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A couple of books from earlier in the year that I haven’t blogged about so far.

Foreign Bodies by Cynthia Ozick

In her sixth novel, Cynthia Ozick retells the story of Henry James’s The Ambassadors as a photographic negative, retaining the plot but reversing the meaning.

I have read a fair amount of Henry James but not for ages, and I’m pretty sure that I haven’t read The Ambassadors, so can’t really comment on the whether the plot works as described above, but I do know that this was an enjoyable and absorbing novel set in the post-war period, where Bea is commanded by her (rather awful) brother to travel to Paris to bring her nephew home. Of course it doesn’t work out the way she intended, as her nephew has married an older woman, a Romanian refugee. Throughout the novel Bea keeps a lot of information to herself and drip feeds to her brother & sister-in-law (who is in a private clinic) with real and sometimes devastating consequences. Recommended.

Final Girls by Mira Grant

What if you could fix the worst parts of yourself by confronting your worst fears?

So Dr Jennifer Webb has developed a therapy technique which involves patients entering a virtual reality world where they are subjected to scenarios from horror films or nightmares as a means of working through their issues; in particular it’s used to mend broken relationships where both people go through the same ordeal. The effects carry on into the real world (otherwise what’s the point). Esther Hoffman is a journalist who hates this sort of thing (she has personal experience to back it up) and is intending to write a piece rubbishing the process. She and Jennifer enter the programme, but of course things go pear-shaped as external forces seek to interfere. This is really good stuff, and of course being Mira Grant there are zombies which would personally feature in my nightmares so I felt for Esther. Short enough to read in a single sitting, this is really good fun.

 

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51mOgPy-TCLWhat’s it all about?

In Adam Nevill’s The Ritual, four old university friends reunite for a hiking trip in the Scandinavian wilderness of the Arctic Circle. No longer young men, they have little left in common and tensions rise as they struggle to connect. Frustrated and tired they take a shortcut that turns their hike into a nightmare that could cost them their lives.

Why did I want to read it?

Amusingly, the Kindle edition of this book has as part of its title “Now A Major Film, The Most Thrilling Chiller You’ll Read This Year”, and to be fair that’s partly why I bought it. It also fitted in with some of my autumn reading which involved a mixture of Scandinavia, the supernatural, death and gore and appalling weather. You will see more of this as I catch up with my humongous backlog of posts.

What did I think of it?

I have several Adam Nevill books but haven’t got around to reading any of them until now, and as I said above this was triggered by the release of the film which, by the way, I haven’t seen.

So, these four guys are doing the male bonding thing and it isn’t going well so Hutch, the one who is leading their expedition, suggests a shortcut; this is a horror novel so of course this is not going to end well. They come across evidence of some very strange practices and there is definitely Something Out There and it is not friendly.  And when you think you know where this might be going it takes a weird turn.

And then it ends.

It’s a very blokey novel and I definitely felt that I was not the target audience, which is fine, but I was mildly annoyed that all of the women referenced in the story were so, well, unpleasant. The Big Nasty was creepy and horrible and well done, and the story definitely unsettling. Although it’s not written in the first person it becomes clear very early on that Luke is the guy we are supposed to be rooting for as we see everything from his perspective, but he really is a bit of a jerk. And the book ends just at the point where it got really interesting. How is Luke going to explain all of this? Sadly, we will never know.

So it’s fine as a novel. Will be fascinated to see how it works as a film, though not fascinated enough to spend any money seeing it. I will read the other works by Nevill that I already have, but won’t be rushing out to buy any more for now.

 

 

 

 

 

23154785What’s it all about?

The Annihilation Score is Book 6 in Charles Stross’ Laundry Files series, so probably not a good place for new readers to start, but very exciting for old hands like me 🙂

This time around the focus is on Mo O’Brien, an agent for the Laundry, which is the secret government agency which deals with occult powers and the threats they present. Mo has a very special set of skills alongside wielding a bloodthirsty possessed violin as her main weapon.

Ordinary people are developing superpowers and the Laundry needs to work with the mainstream police force to contain the potential threat. Of course it’s not as simple as that and there are consequences (with a capital C).

Why did I want to read it?

I have been reading this series since it started and enjoy watching the characters develop and the shift in tone as different threats are dealt with; everything from megalomaniacs wanting to take over the world, Lovecraftian entities from other dimensions, underwater beings and, of course, vampires. Wouldn’t miss new entries in the series for the world.

What did I think about it?

I really enjoyed this entry in the series, with its shift in focus away from Bob, our normal protagonist, to his wife Mo. The story stands or falls on whether you like Mo as a character or not and I do. I particularly liked the fact that a significant number of the leading characters in the story are women, and that they aren’t spending all of their time snarking at each other, but find a way to work together despite tensions in their working and personal relationships.

But the great joy in this series for an old civil servant like me is the accuracy of the bureaucracy that always arises when different bits of the public sector have to work with each other more closely than they would like, and the jockeying for position and advantage that results. Setting aside the whole occult thing (obviously) some of the situations will be recognisable to anyone who has worked in an office environment, especially within government. Gives an added depth to what’s already a good story.

