Book Review: The Fearing Book One, Fire & Rain by John.F.D.Taff.

Book Review: The Fearing Book One, Fire & Rain by John.F.D.Taff.

Hello readers, I hope your weekend was as good as mine!  For this week’s blog post we will be reviewing The Fearing, Book one: Fire and Rain by John.F.D.Taff which was very Kindly sent to me by Grey Matter press for a fair and honest review.  Before we get down to it, let’s read that handy blurb to see exactly what it’s about:

fearing cover

Humanity faces a series of catastrophes spawned by a worldwide event that unleashes all of mankind’s greatest fears.
In the American high desert, vacationers returning from a road trip are thrust into a heart-stopping flight from death as they try to avoid a cataclysmic end. In rural Missouri, the lives of a group of high school students are destroyed after their small town is devastated and they’re forced to confront the end of everything they’ve ever known.
And on the eastern seaboard, there’s someone else. An enigmatic man who thrives on despair and embraces all fear. A man with his own dark and sinister goals. Someone who wants to ensure humanity goes out with the biggest bang possible.

At only 98 pages, this is a quick and absorbing read.  As a result, the reader is immediately thrown into the deep end.  The action sequences are still nicely spaced to allow an ever growing momentum towards and answer that the reader never receives in this first book in the series.  What I was seriously impressed with, was Taff’s ability to make a character fully formed and three dimensional in only a few pages and interactions.  He has an uncanny ability of revealing his character’s true natures and in this case, their darkest fears, without it feeling rushed or forced.  I found myself instantly drawn to and simultaneously creeped out by Adam and his dark, supernatural abilities.  I was routing for the teenage survivors Sarah and Kyle’s budding romance and I love the motley crew of elderly survivors aboard the tourist bus, particularly their badass driver Rich.  Despite these characters being of all ages, genders and backgrounds and despite being scattered around the USA, their fates and fears are inextricably linked by the strange, earth shattering phenomena sweeping the country and I for one am DESPERATE to find out exactly what is going on and who of all of these characters, will survive (Please Rich, Sarah and Kyle).

As you can probably already tell, I loved this book.  It is a truly original and exciting read fearing fire and rainwhich leaves you wanting more.  My only complaint would be the fact that the book has been split up into four separate small parts.  I liked the story so much, I want to read it in its entirety and I am a little irritated I have to wait.  Still, that’s a pretty good negative to have thrown at a book and it demonstrates just how well the plot and characters got their hooks in me as a reader and  I have a feeling the other parts will be worth the wait.  I’m giving it 4.5 stars out of 5 ND I am only marking it down slightly because they are making me wait. Book Two: Water and Wind will be released August 20th and is available for pre-order now.

Thanks to Grey Matter Press and John himself for sending me this copy, I genuinely enjoyed every bit of it.  What about you readers, have you read this or any of Taff’s other works?  What did you think?  Leave me a comment below and don’t forget to subscribe to my blog to keep up to date with all my latest articles, books reviews and pieces of original writing.

Book & Movie Review: Needful Things by Stephen King.

Book & Movie Review: Needful Things by Stephen King.

For the second instalment of my Stephen King book club, my friends and I read Needful Things before watching the 1993 movie adaptation and once again, we discovered exactly why he is the one true King of horror.  So, what is it all about?  The book takes place in the quiet US town of Castle Rock, where a new shop called Needful Things is being opened by the town’s new and mysterious resident Leland Gaunt.  The shop sells curios and antiques which appear to be a steal but inevitably come with a heavy price.  Intriguing right?

First of all, the premise is wonderful.  I love the idea of the Devil being bored and going place to place selling cursed goodies to unsuspecting punters.  The objects in question are needfulalways relatively generic- a children’s game, a baseball card, a glass lamp or silver teapot.  These items hold no significance to anyone other than the intended victim as each item is chosen specifically based on that individuals NEED.  Whether the item reminds them of precious memories, a time they dearly wish they could return to, or offers relief for excruciating pain, the items are irresistible to the intended customer and once you buy, there are no returns.  The entire book is a damning indictment on the materialistic, possession obsessed society we now live in.  Remember when you were a kid and you would beg your mum for that toy, telling her you had to have it because you NEEDED it and she would say no, you don’t NEED it, you just WANT it?  Well, your Mother was inadvertently teaching you how to avoid the trappings of Leland Gaunt and his magical wares.  Every one of us has something we need, or at least think we do and this is preyed upon on a daily basis by corporations and companies selling us rubbish every day. Creams that will make us younger, juices that will give us energy and vitality, clothes that will make us fashionable trend setters, this is the world we live in now, surrounded by adverts and bill boards bombarding us with all these Needful Things.  Mr Gaunt and his little shop of horrors is the ultimate personification of this and it works perfectly as both horror and wry social commentary.

