle in the Air was still silly, light-hearted fun that made me laugh out loud on a number of occasions.

Book That Made You Cry Or Nearly Cry in 2016?
I’m currently still reading it, but when I started it (in 2016!) The Passage’s very first freaking chapter had me sobbing.

Hidden Gem Of The Year?
An impulse by at the till in my local comic shop, Show Me the Map to Your Heart and Other Stories is absolutely lovely.

Book That Crushed Your Soul?
The Scorch Trials–in a BAD way; I wasn’t sure my soul was going to survive.

Most Unique Book You Read In 2016?
The Girl in the Road was, in small, subtle ways, not quite like other books.

Book That Made You The Most Mad (doesn’t necessarily mean you didn’t like it)?
Fragile Things, because I love short stories, but I don’t think they’re Gaimen’s strong suit. And it made me mad because it should have been BETTER.

Your Blogging/Bookish Life

New favourite book blog you discovered in 2016?
None, because I have been a terrible blogger this year; not posting much myself and barely reading or commenting.

Favourite review that you wrote in 2016?
The Girl on the Road. Reading it back, I think I really encapsulated the issues I had with the book and ways I think it could have been better, while still highlighting the aspects I enjoyed about the book.

Best discussion/non-review post you had on your blog?
This or That revealed some interesting similarities and differences between people’s reading preferences.

Best event that you participated in (author signings, festivals, virtual events, memes, etc.)?
I’m currently, and have been for a few months now, having fun taking part in monthly photo-a-day challenges on instagram. Fine me at Wendleness!

Best moment of bookish/blogging life in 2016?
Getting to know a bunch of lovely people over on instagram, and finding it far easier to interact and make connections over there.

Most challenging thing about blogging or your reading life this year?
I had a pretty deep slump this year, in reading and therefore also in blogging. I just didn’t read at my usual speed, I felt unmotivated. I’m actually surprised I made it to may reading goal (even after I lowered it!).

Most Popular Post This Year On Your Blog (whether it be by comments or views)?
By views: No Monsters Allowed, by comments: Bookish Resolutions.

Post You Wished Got A Little More Love?
Why I Write, because I loved that book and wanted to write another post, quoting lots and linking it back to the state of politics today. I never got around to it…

Best bookish discover (book related sites, book stores, etc.)?
Prudence and the Crow!! ♥

Did you complete any reading challenges or goals that you had set for yourself at the beginning of this year?
Yes, by the skin of my teeth, and after lowering my goal, I met my 2016 goodreads reading challenge.

Looking Ahead

One Book You Didn’t Get To In 2016 But Will Be Your Number 1 Priority in 2017?
All the books that I currently have lent to me, so I can make sure I give them back!

Book You Are Most Anticipating For 2017 (non-debut)?
A Closed and Common Orbit. There’s not book or author I love enough to buy in hardback, but I am so excited for this to come out in paperback this year!

Series Ending/A Sequel You Are Most Anticipating in 2017?
The Boy on the Bridge (prequels counts, right?).

One Thing You Hope To Accomplish Or Do In Your Reading/Blogging Life In 2017?
It’s my plan to post more, more regularly, and possibly start posting some original short story fiction. HOPEFULLY.

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The Invisible Man

timTitle: The Invisible Man

Author: H G Wells

Summary: There are good scientists and there are bad scientists, but Griffin is out on his own. A dazzling mind and a driving ambition have carried him to the very frontiers of modern science, and beyond into territory never before explored. For Griffin has pioneered a new field, the science of invisibility, and dedicated his life to the achievement of a single goal – that of becoming invisible himself.

With such a prize at stake, what sacrifice could be too great? What personal tie would not seem trivial; what ethical scruple not pale into insignificance? Through long, lonely days and nights Griffin has pursued his fantasy of invisibility, yet even as he attains his dream, his nightmare begins…

With undreamt power comes an unimaginable price: out of the ordinary, out of society, out of life – can an invisible man be a man at all?

