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Screen Shot 2014-06-26 at 4.47.12 PMWhat did I say I was going to do?

As I said in my sign up post, I am aiming to be a Brave Reader, which means reading 6-10 books during the course of the year. My first quarterly update can be found here, the second one is here.

How am I doing?

I hit a real reading slump in early August and I’m not out of the woods yet. That means I only managed to read one horror novel, but it was a classic being Stephen King’s The Shining (which I haven’t written the review for yet but will soon).

I started but just couldn’t get on with I Am Legend this time around; like The Shining it was a re-read.

But it’s nearly October and I’m on holiday for 3 weeks and expecting/hoping to get lots more reading done, which means more scary books!

Screen Shot 2014-06-26 at 4.47.12 PMWhat did I say I was going to do?

As I said in my sign up post, I am aiming to be a Brave Reader, which means reading 6-10 books during the course of the year. My first quarterly update can be found here.

How am I doing?

Not too bad considering that I’ve been struggling with health issues and my reading has been patchy to say the least. My blog has been on hiatus and I’m still deciding how I’m going to handle reviewing the books I have read since late May, but where I have already reviewed I’ve provided a link.

  • The Cuckoo Song by Frances Hardinge – shortlisted for the first James Herbert Award
  • Day Four by Sarah Lotz – a sequel to The Three which was a favourite read from last year
  • The Hellbound Heart by Clive Barker – astonished I had never read this before given that it’s a bit of a classic
  • The Rhesus Chart by Charles Stross – the fifth in The Laundry Files series – vampires!

I’ve still got a few horror novels on my TBR list so fairly confident I’m going to exceed my target for this challenge 🙂

IMG_0238What’s it all about?

Triss wakes up after an accident which resulted in her being pulled half-drowned from a river near the cottage where she is staying with her parents and her younger sister Pen. But something isn’t right, Triss has changed in ways she doesn’t understand, and she needs to travel to some dark places to find out what’s going on and, more importantly perhaps, who she is.

Why did I want to read it?

I’ve had Cuckoo Song on my eTBR for a while but it was only when it was nominated for the first James Herbert award that I pulled it forward to read. I was intrigued about what could be in an ostensibly children’s book that got it onto that nominee list.

What did I think of it?

This is definitely a slow burner of a read, but incredibly atmospheric and once the world that Triss finds herself in has been established the plot really kicks off and builds to a very satisfying climax. Without being too spoilery, it’s clear from very early on that our Triss isn’t the real Triss but some form of changeling, and the question is how and why that has happened and to what ultimate purpose. So we get into some complicated family dynamics, parents who have become overprotective of their children because of the death of their only son in WWI, resentment between siblings, frustration at being hemmed in and the bargains people will make to get what they think they want without any real thought for the consequences.

It’s set in a version on 1920s England that has a steampunk aesthetic (at least that’s how I thought of it) but also a sense of there being another world of strange creatures sitting just to the side of the real world that our characters inhabit. There’s cruelty and kindness of all kinds, but the main impetus of the story is not-Triss trying to establish some form of identity for herself while trying to put right the things that have been done with her as an unwitting participant. And it has a really cool bad guy.

It took a little while for me to get into the story, and I actually set it aside for a bit until I was in the right frame of mind for this dark and unsettling fairy tale, but I’m glad I went back to it because it is a really well-written and effective story with some genuine horror at its heart.

I am counting this towards both Once Upon a Time IX (for the fairy tale and fantasy elements though it wasn’t on my planned reading list), and 2015 Horror Reading Challenge (because of the James Herbert nomination).

I have at least two more (possibly three) of Hardinge’s books and I will be sure to read them given how much I came to like Cuckoo Song.

So I signed up for the TBR Double Dog Dare hosted by Jtbr-dare-2014ames at James Reads Books back in November, with the intention that between 1 January and 1 April 2015 I only read books that I already owned and wanted to read.

So how did I do?

  • Books read = 17, of which 11 were eBooks and one was a re-read
  • Books read which met the rules of the dare = 14
  • What about the other 3? All were read for bookish events, honest

Quite pleased with that 🙂

The self-imposed book buying embargo comes to an end at midnight tonight. A number of books did come into the house but all but three were books that I had pre-ordered before 31 December, and the other three were related to book events – you have to buy the book if you want the author to sign it people! So I am declaring that a success, and even if I don’t take a buying holiday again for a while I will be asking myself some hard questions before I buy.

