Horror October: Hark! The Herald Angels Scream #BookReview #ShortStoryAnthology

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Hark! The Herald Angels Scream // Christopher Golden (Editor) // October 23rd 2018 // Anchor Books // Goodreads

A collection of Christmas-themed horror stories!? What could be better! It’s like ordering two desserts. You know it’s in no way good for you, but you just want to do it anyway. 

You could be forgiven for dismissing this book based on the cover. It screams cheap and nasty, doesn’t it? But rest assured, the contents of this book are total class. There’s a mix of established horror/paranormal writers and some new names (well, to me anyway), and I was pleasantly surprised by every single one of them.

There’s a terrifying home invasion story to kick us off, a very, very, weird babysitter, a potty-mouthed robot dog and a haunted hotel room to name but a few story-lines, and they’re all fun and creepy in very different ways. 

The one that stood out the most to me was Love Me by Thomas E. Sniegoski – a writer that was new to me. It’s a creepy-ass tale about a desperate man who plans to rob an old pawn/antiques shop. When he breaks in, the lady who owns it and lives above, catches him in the act and invites him upstairs. Now, this isn’t quite the tale of revenge it seems to be. Without ruining it too much for you, it involves a stuffed toy, with teeth, who just wants to be loved. So wrong, but so good!

Usually when reading anthologies, I end up skipping some of the stories, and I fully expected to do that here too, but there honestly wasn’t a dud story amongst them, and each one made me want to finish it from the off. Golden has done a great job in selecting these. If you like horror, and you like (or hate, actually) Christmas, then this is the book for you!

I feel well and truly in the spirit now. I’m just not sure if it’s for Halloween or Christmas! Oh let’s face it, it’s both!!!

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30 Days of Horror #9: Battle Royale #HO17 #30daysofhorror

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Join me for 30 Days of Horror in which we spotlight one horror book everyday until we reach Halloween!

Wow, day 9 already. My book pick for today is another classic, but very different to yesterday’s choice. I’ve gone for the book that was the inspiration behind the classic Arnie film, The Running Man, and the book that really kicked off the whole YA dystopian phenomenon, The Hunger Games.

It is of course, the Bloody Japanese epic, Battle Royale.

Battleroyale

Available in all formats, 617 pages

Published February 26th 2003 by VIZ, LLC

 Koushun Takami’s notorious high-octane thriller is based on an irresistible premise: a class of junior high school students is taken to a deserted island where, as part of a ruthless authoritarian program, they are provided arms and forced to kill one another until only one survivor is left standing.
Criticized as violent exploitation when first published in Japan – where it then proceeded to become a runaway bestseller – Battle Royale is a Lord of the Flies for the 21st century, a potent allegory of what it means to be young and (barely) alive in a dog-eat-dog world.

Goodreads // Not My Review

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Have you read it? What did you think?

Up Next on Horror October:

Top Ten Spooky Autumnal Book Covers

 

Horror October: Misery by Stephen King #BookReview #HO17

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miseryTitle: Misery
Author: Stephen King
Series: N/A
Format: Paperback, 369 pages
Publication Details: July 7th 2011 by Hodder & Stoughton (first published 1987)
Genre(s): Horror
Disclosure? Nope, I bought it!

Goodreads 

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Misery Chastain was dead. Paul Sheldon had just killed her – with relief, with joy. Misery had made him rich; she was the heroine of a string of bestsellers. And now he wanted to get on to some real writing.

That’s when the car accident happened, and he woke up in pain in a strange bed. But it wasn’t the hospital. Annie Wilkes had pulled him from the wreck, brought him to her remote mountain home, splinted and set his mangled legs.

The good news was that Annie was a nurse and has pain-killing drugs. The bad news was that she was Paul’s Number One Fan. And when she found out what Paul had done to Misery, she didn’t like it. She didn’t like it at all.

Review

Whether you’ve read the book and/or seen the film, I’m guessing most people are aware of the story of Misery, so I won’t go into detail about the plot.