What the book makes clear however, is that while Gaunt may control a person’s need, he cannot control their will.  He has a whole bag of tricks to bamboozle his customers, including putting them in trances, creating elaborate dreams which feel perfectly real to terrible nightmares and warnings which feel even realer, but the customer has to willingly take the item and they have to willingly accept the payment.  We, after all, walk our own paths in life and it is up to us how we choose to do so.  This book is all about temptation.  Just as Satan tempted so many in the bible, Gaunt tempts his customers to sin in order to fulfil those perceived needs.  Some of the sins seem minor, like throwing mud on clean sheets, while others are more serious, like slashing tyres or killing a beloved bed, but all the residents of Castle Rock seem more than willing to pay and in doing so sow the seeds of their own destructions.  I love that King made sure to show that none of us are immune to such temptation, with the most devout and holy rolling Christians of the town giving in as easily as the local drunk or disgraced politician.  Each character has their own flaws, their own personal defects which Gaunt readily exploits. For the lead character Sheriff Pangborn, it is the guilt and grief that he refuses to let go off as a result of the death of his wife and child a year before.  For Polly Chalmers, it is her pride.  It is the residents who acknowledge these flaws and work to overcome them, that survive intact.

needful3For the most part, I found myself feeling little sympathy for the residents of Castle Rock.  After all, they made the choices which led to their grizzly ends and some of them frankly got what they deserved, but there are exceptions.  The young Brian Rusk is just a child and he is the first to not only fall prey to Gaunt’s charm but also the first to realise who or what Gaunt truly is.  His only sin seems to be a childish attachment, a need for a baseball card he has always coveted but being young and naive is his biggest flaw.  He is easily exploited by Gaunt and when he tries to stop, Gaunt changes tactics and uses good old-fashioned fear to control him.  Whilst he made the choices he did and did the not very nice ‘pranks’ requested as payment willingly, all for a measly baseball card, I do feel like his youth and innocence make him incapable of truly understanding the ramifications of his actions until it is far too late.  Nettie Cobb, the local ‘nut’ suffers from severe mental health issues as a result of the trauma from a past abusive relationship.  Again, because of this she seemed an innocent to me and less capable of understanding her actions fully than the other residents.  There are also peripheral characters who never entered Gaunt’s shop, who are caught up in the carnage including several state Police officers.  Unlike the rest of the town’s residents, I genuinely felt bad when they met their grizzly ends.

There are a lot of characters involved in this book, a whole town’s worth, so it can be a little confusing at first trying to keep the names and storylines straight but it is definitely worth persevering.  King paints the perfect picture of small-town life, the kind of place where everyone makes a point of knowing each other’s business but where secrets still dwell.  The characters are fleshed out and often you will find yourself recognising the characters from your own home town. Whilst some of the characters are incredibly sympathetic and you find yourself genuinely attached to them and upset by their fates, the young Brian Rusk and Nettie being the two that broke my heart, for the most part I didn’t feel overly invested in the other characters and I think this is due to the sheer number of them being introduced.  Also, King seems to have a bit of an obsession with children and animals dying in horrible ways and several pets are executed in this particular tome.  You have been warned.  The book has a great pace, slowly and steadily building to that big, final crescendo. Some of the book club found it a little slow in parts, but I think that the fact that King takes his time with the reader at first, gradually increasing the pace and action, makes it a far more gripping read and resulted in me being unable to put it down for the last quarter of the book.

Overall, I really enjoyed this book and I thoroughly recommend it- definite five stars from me!