Rating: ★★★☆☆ 3.5/5

Review: I’ve read two books by Wells before–The Time Machine and The War of the Worlds–one i loved and one i hated. I was nervous about reading another, to say the least. It was my review of the latter where someone recommended The Invisible Man as another i might enjoy, so when i spotted it in a charity shop, i decided to give it a go.

Thankfully, i loved it!

The start had me hooked. Instead of meeting the scientist and discovering how he turns himself invisible, we meet Mrs Hall, the proprietor of an inn, who welcomes her newest lodger. He’s a strange fellow, but she’s friendly and accommodating. Discovering the invisible man along with the entire population of this small town was a delight and a much more interesting way of following the story.

At first i sympathised with the invisible man right alongside Mrs Hall; it was only once he’d had to flee the town and move on that i began to question his tactics and state of mind. By the time he’d stumbled upon Kemp, i was rooting for his downfall.

Talking of Kemp–i adored him; he’s second only to Mrs Hall. His grasp of the entire situation, how to handle it, and how he teased out the back story we were missing was wonderful to read. I feared the worst for him by the last couple of chapters, but i saw it through.

This is perfectly the kind of Wells i want to read more of. There is science, with fudged but sensical enough facts for it make sci-fi sense. But it’s more than just the science. It’s a good story, with interesting characters, well told. So well told! It being self-referencing and omniscient point of view made the reading casual and fun.

I’ve already taken the plunge and bought more Wells. For as disappointing as i found War of the Worlds, The Time Machine and The Invisible Man are brilliant and I wouldn’t hesitate to read more like them. Fingers crossed i pick the right ones!

Undermajordomo Minor

umdmTitle: Undermajordomo Minor

Author: Patrick deWitt

Summary: Lucien (Lucy) Minor is the resident odd duck in the bucolic hamlet of Bury. Friendless and loveless, young and aimless, he is a compulsive liar and a melancholy weakling. When Lucy accepts employment assisting the majordomo of the remote, forbidding castle of the Baron Von Aux he meets thieves, madmen, aristocrats, and a puppy. He also meets Klara, a delicate beauty who is, unfortunately, already involved with an exceptionally handsome partisan soldier. Thus begins a tale of polite theft, bitter heartbreak, domestic mystery and cold-blooded murder in which every aspect of human behaviour is laid bare for our hero to observe. But Lucy must be cautious and lock his bedroom door, because someone, or something, is roaming the corridors of the castle late at night.

Undermajordomo Minor is a riotous blend of Gothic romance and macabre European fairy tale. It is a triumphant ink-black comedy of manners and a timeless account of that violent thing: love.

Rating: ★★★★☆ 4/5

Review: This is deWitt’s third novel. I adored the other two, which left me with high expectations for this one. Thankfully, i was not disappointed. If i had to choose one word to describe this book, i think i’d pick ‘weird’, but oh what a wonderful weird it is!

Without a doubt my favourite thing about this book are the conversations Lucy has with his boss, the majordomo, Mr Olderglough. They were just so… concise. Questions were asked, answers were given, and no judgements were ever made. They just seemed to click, but in a way where they never truly bonded, as that would require more words and expression than was necessary. Their dialogue stretched pages, and i spent the entirety of it smiling.

In each of his books deWitt has had a different, distinct and immersive narrative voice. This book’s, i think, is the most innocent. Lucy is young, starved of love and affection, but does not feel sorry for himself. He’s always looking forward and striving for better things, but without being obnoxious. He’s just… such a straightforward character and i kind of adore him.

All the characters were likeable, in their own ways. Even the ones i wasn’t supposed to like, i sort of did. I think it helped that there was no real tension in the book; even when something went badly, things were generally still okay. There were no heart-in-mouth moments, just a gentle bobbing of emotion. It made the book such a joy to read.