I have been meaning to read (or reread) this book ever since I got a World Book Night edition of it, but I honestly couldn’t remember if I’d read it before – as a teenager I suspected (yes, my memory really is that bad. I blame all the booze). It also doesn’t help that I’ve seen the film a bunch of times.

It wasn’t until I was about half-way through that it all started to come back to me. The differences between the film and King’s original novel are few, but certainly significant.

I really enjoyed giving this novel another go after what must be about 15 years. Once I got into it I couldn’t stop reading, but I am going to say something that might be a bit controversial…

I don’t think Stephen King should be called ‘a master of horror’.

Woah, I know, he is great, but hear me out.

King’s most successful books, for me, aren’t what I would class as horror, but as suspense. And I certainly think he’s a master of suspense! Don’t get me wrong, a lot of what makes something ‘horror’ is the suspense, but I’d say 90% of Misery is made up of suspense, followed by 10% horror.

He is also a master of characterisation. Everything he does is character-driven, and that’s why his books are so compelling. And why it’s so horrific when it all inevitably goes wrong. In this case, I didn’t find the main character, Paul Sheldon, very likeable at all, which makes it even more impressive at how sorry I felt for him.

The main thing that struck me when comparing the novel to the film, is that what happens to book Paul Sheldon is sooooo much worse than film Paul Sheldon, but I still found the film much scarier. Even after a few watches it still gets to me a bit. The penguin!!!

I’m not sure what that says about the novel, or maybe it just shows what a great film it is, and worthy of its Oscar (I defy anyone to not picture the terrifying Annie Wilkes as Kathy Bates), but essentially both mediums of this story are worth a go, and perfect for this time of year.

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Up Next on Horror October:

30 days of Horror: Battle Royale

 

 

30 Days of Horror #3: Under the Dome #HO17 #30daysofhorror

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Join me for 30 Days of Horror in which we spotlight one horror book for each day until we reach Halloween!

For obvious reasons, everyone is talking about IT at the moment, so because I’m like a petulant child who has to be different I’ve chosen Under the Dome for today’s 30DOH pick.

I’ve read this book twice, and if you’ve seen the size of it that should speak for itself. I thought it was great. Don’t even think about watching the TV series. That did not do it justice. I’d go as far as to say let’s just forget that ever happened…

Available in all formats, 1074 pages

Published November 10th 2009 by Scribner 

On an entirely normal, beautiful fall day in Chester’s Mill, Maine, the town is inexplicably and suddenly sealed off from the rest of the world by an invisible force field. Planes crash into it and fall from the sky in flaming wreckage, a gardener’s hand is severed as “the dome” comes down on it, people running errands in the neighboring town are divided from their families, and cars explode on impact. No one can fathom what this barrier is, where it came from, and when — or if — it will go away.

 

Dale Barbara, Iraq vet and now a short-order cook, finds himself teamed with a few intrepid citizens — town newspaper owner Julia Shumway, a physician’s assistant at the hospital, a select-woman, and three brave kids.

Against them stands Big Jim Rennie, a politician who will stop at nothing — even murder — to hold the reins of power, and his son, who is keeping a horrible secret in a dark pantry.

But their main adversary is the Dome itself. Because time isn’t just short. It’s running out.

 

Goodreads // My Review //

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Have you read it? What did you think?

Up Next on Horror October:

This Week in Books.

Also don’t forget to vote for your favourite horror story prompt HERE.

Retribution Rails by Erin Bowman #BookReview #YA

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Title: Retribution Rails
Author: Erin Bowman
Series: Vengeance Road #2
Format: Kindle Edition, 384 pages
Publication Details: November 7th 2017 by HMH Books for Young Readers
Genre(s): YA; Adventure; Historical Fiction; Western
Disclosure? Yep! I received a free copy in exchange for an HONEST review.

Goodreads 

 

REDEMPTION IS NEVER FREE
When Reece Murphy is forcibly dragged into the Rose Riders gang because of a mysterious gold coin in his possession, he vows to find the man who gave him the piece and turn him over to the gang in exchange for freedom. Never does he expect a lead to come from an aspiring female journalist. But when Reece’s path crosses with Charlotte Vaughn after a botched train robbery and she mentions a promising rumor about a gunslinger from Prescott, it becomes apparent that she will be his ticket to freedom—or a noose. As the two manipulate each other for their own ends, past secrets are unearthed, reviving a decade-old quest for revenge that may be impossible to settle.