Now to the movie…If I am honest, I didn’t have very high expectations for this film.  I needful2have seen a lot of the earlier King adaptations and the movies tend to, well, suck (see my review of the original adaptation for Pet Semetary for a prime example).  I was especially wary of how the movie would edit such a massive novel into a viewable length whilst also maintaining the integrity of the story.  I was also concerned about how certain parts of the book would appear in film format, for example the spider like parasite which is inside Polly’s necklace is perfect horror written down, but on film it would probably come off as silly rather than scary.  Remember the Pennywise spider at the end of the original IT adaptation?  Exactly.  But the writer of the screenplay not only did a good job or whittling down such a heavy read, they were also smart enough to change certain aspects of the story to suit a movie’s format.  The ending of the book was my biggest concern.  In the novel, Sheriff Pangborn is an amateur magician, performing tricks, sleight of hand and shadow puppet shows throughout (it sounds weird if you haven’t read it, but it does make sense in the book).  He realises that Gaunt’s powers come from need and that he uses that need to create illusions and make the impossible real, like objects that transport their owners when touched.  He turns the tables by using Gaunt’s own techniques against him. Gaunt NEEDS his bag, which is now stuffed full of the resident’s souls, so Pangborn performs tricks and puppet shows which become real and alive, just like the forgeries sold by Gaunt.  On paper, this is a great ending.  It is wonderfully ironic and karmic that Gaunt is defeated using his own methods and it makes for a really interesting read. On film though, I don’t see how this could ever work.  Shadow puppets and fake spring snakes attacking the devil on screen would start to resemble some weird sketch show and it definitely wouldn’t be scary.  The film smartly changes the ending entirely, with the town’s residents becoming aware of what they are doing, of the ramifications of their actions and decisions and admitting they were wrong.  They atone and Gaunt is driven out of Castle Rock.  I also like that the fate of Brian Rusk is changed.  A young child killing himself on screen would likely turn a lot of viewers off and I personally prefer a version where he is changed, but alive.  Some changes don’t make a lot of sense to me however, like why the prim and well to do Wilma Jerzyck of the novel becomes a scruffy red neck turkey farmer in the film, but overall director Fraser Heston successfully translates the books core themes and story and I would definitely enjoy it even without reading the novel it’s based on.  Also, on a side note, I now have a huge crush on Ed Harris.

For our next instalment of the King Club we will be reading and watching The Shining.  Why not join us?  Keep an eye on my Instagram to see when we will be watching the film so you can watch along with us and don’t forget to subscribe to my blog to keep up to date with all the latest posts!

 

 

 

Unboxing May’s Fantasy & Scifi Box From My Chronicle Book Box.

Unboxing May’s Fantasy & Scifi Box From My Chronicle Book Box.

Hello Readers!  I hope you have all had a wonderful weekend.  For this evening’s blog mychronbookboxpost, I will be unboxing this month’s My Chronicle Book box Science Fiction and Fantasy box and what a box this is!  As always, if you fancy grabbing a box of your own, use code MIRRORS10 for 10% off.

So, let’s start with the amazing books shall we?  As always, this box contains three amazing books (Yes, you read that right, THREE books) and all of them are signed…I know right?  What more could you ask for?

thingsinjarsBook number one is Things in Jars by Jess Kidd.  This is a hardback (I love a good hardback, don’t you?) and as I said, it is signed by the author herself.  So what’s it about? “London, 1863. Bridie Devine, the finest female detective of her age, is taking on her toughest case yet. Reeling from her last job and with her reputation in tatters, a remarkable puzzle has come her way. Christabel Berwick has been kidnapped. But Christabel is no ordinary child. She is not supposed to exist.  As Bridie fights to recover the stolen child she enters a world of fanatical anatomists, crooked surgeons and mercenary showmen. Anomalies are in fashion, curiosities are the thing, and fortunes are won and lost in the name of entertainment. The public love a spectacle and Christabel may well prove the most remarkable spectacle London has ever seen.  Things in Jars is an enchanting Victorian detective novel that explores what it is to be human in inhumane times.”  Frankly,  all I needed to hear was the phrase Victorian Detective Novel and I was in.

terratwoBook number 2, which is also a signed hardback, is Do you Dream of Terra-Two? by Temi Oh: A century ago, scientists theorised that a habitable planet existed in a nearby solar system. Today, ten astronauts will leave a dying Earth to find it. Four are decorated veterans of the 20th century’s space-race. And six are teenagers, graduates of the exclusive Dalton Academy, who’ve been in training for this mission for most of their lives.
It will take the team twenty-three years to reach Terra-Two. Twenty-three years spent in close quarters. Twenty-three years with no one to rely on but each other. Twenty-three years with no rescue possible, should something go wrong. And something always goes wrong. This one sounds genuinely exciting so I am looking forward to reading it.

witchs kindLast, but certainly not least, book number three is The Witch’s Kind by Louisa Morgan and again this one is signed (this time coming with a signed author plate): Barrie Anne Blythe and her Aunt Charlotte have always known that the other residents of their small coastal community find them peculiar – two women living alone on the outskirts of town. It is the price of concealing their strange and dangerous family secret.But two events threaten to upend their lives for ever. The first is the arrival of a mysterious abandoned baby with a hint of power like their own. The second is the sudden reappearance of Barrie Anne’s long-lost husband – who is not quite the man she thought she married.Together, Barrie Anne and Charlotte must decide how far they are willing to go to protect themselves – and the child they think of as their own – from suspicious neighbours, the government and even their own family .  Anyone who follows my Instagram will know I have a slight obsession with all things Witchy, so I am definitely looking forward to this one.