The thing I’ve noticed most about this dare is that it has made me think about how I choose what I’m going to read. I am very easily distracted by bright and shiny new things but there were some good books that I’d had for a while. Perhaps my habits will change, who knows.

Now, where are those credit cards…..

Screen Shot 2014-06-26 at 4.47.12 PMWhat did I say I was going to do?

As I said in my sign up post, I am aiming to be a Brave Reader, which means reading 6-10 books during the course of the year.

How am I doing?

Really well actually! I have read and reviewed the following (assisted by signing up for the King’s March challenge so this is a bit heavy on Mr K’s work):

Short stories (individual and collections)

Novels

  • The Death House by Sarah Pinborough – some might not call this horror but I thought it dealt with some very dark issues and it had huge impact on me
  • Revival by Stephen King – King meets Lovecraft
  • Carrie by Stephen King – where it all began, an important re-read for me
  • Cell by Stephen King – King meets (sort-of) zombies

Series

I have been reading the Laundry Files novels by Charles Stross for several years and have now (almost) caught up. Many people consider these sci-fi but all the Lovecraftian stuff puts them firmly in horror for me.

So not bad at all. I really didn’t expect to do so well so early but that King challenge came along at the right time 🙂

00 OUAT IXHurrah, here we are, spring is definitely on the way because it’s time for Carl’s annual Once Upon a Time challenge! And the eighth time I’ve got involved in the nine years it’s been running. The challenge starts today and runs until 21 June, which seems ages away but given how quickly the first quarter of this year has disappeared it will come around in a flash 🙂

I’ve pulled together quite a long (for me) list to choose from but I’m only aiming to complete Quest the First which means I have to:

read at least 5 books that fit somewhere within the Once Upon a Time categories. They might all be fantasy, or folklore, or fairy tales, or mythology…or your five books might be a combination from the four genres

Really looking forward to taking part!

So, this is what I will be selecting from (in no particular order):

  • Tithe by Holly Black – I’ve been planing to read this for years “Sixteen year old Kaye is a modern nomad. Fierce and independent, she travels from city to city with her mother’s rock band until an ominous attack forces them back to her child home. The place where she used to see faeries”
  • Some Kind of Fairy Tale by Graham Joyce – “It is Christmas afternoon and Peter Martin gets an unexpected phone call from his parents, asking him to come round. It pulls him away from his wife and children and into a bewildering mystery”
  • Poison by Sarah Pinborough – SP is becoming a favourite author, and this is “a beautifully illustrated re-telling of the Snow White story which takes all the elements of the classic fairytale that we love (the handsome prince, the jealous queen, the beautiful girl and, of course, the poisoning) and puts a modern spin on the characters, their motives and their desires”
  • The Road to Bedlam by Mike Shevdon – the is the second volume in a series of four and I reviewed the first one here “There’s been an accident. It’s your daughter. But Alex isn’t dead. She’s been snatched because she came into her magical power early. Her father, Niall Petersen, must use his own wayward magic to track her down and save her from the madness of Bedlam.
  • On Becoming a Fairy Godmother by Sara Maitland – I started this book for last year’s challenge but for some reason didn’t get very far with it, so happy to pick it up again; this is a collection that “breathes new life into old legends and brings the magic of myth back into modern women’s lives”
  • The Copper Promise by Jen Williams – I have signed copy of this novel from book event where I met the JW (along with Den Patrick below); “There are some tall stories about the caverns beneath the Citadel – about magic and mages and monsters and gods.”
  • Songs of Earth and Power by Greg Bear – a re-read of what I thought was a hugely important fantasy book. “The Song of Power opens the gateway to the Realm of the Sidhe, a fantastic, beautiful, dangerous world.”
  • White Apples by Jonathan Carroll – which is “a captivating and constantly surprising tale of life, death, and the realm between.”
  • The Boy with the Porcelain Blade by Den Patrick – as mentioned above, I also have a signed copy of this – “Lucien de Fontein is one of the Orfano, the deformed of Landfall. He is lonely, tormented by his difference and a pawn in a political game.”
  • Time and Again by Jack Finney – “Si Morley is marking time: he’s bored with his job as a commercial artist and his social life doesn’t seem to be going anywhere. So when he’s approached by an affable ex-football star and told he’s just what the government is looking for to be part of a top-secret project, he doesn’t hesitate for long.”
  • The Mark of the Beast by Rudyard Kipling – a selection of the fantastical stories of Kipling, with an introduction by Neil Gaiman and an afterword by Stephen Jones who edited the collection. I have already started this one!
  • The Book of the New Sun (Volume 1) by Gene Wolfe – “Recently voted the greatest fantasy of all time, after The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit, Gene Wolfe’s The Book of the New Sun is an extraordinary epic, set a million years in the future, on an Earth transformed in mysterious and wondrous ways, in a time when our present culture is no longer even a memory.”