In this thrilling companion to Vengeance Road, dangerous alliances are formed, old friends meet new enemies, and the West is wilder than ever.


Review

Vengeance Road was a tour de force, so I was thrilled when I heard there was going to be a sequel (of sorts – more on that later), and although it’s not released until November, I couldn’t wait. I devoured it ASAP.

And you know what, I wasn’t disappointed. Thank the unicorns!!

Retribution Rails is a companion novel, not a direct sequel, so if you missed out on Vengeance Road you need not worry (although you really should read it!), there are two new plucky main characters to focus on, and it’s set around ten years after the first book.

Charlotte Vaughn is a young aspiring journalist who is determined to succeed despite all the odds that are stacked against her. Inspired by her hero (and real-life feminist icon) Nellie Bly she takes matters into her own hands and heads off in search of a story worthy of being her big break. A story so big that the newspapers won’t be able to turn her down. Even if she is a woman.

When Charlotte’s train is targeted by the fearless and ruthless Rose Riders, it could be the answer to her prayers, or it could be the death of her. Her encounter with the infamous Rose Kid sets in motion a whole train map of trouble, leading her on a wild west adventure that’s a little more than she bargained for.

This book was a rip-roaring adventure full of heart. Erin Bowman’s ability to bring history to life with a fresh and modern outlook is nothing short of a revelation, and I really think she’s paved the way for a whole new strand of YA. It’s a great, empowering story for young girls, and full of action for any thrill-seeker.

I couldn’t remember the ins and outs of Vengeance Road going into this (probably because I’m old and drink too much), just that I really enjoyed it, but as we are reunited with Kate and Jessie from the first book it all slowly came back to me. It was so nice to back in their company and see how life had panned out for them ten years on.

I loved everything about it. The adventure, the romance, the historical accuracies, the suspense, the heart-break, the everything. More please!

Have ALL THE UNICORNS.

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Top Ten Tuesday: Favourite Books of 2017 So Far #TTT #2017Books

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Top Ten Tuesday is an original feature/weekly meme created by The Broke and the Bookish (click the link to visit them) who pick a different topic each week.

TTT has been on hiatus over the summer and now it’s back. Whoop. Welcome back! I wanted to join in to celebrate this, however I wasn’t very inspired by the topic (Ten book recommendations for ______________), so I’m going to do one of the ones I missed.

This week my topic is… Top Ten Books That I’ve Read So Far This Year (they were not all published this year). Links go to my review, or the Goodreads page if I haven’t reviewed it yet.

10. Spectacles ~ Sue Perkins

spectaclesWhen I began writing this book, I went home to see if my mum had kept some of my stuff. What I found was that she hadn’t kept some of it. She had kept all of it – every bus ticket, postcard, school report – from the moment I was born to the moment I finally had the confidence to turn round and say ‘Why is our house full of this shit?’

Sadly, a recycling ‘incident’ destroyed the bulk of this archive. This has meant two things: firstly, Dear Reader, you will never get to see countless drawings of wizards, read a poem about corn on the cob, or marvel at the kilos of brown flowers I so lovingly pressed as a child. Secondly, it’s left me with no choice but to actually write this thing myself.

This, my first ever book, will answer questions such as ‘Is Mary Berry real?’, ‘Is it true you wear a surgical truss?’ and ‘Is a non-spherically symmetric gravitational pull from outside the observable universe responsible for some of the observed motion of large objects such as galactic clusters in the universe?’

Most of this book is true. I have, of course, amplified my more positive characteristics in an effort to make you like me. 

Thank you for reading.

Published July 28th 2016 by Penguin

 

9. Broken Branches ~ M. Jonathan Lee

 

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‘Family curses don’t exist. Sure, some families seem to suffer more pain than others, but a curse? An actual curse? I don’t think so.’