But there isn’t just books in this amazing box, there are also bookish goodies and what mychron2wonderful goodies they are!  Along with the THREE signed books, there is also an adorable print with an inspiring quote from the legendary Stephen Hawking, “Remember to look up at the stars and not down at your feet.” Wise words indeed!  There is also a very good sized fabric ‘Books are Magic’ pouch which would be perfect for cosmetics, toiletries or stationary.  Lastly, there is a set of three galaxy print Wasi tapes, in blue, purple and red.  These items are not only lovely on their own, but they perfectly compliment both the theme of the box and the books within it.

So what do you think of this box?  Have you read any of the books?  What did you think of them?  Leave me a comment and don’t forget to subscribe to my blog to keep up to date with all my latest posts.  Finally, if you like the look of the My Chronicle Book Box (of which you can get a Crime and Mystery themed box or Fantasy and Science Fiction themed box) use the code MIRRORS10 for 10% off now.

The Best Book Shops in Belfast: A Bookish Tour of Northern Ireland’s capital city.

The Best Book Shops in Belfast: A Bookish Tour of Northern Ireland’s capital city.

Hello gang.  For this week’s post, I thought I would do something a little different and tell you about my home town of Belfast.  For those of you unfamiliar with Belfast, it is the capital city of Northern Ireland and we are most famous for building the Titanic (yes, it sank, but it was perfect when it left here and we were not the ones who drove it into an iceberg) and more recently because Northern Ireland is where Game of Thrones is filmed and the UK premiere of the newest and final season was recently right here in the city.  Both the Titanic and GOT have a myriad of tours, museums and exhibits dedicated to them, but what I have noticed is lacking out there is a definitive guide to all things bookish in this fair city.  So, because I am a total book nerd and because I spend a probably unhealthy amount of time scouring book shops, I thought I would put together a list of my favourite book shops in the city.  Maybe these shops are well known to you or perhaps they are somewhere new to discover, either way, sit back, grab a snack and happy reading…

Keats and Chapman – North Street.

keatsandchapmanYou know those book shops that literally have rows upon rows of higgledy piggledy books from floor to ceiling?  The kind of shop that send the bibliophile’s heart all a flutter and causes them to involuntarily squeal with glee the second you step inside?  Keats and Chapman is one such shop.  Situated on North Street, not far from the trendy Cathedral Quarter, this little gem of a store contains more books than any one person could ever possibly read in their lifetime (although I am willing to make a stab at it in the name of scientific research).  There is literally something for everyone here and a book to suit every taste.  Given the vast amount of books literally crammed into every nook and cranny, a book worm could literally lose hours of they life scouring the shelves here and truthfully over the years, I probably have done just that. keatsandchapman3 Whilst I would love the budget to sustain the many, many books I crave, I find myself having to limit my spending each month so I am a massive fan of second hand book shops in general.  They allow a book, well thumbed and once loved, to be picked up and loved once again as well as introducing those wonderful worlds and characters to buyers who may otherwise have been unable to afford it.  Also, anyone who is a fan of my Instagram will know I have a MAJOR obsession with vintage books and this store is positively stuffed with vintage gems.  If you find yourself wondering the city centre with some time on your hands, this Aladdin’s cave of bookish treasures is definitely worth a browse.

Visit immediately, you won’t regret it!  You can check out opening times and details on their Facebook page here.