I really did feel the fairy tale vibe to the book, with the castle, the very large hole, the armies fighting over nothing they could articulate, and the general easy going flow of the narrative. Of course there were bits that wouldn’t belong in a children’s fairy tale, but those were the bits that added an eerie, dark and comedic aspect to the story. Love and death were the two big themes of the story, and despite the generally light and tension-free narrative, i think it dealt with them wonderfully. Mirroring and contrasting points within three different love triangles and rivalries, it all unfolds by the end.

And the end is perfect. For Lucy it is neither happy nor sad; it is the kind of ending i love. The kind of ending where i can imagine several ways things play out past the last words in the book, and i love all the options.

I’m already pining for the next book by deWitt. My expectations are only getting higher, but my fear of disappointment is cheerfully low.

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Prudence and the Crow: November 2016

p1160827 Prudence and the Crow is a monthly vintage book subscription box which offers the choice of classic, sci-fi, thriller or children vintage fiction. I found them when searching for bookish subscription boxes about a month ago. None of the boxes i’d come across were really my thing; most focus on contemporary new releases, any within my genres were YA, and i just wasn’t willing to pay their prices for books i would likely never read. Then, then i found Prudence and the Crow. Not only do they focus on vintage, rather then new release books, but one of their main genres is science fiction. I fell in love instantly.

Their prices are lower than most other subscription boxes i saw (£15, with free postage in the UK), though they don’t go overboard with the extras. This is fine with me, as I don’t want a lot of tat cluttering up my house (only books are allowed to do that!). I ordered a one-off box pretty much instantly, and it arrived this week. I was a liiiiiitle bit excited, but managed to hold off on opening it immediately. On Saturday, with daylight and time to my advantage, i slowly–teasingly–opened my package bit by bit in front of a camera. I took careful, composed photos of the process that i then later strung together to music. I uploaded my little stop motion unboxing to youtube, and it can be watched here:

I had such a good time making that video! The original quality is much better, but unfortunately youtube does some kind of converting and compressing, making a messy blur of the thing. Sigh. It’s still cute and fun, though.

p1160850Let me show you what’s inside! (Click on the images to enlarge them.)

It all comes parcelled up inside a decorative envelope. These are different every month, and i loved this month’s image. I need writing motivation as much i need more books to read. I will likely pin this up my on notice board. Your name is also handwritten on the envelope, and really, the small personal touches like that are wonderful.

p1160830Once I got the envelope open and the contents laid out, it gave me a little thrill to go through and examine it all.

p1160840There are a few consumables, namely tea bags and sweets; i can’t wait to try the gingerbread green tea, omg. There are also random little bits including used stamps, a bird card, a playing card and a sticker; i plan on using these in crafty ways, like making greeting cards and in scrapbooks.

p1160835

p1160845Of course the main attraction in the book. This is, as is the nature of vintage books rather than new releases, different for everyone. I find that wonderful and exciting, because no matter how many photos you might see of other people’s boxes, you’ll still never know what exactly is in your own! The book comes with its very own Prudence and Crow library card (which include the date and start at number one. They increase with each subscription, so you’ll always know when and in which subscription you got each book – another adorable little detail). The book also has its own little bag to keep it safe and looking cute, and the material for this will also be different every time.

p1160846Of course, when i signed up my chosen genre was science fiction. There is a little questionnaire to fill in, in which you’re asked things like what your favourite book is and who you like from a given selection of authors. In this sign up, I was asked for an author i would like to receive a book by. I am sure there are dozens I would love, but i specifically chose an author from the same era as my favourite (my favourite being John Wyndham ♥) who i currently own no books by. It was, then, not a huge surprise for the book i received to be an Arthur C Clarke. I was quite delighted to discover it was a book of short stories, though. I adore short story collections!

And with that, i’m off to sign up for the December box!

The Girl on the Train

tgottTitle: The Girl on the Train

Author: Paula Hawkins

Summary: EVERY DAY THE SAME
Rachel takes the same commuter train every morning and night. She knows it will wait at the same signal each time, overlooking a row of back gardens.
She’s even started to feel like she knows them. ‘Jess and Jason’, she calls them. Their life—as she sees it—is perfect. If only Rachel could be that happy.