A family tragedy was the catalyst for Ian Perkins to return to the isolated cottage with his wife and young son. But now they are back, it seems yet more grief might befall the family.

There is still time to act, but that means Ian must face the uncomfortable truth about his past. And in doing so, he must uncover the truth behind the supposed family curse. 

Published July 27th 2017 by Hideaway Fall

 

8. Calling Major Tom ~ David M. Barnett

 

callingmtCALLING MAJOR TOM is a heart-warming and ultimately life-affirming story of a man who has given up on the world… but discovers in the most unlikely way that it might not have given up on him.

We all know someone like Thomas.

The grumpy next-door-neighbour who complains to the Residents’ Committee about the state of your front lawn. The man who tuts when you don’t have the correct change at the checkout. The colleague who sends an all-company email when you accidentally use the last drop of milk.

Thomas is very happy to be on his own, far away from other people and their problems.

But beneath his cranky exterior lies a story and a sadness that is familiar to us all. And he’s about to encounter a family who will change his view of the world. 

Published June 18th 2017 by Trapeze

 

7. The Inexplicable Logic of my Life ~ Benjamin Alire Saenz

theinexplicThe first day of senior year:

Everything is about to change. Until this moment, Sal has always been certain of his place with his adoptive gay father and their loving Mexican-American family. But now his own history unexpectedly haunts him, and life-altering events force him and his best friend, Samantha, to confront issues of faith, loss, and grief.

Suddenly Sal is throwing punches, questioning everything, and discovering that he no longer knows who he really is—but if Sal’s not who he thought he was, who is he? 

Published March 7th 2017 by Clarion Books

6. All the Good Things ~ Clare Fisher

 

allthegoodTwenty-one year old Beth is in prison. The thing she did is so bad she doesn’t deserve to ever feel good again.

But her counsellor, Erika, won’t give up on her. She asks Beth to make a list of all the good things in her life. So Beth starts to write down her story, from sharing silences with Foster Dad No. 1, to flirting in the Odeon on Orange Wednesdays, to the very first time she sniffed her baby’s head.

But at the end of her story, Beth must confront the bad thing.

What is the truth hiding behind her crime? And does anyone-even a 100% bad person-deserve a chance to be good?

Published June 1st 2017 by Viking, Penguin UK

5. The Last Act of Love ~ Cathy Rentzenbrink 

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In the summer of 1990 – two weeks before his GCSE results, which turned out to be the best in his school – Cathy Rentzenbrink’s brother Matty was knocked down by a car on the way home from a night out, suffering serious head injuries.

He was left in a permanent vegetative state. Over the following years, Cathy and her parents took care of Matty – they built an extension onto the village pub where they lived and worked; they talked to him, fed him, bathed him, loved him. But there came a point at which it seemed the best thing they could do for Matty – and for themselves – was let him go.

With unflinching honesty and raw emotional power, Cathy describes the unimaginable pain of losing her brother and the decision that changed her family’s lives forever. As she delves into the past and reclaims memories that have lain buried for many years, Cathy reconnects with the bright, funny, adoring brother she lost and is finally able to see the end of his life as it really was – a last act of love.

Powerful, intimate and intensely moving, this is a personal journey with universal resonance – a story of unconditional love, of grief, survival and the strength of the ties that bind. It’s a story that will speak to anyone who has lost someone close to them, to anyone who has fiercely loved a sibling, and to anyone who has ever wondered whether prolonging a loved one’s life might be more heartbreaking than saying goodbye.

Published July 2nd 2015 by Pan Macmillan

 

4. Labyrinth ~ Jim Henson/ ACH Smith

 

labyrinth1Finally back in print and for the first time in hardcover, the novelization of LABYRINTH written by A.C.H. Smith and personally overseen by Jim Henson, is the first in a series of novels from the Jim Henson Archives.

This beautiful hardcover features unpublished goblin illustrations by legendary illustrator and concept artist Brian Froud and an exclusive peek into Jim Henson’s creative process with 50 never-before-seen pages from his personal journal, detailing the initial conception of his ideas for LABYRINTH.