No Alibis– Botanic Avenue.

noalibisThis book store is well known and well respected by local book worms and was even featured in a book by local writer Colin Bateman (if you haven’t read any of his work, do so immediately.  You WILL laugh out loud, guaranteed).  It may be known as Northern Ireland’s only independent crime fiction book shop but it features lots of other genres as well, including a rather wonderful and well stocked children’s section.  It regularly hosts amazing events and author signings and meet and greets and would draw in some incredible names in the world of literature (like one of my personal favourites, John Connolly).  Nestled on Botanic Avenue in the heart of the student area, a mere hop, skip and a jump from my old alma mada, Queens University, it is a truly wonderful shop which is definitely worth visiting should you get the chance.  Plus, it’s a great opportunity to support the sadly increasingly rare independent book store.  Botanic Avenue is literally stuffed with amazing restaurants and coffee shops (or near some great bars if you prefer to read with a pint than a coffee), so head on in, browse, inevitably buy and find a little nook somewhere to chill out and read- you know you want to!  You can find out about their opening hours and upcoming events on their website here.

Self Help Africa– Botanic Avenue.

Out of all the second hand book shops on my list, this one is my personal favourite. selfhelpafricaWhilst it may not be the biggest or the most well known, it holds a special place in my heart and I have found so many books for my ever growing vintage collection on its stuffed shelves.  This place is packed with books to suit every reader and more than that, it has heart.  The lovely ladies who volunteer there are always a delight to chat with and obviously enjoy volunteering their very much.  It genuinely brightens my day to visit them.  Not only are their books a complete steal, with prices being beyond reasonable, but every penny you spend goes to support the charities work to end hunger and poverty in rural Africa.  Win win right?  Of note are the little bargain boxes, where all of the books within are reduced to only 50p (I have found so many hidden gems in those).  Please, if you are in the area, drop in, say hi to the wonderful volunteers and buy yourself a book!  If you want to find out more about what Self Help Africa does or would like to donate, click here.

Oxfam Bookstore– Botanic Avenue.

oxfambooksNow, I know what you are thinking- Botanic Avenue really has a lot of book shops featuring on your list and you would be 100% right.  The fact is, Botanic Avenue has and always will hold a special place in my heart.  I went to Queens University to get my degree in Psychology and I spent so many hours here, visiting the many shops and cafes. It is chock full of second hand shops, vintage shops and thrift stores which are all my very favourite kinds of shops.  I could fill a book with the amount of amazing second hand gems I have found here over the years, but instead of boring you with the time I bought a stunning almost new pair of Topshop jeans from a charity shop for £2.50 and found a fiver in the pocket when I got home (that was a truly great day), I will stick with the book shops of this wonderful area (for now at least).  Every large city has an Oxfam book store, in fact there are at least two others in Belfast that I know of (and also regularly visit) but of those, this is my favourite for three main reasons.  Not only is it the largest, it is also the brightest and most well laid out.  But mostly, it is near the other bookstores already listed, so you can literally spend the day just strolling from book store to vintage store grabbing goodies as you go.  I always visit this store when I visit the others, it’s like a routine for me now, so I had to include it on my list.  Once again, not only are you grabbing yourself some bookish bargains, you are also helping a great cause in the process and it couldn’t get any better than that.  If you would like to learn more about Oxfam and what they do, or perhaps donate, click here.

Waterstones– Fountain Street.

Ok, every major city these days has a Waterstones.  You have all visited one, you have allwaterstones stared dreamily at the shelves and touched the many books contained therein to let them know you are thinking of them and will be back for them soon…No?  Just me?  Well regardless, there is no point in me telling you about the store because inevitably you have seen one.  I mostly buy second hand books or try to support smaller businesses where I can but I always find myself wondering into this gorgeous store every time I am near the city centre so it had to be included on the list.  If you want to find beautiful books and amazing bookish goodies, then this place will have something for you.  Personally, I tend to find myself buying more mugs and notebooks that I don’t need and have no space for but simply must have (you know the ones).  My recommendation is not to enter when your funds are low or you may find yourself weeping in front of the cloth bound vintage Penguin Classics collection…No?  Just me again?  Fair enough.

So that’s my list- what do you think?  Are there any shops not featured you think I need to visit?  Comment below.  And don’t forget to subscribe to stay up to date with all my latest posts.  For now, happy browsing fellow book lovers.

 

Riddle’s Tea Shoppe: The Marauders Tea Gang Unboxing.

Riddle’s Tea Shoppe: The Marauders Tea Gang Unboxing.