UNTIL TODAY
And then she sees something shocking. It’s only a minute until the train moves on, but it’s enough.
Now everything’s changed. Now Rachel has a chance to become a part of the lives she’s only watched from afar.
Now they’ll see; she’s so much more than just the girl on the train…

Rating: ★★★☆☆ 3/5

Review: This has been on my to read pile for a while, so long, in fact, that my SO got to it first. With the recent release of the film, i decided it was time (though i didn’t, and still don’t, have any plans to see the film–i’ve heard it’s terrible).

It’s a gripping book that definitely kept me reading. The chapters were quite short and often had a teasing or slightly revelatory end to them which made starting the next so easy. The plot–the mystery–is established well with plenty of scope and lots of avenues to consider. Although the draw for this book might be the plot, i felt it was more the string tying the characters together, because it was the characters who stand out.

As seems to be the theme with popular thrillers these days, none of the characters are exactly likeable. Mostly, though, i’m sick of readers moaning about not liking characters. To me, readers who just outright dislike all these characters aren’t looking deep enough. Yes, they are all extremely flawed, but they all have their own motivations, vices and shortcomings. They’re all complex individuals, and we get to see them trying to live and be better people, but we also see them failing at their worst moments. That’s more real and interesting to me than likeable but only two dimensional characters.

Rachel, our main character, i mostly didn’t like because she comes across as very weak, needy and desperate. She’s also an alcoholic who i preferred much more when she was sober and talking honestly about her issues. I’m glad the road wasn’t easy for her in this regard, though, because that would have been unbelievable. As much as i wanted her to get sober, i wouldn’t have bought it if she hadn’t fallen off the waggon and fucked up a few times.

Megan, our missing girl, i neither liked nor disliked. I felt like she wasn’t getting the chance to be who she wanted to be, and that maybe that person could be someone i’d like. Anna i very much disliked, i think mostly because there was nothing about her i could relate to, but a few of her actions later in the book more than redeem her in my eyes. Cathy was nice, but a bit too nice–i dislike too nice. And the men, well. I found them less fleshed out, less complex, less… just less.

The plot was simple enough, and the narrative devices standard and formulaic. The narrators were unreliable, but only in ways the author wants them to be. Missing, misleading and vague information is just as telling as what is clearly presented and discussed. If you know what to look for, this book holds no surprises. If you’re encouraged to consider X, instead take a closer look at Y. I had my suspicions by chapter four, my bet placed on the ending by halfway through, and every new revelation from there just made me more confident i was right. I half hoped i wasn’t, though, because i like being surprised!

Overall this was an okay book. What it did it did well, but it played it too safe, stuck to tricks and tactics so well-used they are easy to spot if you know to look for them. But it kept me turning pages, kept me hoping there’d be something i’d missed, something i’d not considered. When there wasn’t, i couldn’t give it more than a solidly average three stars.

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Through the Woods

ttwTitle: Through the Woods

Author: Emily Carroll

Summary: It came from the woods. Most strange things do.

Five mysterious, spine-tingling stories follow journeys into (and out of?) the eerie abyss. Come, take a walk in the woods, and see what awaits YOU there.

Rating: ★★★★★ 5/5

Review: I’ve had this book on my shelf for quite a while, but saved it as I thought it would be the perfect halloween-time read. It was.

First, and most obviously, this book is gorgeous. The simple-but-striking cover, with creepy branches, limited colours and embossed feel is what drew me to the book in the first place. The art inside is just as striking. The panels are clean and uncluttered, bold in what they show. The use of negative space was incredible and added so much to the atmosphere of the stories (we’re not afraid of the darkness, we’re afraid of what the darkness is hiding). The artwork seems so effortless; it all flows and works so well. It’s not busy, but holds such detail. It’s just amazingly beautiful, and to say that of a graphic horror novel makes me so happy.