I already have book seven in the stacks, and book eight has been pre-ordered, so more Laundry shenanigans to come.

I really really did intend to write proper full reviews for each of the books below (and still will for my actual final read of the year because I will be linking it to something else) but life sort of got in the way and I want to start the new year with a reasonably clean slate so the fact that I have chosen to do mini-reviews for each of these is no reflection on the books themselves; I really enjoyed all three of them.

And when you write a paragraph-long sentence you need to stop and breathe 😀

Bryant & May: London’s Glory by Christopher Fowler

25886638I’m not going to go on again about how much I love these books, but will just say that this short story collection was a real treat and I had only read one of them previously so that was even better. The additional pleasure was to be found in the extras:

  • an introduction which gave us CF’s insights into crime fictions, always fascinating
  • additional information on each of the stories; and
  • a synopsis of each of full-length cases so far (there’s another one coming in a few months)

Great fun

The Bazaar of Bad Dreams by Stephen King

25228309Along with the Fowler collection this chunky book of stories from my favourite writer of horror really got me back into the pleasure of reading short fiction.

Again, brilliant notes from the author and the two stories I had read before really stood up well to a revisit.

I think King’s short works are often overlooked and this had some real goodies. If you haven’t tried them you really should.

 

Slade House by David Mitchell

24500887The Bone Clocks was one of my favourite reads of 2015 so when I found out that Mitchell was bringing out a short book set in the world of that novel then I know I was going to read it as soon as I could, and I wasn’t disappointed. Apart from the fact that it has one of the most beautiful book covers of the year, it is really very creepy and disorienting and reinforced my feeling that Mitchell will become a regular on my to buy list. Luckily I have a couple of his novels already on the stacks as I am on a buying freeze. This is a goodie and one I intend to re-read. Still thinking about it weeks after I finished reading it.

buttonI had such fun taking part in the 2015 version of this challenge (I wrote my wrap-up post only the other day – you can find it here if you are interested) that I decided to take part again this year.

I’m going to stretch myself a little bit more this time around, and aim for the Fearless category, which means I have to read 11-15 horror books and if I succeed I will get a nifty badge.

I’m not doing a reading list for this as such, BUT because I’m planning to read along with and hopefully attend meetings of the Horror Book Club, I already have some books picked out which will fit in with this challenge, and these are:

  • January – The Troop
  • February – The House of Leaves (a re-read)
  • March – Anno Dracula (a re-read)
  • April – My Work is Not Yet Done
  • May –  The Heart Shaped Box (a re-read)

If I succeed with these I’ll be well on my way to meeting my goal, and I have a couple of unread Stephen King novels I can throw into the mix if I need to; should be good!

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, and the third one is here.

How did I do?

My reading slump lasted almost until the end of the year, which was a real shame, but I did manage to read another three horror novels (two of which I haven’t reviewed as yet):

  • The Uninvited by Liz Jensen (light horror but creepy as hell)
  • Slade House by David Mitchell
  • The Bazaar of Bad Dreams by Stephen King.

That brings my horror total for the year to 16 which is well above my goal of Brave Reader, so very pleased with that.

My membership of The Horror Book Club means I already have four horror titles slated for 2016 reading 😀

 

 

 

11588About The Shining

(which I originally typed as The Shinning which isn’t at all frightening unless you played hockey at school, that is)

Anyway, about The SHINING:

Danny was only five years old but in the words of old Mr Halloran he was a ‘shiner’, aglow with psychic voltage. When his father became caretaker of the Overlook Hotel his visions grew frighteningly out of control.

As winter closed in and blizzards cut them off, the hotel seemed to develop a life of its own. It was meant to be empty, but who was the lady in Room 217, and who were the masked guests going up and down in the elevator? And why did the hedges shaped like animals seem so alive? Somewhere, somehow there was an evil force in the hotel – and that too had begun to shine…

When did I first read this? 1977, as soon as it came out in NEL paperback, having loved both Carrie and (still my absolute favourite) ‘Salem’s Lot.

What age was I? 15

How many times since then? Apparently this is the third time I’ve read this and the first time since 1983.

Thoughts about the book:

By the time I read The Shining I was a committed Stephen King fan, and the idea of a small boy trapped in an old hotel with his parents for a whole winter troubled by things that go bump in the night (but also in the day, let’s not forget those hedge animals) was intriguing to me. I think I expected a classic ghost story and that’s partly the case, but as always with King there is so much more there – the sensitive child with the troubled father and the mother who is not sure about the security of her family, the spectre of alcoholism and writer’s block all brewing in a building with a long and frightening history. It was bound not to end well.

I think The Shining is a good example of a child protagonist who manages to be convincing, not understanding what’s going on in the adult world but able to pick up on the complex and contradictory emotions of his parents, knowing how important the job is to his father and so not wanting to talk about the stuff he is experiencing until it’s all too late. I had forgotten how evenly spread the story is between Jack and Danny, and with big chunks being devoted to Wendy and Halloran as well. A properly haunting story with limited amounts of gore and some really frightening and dread-inducing imagery.