Anyone who follows me on Instagram will be aware that I have a bit of an obsession with Harry Potter.  I read the books growing up and I have an ever growing collection of Harry Potter merchandise.  You will also have noticed that I have a slight addiction to tea, because I prescribe to the philosophy of my fellow Northern Irish writer C.S.Lewis: “You can’t get a cup of tea big enough or a book long enough to suit me.”  There is no better combination than a great book and a steaming cuppa, so when someone combines the wizarding world of Harry Potter I adore so much with magical tea blends and I am literally in heaven.  Enter Riddle’s Tea Shoppe.  I have been a long time fan of these guys, following and drooling over their Instagram pictures since I joined a couple of years ago but given that postage to the UK can be quite expensive, I had never got myself any of the delicious teas I so yearned for.  Hadn’t until now that is.  I have spent the week sick in bed and frankly I deserved a treat, so I purchased the Marauders Tea Gang box, a box dedicated to and inspired by the original Hogwarts Marauder’s James Potter, Sirius Black, Remus Lupin and Peter Pettigrew aka Messers Mooney, Wormtail, Padfoot and Prongs.  So, after saying the magical words, “I solemnly swear that I am up to no good” I have been able to enter this wonderful box and discover the treasures within.

marauder 2First up, the box contains four delicious teas.  Each one is named after and inspired by the Marauders themselves and they couldn’t be more perfect.  The Padfoot blend is a bold breakfast tea with a kick, the Prongs blend is sweet, spicy and somewhat dangerous, the Moony blend is earl grey and chocolate for moonlight sipping (of course) and last but definitely not least, the Wormtail blend ‘tastes like betrayal’ because it is decaf.  That last one genuinely made me laugh out loud.  The packaging is designed beautifully, I love that they are red and each flavour truly encapsulates the characters they represent.  I cannot wait to try them all, particularly Moony’s flavour as he is my favourite of the Marauders.

Alongside these delicious teas, there is a selection of tattoos depicting the same gorgeous marauder1character illustrations from the tea packets along with a few other magical images.  I love a good press on tattoo so expect to see those popping up in future Instagram photos.  There is also a Marauder’s Tea Gang vinyl sticker and enamel pin badge.  The badge is adorable, with a glittered background and my main man Moony on it.  I will definitely wear it with pride.  All the items are listed on the adorable card pictured above with that magical oath printed on it, which I may frame to be honest, because one can never have enough Harry Potter related pictures up in their office.  Honorary mention also goes to the box itself which is so sweet.  I really appreciate the details here and the clear effort and thought that went into every thing, even something as simple as the packaging.  Overall, this is a fabulous box and it has definitely encouraged me to make further purchases from Mr Riddle in the future.  Now, if you will excuse me, I have a date with some tea….

Book Review: Pet Semetery by Stephen King.

Book Review: Pet Semetery by Stephen King.

Being a bit of a nerd, I tend to gravitate towards nerdy people with similar bookish and horror loves and my geeky friends didn’t disappoint when they suggested a Stephen King book club.  It started with Pet Semetery.  The new movie was to be released soon and my friend suggested we all read the book and watch the original movie before we all visit the theatre to see the new adaptation and we enjoyed it so much, we are now reading a new Stephen King book every month and watching its screen adaptation (and also eating a ridiculous amount of snacks while we do it).  So, expect regular instalments of the King of horror on my blog in the future.

petsemetaryPet Semetary follows the Creed family as they move to Ludlow, Maine for a new job and a new life.  Unbeknownst to them, their house backs onto a Pet Semetary, a harmless plot where the local children bury the many animals killed by the many, many six wheeler trucks driving through the towns main road.  But beyond there is a scared Native American burial ground, a dark place with supernatural powers and dark intentions.  When you bury your dead there, they come back to life, except the thing that returns isn’t them, it’s a shadow of who they were, a dark and twisted version of who they used to be.  When the youngest child of the Creed clan is killed on that same busy road, the toddler’s father Louis Creed decides to see what happens when a human is buried there.

I haven’t read a lot of King and it’s been years and years since I last did and this book has reignited my love and adoration of his writing.  It was in a word amazing and reminded me exactly why he is considered the King of horror.  The story is a slow burner, gradually building in tension and suspense until the violent conclusion.  It’s one of those stories when you can see exactly where it’s going, when you know it won’t end well but you still find yourself praying for a happy ending that will never come.