once9quest1

I’m also going to take part in Quest on the Screen and will try to watch two films I’ve had on my shelves for ages:

  • Stardust – based on Neil Gaiman’s lovely novel, I’m embarrassed that I haven’t watched this yet
  • Tangled – Rapunzel in cartoon form, thought I’d watch this in preference to Frozen (though I will get to that eventually!)

once9screen

155652About Carrie

Carrie White was no ordinary girl. Carrie White had a gift – the gift of telekinesis. And when, one horrifying and endless night, she exercised that terrible gift on the town that mocked and loathed her, the result was stunning and macabre.

When did I first read this? Late 1975, in one sitting; I remember it vividly 🙂

What age was I? An impressionable 13 

How many times since then? Apparently this is only the third time that I have read Carrie, which seems astonishing to me as I feel I know the story so well, but there you go, stats don’t lie. Probably.

Thoughts about the book:

This was the first Stephen King book that I read and I was totally blown away by it in the way that is only possible when you are a young teenager. Unlike people coming to King for the first time today there was of course no back catalogue of work to dive into to feed the obsession, and although I read ‘Salem’s Lot later that year (and you can find out what I thought about re-reading that in this post) from then on it was all about having to wait for his new books to be published.

But why did Carrie resonate so much? It seems obvious to say that a teenage girl would find a lot to empathise with in the story of another teenage girl but I think that’s too easy; after all we had very little in common – Us vs UK, fundamentalist religion vs (relatively) free thinking, unpopular and downtrodden vs ordinary middle-of-the-roadness. And of course the small matter of my not having any telekinetic abilities whatsoever. Or at least none that have manifested themselves so far and at the age of 53 (and unless the menopause unleashes that sort of thing in the same way puberty does) it isn’t likely to happen now!

I think looking back it was the idea of raw power and what might be possible if you had an untapped ability and what could be done if you learned to control it. Of course the whole point of Carrie (and I don’t think I’m giving anything away here as it’s made pretty clear from the start of the book) is that although she learns to control it in part, the Unfortunate Incident at the Prom tips her over the edge and she lets it all out. Of course, there are Consequences of a devastating nature.

I also think this may very well have been the first novel I read that had this kind of structure, a mix of traditional third person story telling with newspaper reports and eye-witness testimony and book and letter extracts from after the fact. And I’m still a sucker for that sort of thing (I’m currently reading Vanessa and her Sister which is constructed from diary entries interspersed with letters and postcards and which I am thoroughly enjoying, although it is obviously a very different sort of thing).

It was an interesting experience reading Carrie again. For a start I had forgotten how short it is, less than 250 pages so really more like a novella. It’s much clearer to me now that the real villain is Billy, and that Chris may not have gone through with it in the end if he hadn’t forced her. And I feel sorry for Carrie herself but more so for Sue, who has to deal with surviving the whole thing.

So, although it’s clearly an early work and his later stuff became much more polished I still find this a very effective and affecting story and was pleased that it hadn’t lost its punch

Though really, what is it with King and the name Christine for baddies? First Chris Hargerson here, then the eponymous killer car, it’s just not right….

Additional thoughts about the film versions:

I also remember going to the cinema with my then boyfriend to see Brian de Palma’s version of Carrie, nice and bloody and with a couple of great performances from Sissy Spacek and Piper Laurie, and of course that unexpected ending which made me jump and scream out loud. I haven’t been able to bring myself to watch the recent re-make yet.

If you want to read more about the films then I really recommend Anne Billson’s thoughts on the matter on her blog, an excellent assessment I think.

I re-read Carrie because I’ve been looking for an excuse to do so and that came in the form of the King’s March challenge.

19196719What’s it all about?