It’s very interesting to go back to a book after a film version has been released. I have lots of issues with the Kubrick film (and most of my friends disagree, at which point it becomes clear that they have never read the novel, so what do they know?). First off it’s worth saying that in many respects it’s a great Kubrick film, but not a great King adaptation. I find it just too unbalanced, focusing so much on Jack (Nicholson) Torrance that you forget this is largely Danny’s story. I had forgotten for example that one of Jack’s irritations at the Overlook is that it is using him to get to Danny and doesn’t really want him at all, and I don’t remember that coming across in the movie. The biggest problem I have of course is with Wendy, who has so much more agency in the book than she does in the film, and I just hate the ending of the movie.

So although it took me longer than intended to re-read (I was doing so for The Horror Book Club but realised I couldn’t make the meeting and so slowed down) I really enjoyed it, especially the last 25% when the tension really builds up.

And of course there is a sequel, Doctor Sleep, which I read and reviewed here.

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!

So the blog was on hiatus for a few weeks while I was dealing with some health issues which means that I have ten, count them, TEN book reviews to write and publish. But as part of my post-illness strategy is to not put pressure on myself, plus adjusting to the meds I’m now on during this period means things are a wee bit fuzzy, I’ve decided to write two posts, one each for fiction and non-fiction, with my short impressions of the books. So I can both satisfy the nerd part that wants everything recorded, while keeping the anxious part quiet. So here we go with *drum roll* fiction.

A God in Ruins

24524712I read the bulk of this on a very pleasant train journey from Edinburgh at the end of May. It’s one of those books that everyone but everyone has been reading and reviewing so I’m not sure that I can add much that’s meaningful to all the words already out there, except to say that I really enjoyed it, Teddy is a wonderful character, it’s beautifully written, the parts about Teddy’s war service are astonishingly good and it was very moving. I’m not entirely sure that I understood the ending, and I think I may still (very slightly) prefer Life After Life, but this was a goodie.

Day Four

IMG_0273This is sort of a sequel to The Three which I read and enjoyed last year. It’s another creepy horror novel, this time with a group of people stuck on a cruise ship where Something Goes Terribly Wrong in an is it aliens or something else we don’t understand but is out to mess with us kind of way. I liked it a lot.

There were lots of characters with no redeeming social features who got what they deserved but enough reasonable people to root for, and it was nicely done. And has reinforced my view that cruises are simply not for me.

The Stolen Ones

The seventh in the series by Richard Montanari, I have to confess that this is a bit of a blur.

The structure is the same as always, alternating viewpoints between Byrne and Balzano and the perpetrator, and there is definitely something to do with an asylum and their personal lives develop further and I know that I enjoyed reading at the time but that’s all I’ve got for you, sorry.

IMG_0275The Doll Maker

The eighth and as far as I’m aware the latest Byrne and Balzano story, this is the one with the dolls, obvs. And Byrne buys a house which used to belong to a convicted killer from a case he was involved in before. And the POV of the killer(s) is even creepier than you might expect from this series, which has been consistently enjoyable.

But again the details are a bit vague which is probably just as well as you really want to come to these fresh. By the way, I hate this cover SO MUCH.

Death is a Welcome Guest

IMG_0277This is the second in the Plague Trilogy; I devoured the first volume last year (my review is here) and was looking forward to this one being published and got my hands on the e-book as soon as it came out.

Different set of characters trying to deal with the sickness that has decimated the population and the impact that it has had on society. Violence and peril and alliances and danger and sacrifice. beautifully written, very compelling, I enjoyed it immensely and I’m already hankering after the third volume which I understand from a Twitter exchange with the author will have lots of jeopardy.

51+N1aOiaZL._BO2,204,203,200_PIsitb-sticker-v3-big,TopRight,0,-55_SX324_SY324_PIkin4,BottomRight,1,22_AA346_SH20_OU02_The Hellbound Heart

The novella by Clive Barker which was the basis for the Hellraiser moves, I was mildly astonished that I hadn’t read this before (honestly, call myself a horror fan?) and this was actually a book group read for a meeting I didn’t manage to attend. It’s a nasty little story full of blood and guts and torture and I thought it was great. Quite different from the film version though and *whispers* I think the story is better.

The Rhesus Chart

IMG_0281The most recent of the Laundry Files (well at least until this week when the next volume is published and before you ask, yes I have ordered it), this is basically about the bit of the civil service which deals with occult nonsense as described previously, but this time involves vampires. In the City of London. And other weird stuff.

I liked it a lot. I just really love Bob, the main protagonist, and his wife and the stuff he has to deal with and the endless bureaucracy and the fact that he doesn’t always have an answer for everything and bumbles along. I’ve seen a couple of mentions on Twitter and elsewhere that suggest others had problems with this entry in the series but I don’t exactly know why and I’m not sure I care enough to look. I am anxious about the fate of one of my favourite characters though…

So that quick canter through recent fictions reads brings me up to date. I feel a little guilty that I’m not giving these books the full treatment they probably deserve but the alternative was just to ignore them and I would have felt even worse about that, so there we are.

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 🙂

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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