To be honest, I found it quite difficult to read at some points, which again is testament to King’s writing abilities.  I have a child not much older than Gage and to read the graphic details of his death, his funeral and his resurrection stirred emotions in me that cause so much anxiety and fear- what if something happened to my child?  What if she was killed?  Would I survive that?  It was tough going at times and at one point I even considered skipping those particular chapters, but I didn’t and I’m glad I didn’t because it made the horror and brutality of the ending so much more visceral.  King perfectly depicts that utter and inconsolable anguish that is only felt by a parent who has lost a child, a feeling I pray I never have to experience.  The book feeds into that fear all parents have, that something could happen to their little ones.  They could choke, they could fall, they could get sick or hit by a car and I have had those thoughts.  I have been the parent worrying about their baby.  The need to protect them and keep them safe is the most prominent and forceful need I have ever experienced and I am aware it will continue now for the rest of my life.  In that way, this book, despite being supernatural, has a horror element that is real and identifiable for so many readers such as myself.  That fear is only enhanced and fed by the other more otherworldly elements and produces some real moments of anxiety and unease in the reader.  I found myself wondering what I would have done in Louis’ place.  Would I have taken my child to that dark and unnatural place despite the warnings?  I found myself unable to answer.  I love my daughter and part of me thinks a poor imitation of her would not be the same, plus if there is a place beyond this one, surely I wouldn’t want to take her from that or force her to suffer in some way to satisfy my own selfish grief?  But there is a small part of me that relates and understands Louis Creed’s pain and grief and wonders if a tiny piece of your child is better than them being absent completely?  I know that Louis didn’t really have a choice in his decisions, with the semetary manipulating and controlling him, so the debate is slightly moot, but it’s an interesting question to ask ourselves nonetheless.

I love the references King made to his other books, talking about Jerusalem’s lot and quoting the now infamous line from The Shining, “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.”  I love the idea that all of his stories are all contained within one universe and it will be fun to hunt those little Easter eggs in the book club’s upcoming reads.  I find myself wondering whether Louis’ daughter Ellie has The Shining, her psychic abilities an important part of the book.  I found all of the characters to be believable and relatable, even the ones that I found irritating – I’m looking at you Rachel.  I love the books overarching theme and message relating to death.  Fearing something so inevitable is a foolish and life wasting thing to do.  Death is natural, it’s coming for all of us and on some occasions it can even be a good thing, as is repeated several times throughout the book, there are worse things than death, “Sometimes dead is better.”

My club and I found ourselves debating various elements of the book afterwards, the true sign of a really great read and I would be so interested to hear your thoughts.  We wondered whether Pascow was the first victim of the Semetary.  Louis’ colleague Steve Masterton says that this death was the start of a dark and mournful period with several people dying in quick succession afterwards and Louis himself says that everything starts to go wrong after this tragic moment.  But if that’s the case, if he was a part of the Semetary’s nefarious plans, why did Pascow’s spirit try to warn him?  Why did he reach out to Louis and Ellie?  I personally believe Pascow’s death was unrelated and the fact that Louis had tried to help him and had been there as he passed on, prompted him to try and help Louis in return.  In death he could see what was coming and he wanted to stop more death, but as a mere unrelated death and a soul which has moved on from this world, he cannot influence, he can only advise, something mentioned by Ellie towards the end of the book- he cannot interfere, he can only warn.  I do believe however that the Semetary steered Church, the Creed family cat, towards the road just as it did Gage.  My friend had another interesting perspective on Gage- that the poor little boy was always destined to die young.  After all, the kid in his two short years has had more near death experiences than Doctor Who.  He was suspected of having encephalitis, he swallows a marble, he develops a terrible bout of pneumonia and Bronchitis.  Maybe this kid was destined to die and the Semetary merely took advantage of his impending death.  Interesting thought.

Another theory batted around was that Jud, the Creed’s elderly neighbour, was kept young by the semetary as a way to ensure a new set of victims.  The fact that Jud seems younger than his years is alluded to throughout the book and indeed, the comparison of his athletic and healthy body to his arthritic ridden, sickly wife just further emphasises his own good health.  The only times he does seem a little older, is in the moments when he talks about the semetary or when he is dealing with death and towards the end of the book, as he is no longer needed since Louis has taken the cemetery’s bate, he begins to seem so much more his own age, with aches and pains described after a little gardening.

The biggest question we debated was whether the semetary wants ANYONE it can get or whether it deliberately chooses specific people.  At the end of the novel, it tempts and draws Steve Masterton only to let him go as soon as Louis and his wife’s corpse are over the deadfall. This implies to me that Steve wasn’t who it wanted, it was just a way to distract Steve until it did get what it wanted- the Creeds.  After all, Louis and Rachel’s lives have both been heavily touched and influenced by death.  Louis was raised by his undertaker Uncle, working with him at his funeral home and then later became a doctor, a person whose entire job is to battle and prevent death.  Then there is Rachel, whose sister Zelda suffered from spinal meningitis and whose tortured and painful death she had to watch, alone as a young child, something which scarred her for life and caused a deep psychological fear of all things death related.  Then there is Jud and the other locals who had buried their animals there.  The semetary didn’t come for them the same way it came for the Creeds.  It’s an interesting theory and if true I would love to know what particular traits it yearns for in its victims.