The stories themselves are similar, i think, in their simplicity and depth. Nothing is given away easily. The reader is let in on a glimpse of the tale, and it is in the art–the faces, the colours, the settings, the space–as well as the words, that the stories are told. The stories are generally heavy on the build up, on the back story, on the scene setting. A couple of times i found myself awaiting a twist, a big reveal, a spike in the action… but that wasn’t what these stories were about. There weren’t solid conclusions or explanations to these tales–that’s not the point. These stories are about a creeping horror, that crawls inside and makes itself at home. There was no release offered by an explanation or solid conclusion–that would be too easy.

I loved all the stories, but i think my favourite was My Friend Janna.

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The next time i want to feel a chill down my spine and wonder what’s hiding in the darkness, I will definitely re-read this by candle light while the wind howls outside.

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The Scorch Trials

mrstTitle: The Scorch Trials

Author: James Dashner

Summary: Solving the Maze was supposed to be the end. No more puzzles. No more variables. And no more running. Thomas was sure that escape meant he would get his life back. But no one really knew what sort of life they were going back to…

Burned and baked, the earth is a wasteland, its people driven mad by an infection known as the Flare.

Instead of freedom, Thomas must face another trial. He must cross the Scorch to once again save himself and his friends.

Rating: ★☆☆☆☆ 1/5

Review: I read The Maze Runner about a year ago, and it left with a lot to say. While i loved the story, setting and mystery of the book, the writing was atrocious. The writing in this sequel did not improve, and unfortunately the story, setting and mystery only went down hill. So much so, i couldn’t bring myself to finish the book.

I gave up a little over halfway through, when i realised there was nothing about the plot that was fascinating enough to keep me reading–to keep me reading a book written this badly. I disliked it so much, i don’t even think i can bring myself to write much about it. I’ll take it one aspect at a time:

The plot: This started well, with the safety the kids think they’ve found turning on them. Things changed quickly and so dramatically it was easy to stay interested, to want to keep reading. This lasted through their time in their limited dorm-type space, through the tunnel of molten head-eating machines and up to their exit into “the Scorch”. After that, things started to go downhill. A few days of the boys slogging through the heat, getting nowhere fast, nothing happening… it was dull, to say the least. When they finally made it to the city, to buildings, to other life forms, i thought things might pick up. But after that, it just seemed like action for the sake of action, rather than anything the was driving the plot. IDGAF about underground tunnels and cranks too far gone–i want to know more about WICKED and what the hell they’re doing to these kids. It was at that point i had to give up.

The characters: Minho was still my favourite. I think because he seems the most real. His emotions seem close to the surface, but he’s also pragmatic and wants to get shit done. Despite there being a smaller number of characters, we still don’t get to know many. In fact Thomas, our (still lack-luster) lead, comments a few times that he can’t even name a lot of them. Way to be a dick, Tommy. I guess that way you don’t have to emotionally develop when they die. Talking of Thomas, i hate him. A large part of that is because we’re experiencing this from his POV, and the writing of that POV is absolutely terrible. Some of that is because he lacks any kind of emotional depth. He doesn’t mention Teresa, the girl he shared such a deep and meaningful connection with who went missing, for several chapters, then suddenly claims she’s all he can think about. He’s sobbing and angry when he finds her but has to run and leave her behind, but as soon as a new girl shows up he’s eyeing her up and getting touchy feeling within minutes. There are a dozen male characters, they can’t get hooked up with the new girl? With each other? You can’t have a female character who isn’t a love interest?

Finally, the writing: It is bad. So bad i have to wonder if this was even edited. Did they accidentally print the first draft? Dashner can not write. It’s all tell, no show. Things stated plainly with no feeling or mood. Questions asked blatantly, outright leading the reader rather than enticing them along. Settings described in unnecessary detail, but the emotional states of the characters and evocative atmospheres are consistently absent. His pacing is off, he fails to use language to immerse the reader into the moment, instead dragging them along awkwardly. While i was reading this sequel, my partner attempted to read the first book–operative word: attempted. He didn’t get past the first chapter, and it took him so long because we were sitting together reading out the best examples of the appalling writing. It was fun for 20 minutes or so, but only when you have someone to share the cringe-worthiness with.