Published April 22nd 2014 by Archaia

 

3. The Rest of Us Just Live Here ~ Patrick Ness

therestofusWhat if you aren’t the Chosen One? The one who’s supposed to fight the zombies, or the soul-eating ghosts, or whatever the heck this new thing is, with the blue lights and the death?

What if you re like Mikey? Who just wants to graduate and go to prom and maybe finally work up the courage to ask Henna out before someone goes and blows up the high school. Again.

Because sometimes there are problems bigger than this week s end of the world, and sometimes you just have to find the extraordinary in your ordinary life.

Even if your best friend is worshipped by mountain lions. 

Published August 27th 2015 by Walker Books

2. The Marsh King’s Daughter ~ Karen Dionne

 

marshking‘I was born two years into my mother’s captivity. She was three weeks shy of seventeen. If I had known then what I do now, things would have been a lot different. I wouldn’t have adored my father.’

When notorious child abductor – known as the Marsh King – escapes from a maximum security prison, Helena immediately suspects that she and her two young daughters are in danger.

No one, not even her husband, knows the truth about Helena’s past: they don’t know that she was born into captivity, that she had no contact with the outside world before the age of twelve – or that her father raised her to be a killer.

And they don’t know that the Marsh King can survive and hunt in the wilderness better than anyone… except, perhaps his own daughter.

Published June 13th 2017 by Sphere

1. The Hate U Give ~ Angie Thomas

 

thugSixteen-year-old Starr lives in two worlds: the poor neighbourhood where she was born and raised and her posh high school in the suburbs. The uneasy balance between them is shattered when Starr is the only witness to the fatal shooting of her unarmed best friend, Khalil, by a police officer. Now what Starr says could destroy her community. It could also get her killed.

Inspired by the Black Lives Matter movement, this is a powerful and gripping YA novel about one girl’s struggle for justice. 

Published April 6th 2017 by Walker Books

 

Did any of these make your Top Ten of the year so far??

Lazy Saturday Review: The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas #YA #MiniReview

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I started doing ‘lazy Saturday reviews’ as a way of getting reviews done in just 30 mins, and they proved to be quite popular. They are quick and snappy, and concentrate less on the plot (or content) and writing and more on my overall feelings about said book. They generally end up being a bit of a rant. My fave!

thugTitle: The Hate U Give
Author: Angie Thomas
Series: N/A
Format: Paperback, 438 pages
Publication Details: April 6th 2017 by Walker Books
Genre(s): YA; Contemporary;
Disclosure? Nope, I borrowed it from Dora, thanks Dora!

Goodreads 

bookdepo

Sixteen-year-old Starr lives in two worlds: the poor neighbourhood where she was born and raised and her posh high school in the suburbs. The uneasy balance between them is shattered when Starr is the only witness to the fatal shooting of her unarmed best friend, Khalil, by a police officer. Now what Starr says could destroy her community. It could also get her killed.

Inspired by the Black Lives Matter movement, this is a powerful and gripping YA novel about one girl’s struggle for justice.

Review

I’m only doing a lazy review for this one because I honestly don’t think there’s a lot I can say that hasn’t been said already.

The Hate U Give is brilliant. It’s heart-wrenching. It’s funny. It’s completely compelling. And it’s a book that we needed. Everyone should read it. It should put on the high school curriculum. There, I got it off my chest.

In case you’ve been living under a rock and don’t know what THUG is about, in a nutshell it’s about Starr, a girl who struggles with her identity because she’s living two different lives. The one where she lives – in a poor black neighbourhood where Ganglords rule- and the posh, predominately white high school she attends. Starr’s two lives don’t mesh well with one another, but when her oldest friend Khalil is shot by a police officer for no reason whatsoever, Starr has to make a choice. Stay a silent witness or come forward and risk her two worlds colliding.

THUG was really hyped up in the book-world and that always worries me, but this time it was completely deserved. It’s a great read that isn’t just powerful and important but also a genuinely gripping, enjoyable read.

It was my book of month.

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