What do you guys think of my theories?  Have you got some of your own?  I would love to hear them so comment with your thoughts.

Overall, this was a suspenseful, anxious inducing and emotive read and it’s one I thoroughly recommend to any horror fan.  It is a definite five out of five from me and a book I won’t forget in a hurry.

Next up, our club will be reading Needful things, and you are welcome to join us in our King book club for a read along and watch along.  Keep an eye on my Instagram (@bookishmarie) to keep up to date with the dates of both the book club and viewing of the Needful things film.  Also, keep an eye on my blog for my next King related post which will be coming soon, this time the movie review of both the original and new adaptation of Pet Semetary and a comparison between the two.  In fact, why not subscribe so you never miss a book review, article or piece of original writing?  You know you want to…after all, life is short!!

Book Review: Bird Box by Josh Malerman.

Book Review: Bird Box by Josh Malerman.

Happy Sunday readers, I hope you had a wonderful weekend!  For tonight’s blog post, I will be reviewing Birdbox by Josh Malerman.  I think I might be the only person who hasn’t watched the Netflix original adaptation of this, but I really wanted to read the book first (plus I have a rather demanding Toddler so very limited TV time that doesn’t involve cartoon princesses and singalongs).  I will hopefully get watching it this week, but if it is even half as good as this book then I know I am in for a treat.

birdboxFor those of you unfamiliar with Birdbox (have you been living under a rock or something?) the premise is this: A phenomenon is sweeping across the globe where people are going crazy, killing themselves and sometimes others too.  No one knows what is causing this, just that the victims always saw something before it happened. The book moves between the very pregnant Malorie and a rag tag group of survivors in the past, to the present where her and her two children battle their way upriver in the hopes of finding safety from these unknown creatures, the wild animals which have now inherited the earth from man and worse, the crazed people driven homicidally mad by what they have seen.  Sounds awesome right?

I absolutely loved this book, I really did.  The premise is fantastic, the characters are all well developed and believable and the tension and horror is very real.  I love that we as the reader never really find out what’s going on.  Are these creatures from another world or dimension?  Do they mean to cause us harm or are they inadvertently causing this carnage?  There are a few theories shared within the book, my favourite being that these creatures are so unfathomably different from ourselves that our tiny human brains simply cannot comprehend it and promptly go nuts at the slightest glimpse.  Whatever is happening, the creatures are never described which means that whatever they are is left entirely to our own imagination (in mine, they are like a creature shaped void of nothingness, walking black holes in our world, but that’s just me).  But the creatures are by no means the scariest part of this book, as it’s the reaction of the humans to the phenomena that offers the books creepiest moments.  Remember, our characters are literally blind folded, so the mere crack of a tree branch is enough to cause total panic.  Then there are the characters who are driven a different kind of mad by the creatures and the situation at large.  They don’t flip out and immediately kill themselves like most, but slowly go insane, hurting their fellow survivors.  I don’t want to have any spoilers but when things go bad, they really go South fast and it is here we see this maniacal, creepy lunacy played out in full bloody horror.

I really enjoyed the movement from past to present, it kept me hooked, maintained the tension throughout and made me desperate to find out what happened.  I had one of those ‘just one more chapter’ moments resulting in me staying up way past my bed time and suffering for it the following day (it was totally worth it though).

I love Malorie.  As a mother, I recognise that need to keep your children safe at all costs, that guttural feeling inside that says above all else, to protect.  At it’s core, this book is about survival.  It is about the good side and the bad side of humanity when faced with unimaginable horror.  It is about a mother determined to protect her children.  It is about man kind clinging to a world that is no longer theirs, refusing to lie down and give up despite insurmountable odds.  It’s pretty inspiring actually and has had me thinking at length about what I would do if, God forbid, such a thing ever happened for real.  I can’t imagine I would last too long, but I know I would do whatever I could to protect my own daughter, just like our protagonist.

It’s a slow burner, dotted with enough moments of peril and action to pull you along at a good pace to that big and bloody finale.  It’s a tense read and one that I enjoyed thoroughly.  I have to give this one full marks with five stars out of five!