I’m throwing in the towel on this series. I officially don’t care how it ends. Call me when someone opens a kickstarter raising funds for a decent author to re-write the entire thing.

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Dead Girl Walking

dgwTitle: Dead Girl Walking

Author: Christopher Brookmyre

Summary: Famous, beautiful and talented, Heike has the world at her feet. Then she simply vanishes.

Jack Parlabane has lost everything: his journalism career, his marriage, his self-respect. A call for help from an old friend offers a chance of redemption – but only if he can find our what happened to missing singer Heike.

Each member of her band has secrets, not least newest recruit Monica Halcrow. Fixated on Heike from day one, she is driven by paranoia, jealousy and fear.

Pursued across Europe by those who would punish him for past crimes, Parlabane must find out what Monica is hiding before it’s too late.

Rating: ★★★★★ 4.5/5

Review: Well, first of all that blurb is misleading and inaccurate. Finding out what happened to Heike isn’t a chance at redemption–it’s a job. None of the band really has secrets, and Monica was not fixated or paranoid. Parlabane isn’t pursued by people wanting to punish him for past crimes and he only even knows Monica is hiding something in the last 75 pages or so.

Despite the poor summary, the book is good. I had missed Parlabane, and so had a lot of his friends, it turns out, because the man we meet at the start of this book is certainly not the Parlabane we know from previous books. Along with Brookmyre’s writing, Parlabane’s grown up a wee bit. I’d say he’s having a midlife crisis, but as his life is usually so full of comedy, adventure and danger, a midlife crisis for him is having no job, no wife and no hope.

When he gets a call from the sister of an old friend with a job offer, things begin to change. I saw the love-interest angle here from the get go, and from the get-go i did not like it. It seemed forced, and she seems like not at all the kind of partner Parlabane needs; she might be able to corral rock stars, but if she can’t make a sharp exit down a rope or keep her head in a crisis, what good is she to Parlabane? I would be much more interested if Parlabane and McLeod ended up dating. Journalist and copper. They’d disagree on a hell of a lot, but in a fiery wild way, and they’re both able to handle themselves in dangerous situations.

The best part of Parlabane stayed the course, though: his humour. His dry, cynical, straight talking makes me crack a grin every time, with more than a few chuckles.

He had recently heard some chinless Tory fuckpuddle say that London was a world-class city being held back by the rest of the UK. Parlabane had reckoned that if he poured all his money and efforts into fitting out his toilet he could almost certainly have himself a truly world class shite-house. Obviously there would be little in the way of cash or other physical resources for the development and upkeep of the living room and the kitchen, etc… but if anyone asked, he could tell them he had a world-class bog and it was just a shame the rest of the house was holding it back.

Parlabane is only half the book, though. The other half is Monica and Heike. I was ambivalent on the pair of them, to be honest. Throughout I seemed to dislike one or the other of them. I think they were supposed to be in their early 20s, but they often read like teenagers. They were moody and fickle and never properly talked to each other, which lead to many misunderstandings. I just really like it when two female lead characters are mature and get on with each other, so it’s a shame these two couldn’t manage it. I liked that Brookmyre included a lesbian character and a bi-curious character, but i couldn’t buy their relationship because it never seemed consistent enough

The story was fine–typical crime/mystery thriller type with a sex-traffic angle, though the missing rock star and band-on-tour blog added an interesting shade to it all. I looooved the start, in that the only thing revealed was that someone was murdered and someone witnessed it, but you don’t know who these people are. It had me interested and analysing everything right from the first chapter. Unfortunately the twists in the reveal weren’t a shock to me–i’d called most of them.

Ultimately what makes this book, like any other Brookmyre, is the writing. It is witty, relevant, concise and addictive. It might not be quite as crude and immature as his early books, but it’s miles better than your average crime fiction. I’m looking forward to more Parlabane soon!

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