Well, according to King’s own official website, Revival is

a dark and electrifying novel about addiction, fanaticism and what might exist on the other side

Jamie Morton is a small boy in New England when he meets the Rev Charles Jacobs who, with his wife Patsy and little boy Morrie, becomes an influence for good in the town. Well, at least until the dreadful accident that robs him of his family and possibly his faith. After the day of the Terrible Sermon he is driven out of town and when he and Jamie meet again the former is using his deep interest on electricity to earn a living on the carny circuit and the latter is a musician and heroin addict. Jacobs uses his knowledge to cure Jamie and from that point on the two are intertwined, right to the very end when Jacobs’ obsession takes it’s final form.

Why did I want to read it?

I’ve been reading and enjoying King’s works for *gulp* nearly 40 years. I haven’t read everything he’s written (not yet at least) but I always look forward to anything he publishes and he has never really let me down (not even with The Tommyknockers or Dreamcatcher, both flawed but still interesting). And the hints before publication and in early reviews that there was a Lovecraftian element to this book was just an added bonus. Two of my earliest horror influences coming together sounded just the ticket.

What did I think of it?

This was exactly what I needed to read during a stressful week where I was working flat-out, running an almost constant headache and not sleeping terribly well. For a couple of days as soon as work was over I was able to lose myself in the life of Jamie Morton, a flawed but basically decent person who has gone through some tough times and his interest in the man whom he has admired since he was a small boy and who was instrumental in helping him both kick his addiction and find a career. But Jamie always knew things weren’t quite right (‘Something Happened’) and over time he realises that he will have to confront Jacobs. And of course that’s when the nature of the older man’s obsession becomes clear and things get very weird indeed.

I thought this was great. I really liked Jamie which is essential if you are going to enjoy this book as it is told entirely in the first person. And it really doesn’t read like a horror novel until the last section, though there is a growing sense of foreboding and not-rightness (which isn’t a word but the best way to describe it I think). The Lovecraftian elements are pretty subtle until the end, and of course there are Repercussions; one of the things I’ve always liked about King is that there are always consequences and sometimes (most times) the good guys don’t get away unscathed.

King himself mentions that The Great God Pan by Arthur Machen (which I haven’t read for years) was a major influence on Revival.

It’s not King’s scariest novel by any means but it’s a strong story with disturbing elements. I really liked it and definitely recommend it.

KingsMarch_zps31f8f79eSo as if there wasn’t enough going on at the moment, I’ve decided to take part in the challenge/event, hosted by Wensend and Fourth Street Review, with the aim of reading as much Stephen King related stuff as possible during the month of March.

As the hosts say:

All you have to do to participate in this event is to post about at least one thing King-related. You are free to read as many King books or watch as many King movies as you want, but you can also stick with just one book (some of the books are real chunksters).

I am a huge King fan, and have been since I read Carrie when I was 15 (just as it came in paperback over here in the mid 1970s). So, given everything else on my horizon I’m going to commit to reading as many of the following as I can before the end of the month:

  • a Carrie re-read – this is long overdue
  • one of his most recent novels, Revival, which I gather has more than a little Lovecraft about it
  • Mile 81 – an original eBook
  • In the Tall Grass, another eBook, written with his son Joe Hill

That should be doable, I think 🙂

Clean Your ReaderSo I signed up to this challenge on 2 January with the intention of reading a minimum of four, maybe six books, and yay for me, I actually managed to finish seven.

These were:

  1. The Wide Carnivorous Sky by John Langan (6 January)
  2. The Bone Clocks by David Mitchell (10 January)
  3. North American Lake Monsters by Nathan Balingrud (11 January)
  4. Naming the Bones by Louise Welsh (14 January)
  5. The Fuller Memorandum by Charles Stross (17 January)
  6. All You Need Is Kill by Hiroshi Sakurazaka (19 January)
  7. The Apocalypse Codex by Charles Stross (30 January)

So I’m very pleased with that indeed, though hankering slightly after a physical book for a change. I will also try to remember throughout the year that I have an e-book TBR “pile” too 😀

Bride of the Book God

Follow brideofthebook on Twitter

Scottish, in my fifties, love books but not always able to find the time to read them as much as I would like. I’m based in London and happily married to the Book God.

I also blog at Bride of the Screen God (all about movies and TV) and The Dowager Bride, if you are interested in ramblings about stuff of little consequence

If you would like to get in touch you can contact me at brideofthebookgod (at) btinternet (dot) com.

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