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:

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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!

 

 

 

Book Review: ‘This & Nothing More’ a collection of Edgar Allan Poe’s work by Ethereal Vision Publishing & Illustrator Matt Hughes.

Book Review: ‘This & Nothing More’ a collection of Edgar Allan Poe’s work by Ethereal Vision Publishing & Illustrator Matt Hughes.

edgar1Hello Readers! For tonights blog post, I am reviewing This and Nothing More, an Edgar Allan Poe collection by Ethereal Visions Publishing.  Now, every horror fan, classics fan and Gothic gal out there has read some Edgar Allan Poe (if you haven’t then do so immediately, because you won’t regret it) so I won’t be reviewing his writing because everyone knows he was a massive talent and I don’t have anything bad to say about his writing (and I never will).  Instead, I am reviewing this edition of his collected works.  I discovered Ethereal Visions Publishing on Instagram and became immediately drawn to their Gothic edginess, the drama of their editions and the stunning Art Deco style of Matt Hughes’ illustrations, so when they offered to gift me their Edgar Allen Poe collection, I was over the moon.  So what is the book like?

This is one of those occasions when a book arrives which you anticipated would be beautiful but then when you actually get it in your hands, it exceeds all expectations.  Frankly, this edition is a work of art and is officially the most stunning book I own.  Let’s begin with the cover.  I am a sucker for Gothic drama and this book is dripping it with.  The beautiful cover illustration featuring that classic skull and raven combination and gorgeous gold embossed writing to match the shining gold page edges (which are so reflective, you can practically do your makeup in them).

Open that cover and it just keeps getting better and better.  Matt Hughes is a real talent edgar2and has created the most stunning and ethereal illustrations I have ever seen.  Every single image perfectly captures not only its accompanying piece of writing but also the atmospheric, haunting nature of Poe’s writing as a whole.  Every single drawing from the loving dedication to his wife on page one, right through to each section title page, is so perfectly drawn and inked.  I adore the muted colour palette of washed out pastels alongside the plain black images which look so lovingly sketched.  I am officially a massive Matt Hughes fan and must see more of his incredible work immediately.  I recommend you follow him and Ethereal Visions publishing on Instagram to see his work in progress and see every drawing coming to life.

The book is divided into three sections: Poems, stories and essays, ensuring the reader gets a wide variety and range of Poe’s work.  The selection itself is wonderful and includes some of my absolute favourites such as The Tell-Tale Heart, The Premature Burial, The Raven and Lenore.  I have never actually read any of Poe’s essays before so it was wonderful to read these, of particular note being A Few Words on Secret Writing.  I feel like this book is the perfect introduction to anyone new to the dark world of Edgar Allan Poe or a wonderful edition to an already overflowing Poe collection, a warm welcome home for his current fans.

edgar3This book is honestly just stunning- I literally have nothing negative to say about it.  If I could frame it and hang it on my wall, I would.  The same team is currently working on an ethereal edition of Frankenstein and I am sooooooo excited to see it.  Whether you are a fan of Edgar Allan Poe and gothic literature, or you are a newcomer to the author and genre this is a must own book.  I am just going to leave you with the immortal words of Edgar Allan Poe: All that we see or seem is but a dream within a dream, and this book is positively dreamy! (Sorry, not sorry).

Check out the cover on their edition of Frankenstein and tell me you aren’t gasping?  You edgar4can check out more images of the book or preorder your own copy here.  I know I definitely NEED a copy!

 

Drop me a comment below and don’t forget to follow my blog to keep up the date with my latest book reviews, articles and pieces of original writing.  For now, happy reading folks!!

Pet Semetary (1989) vs Pet Semetary (2019): Movie review showdown.

Pet Semetary (1989) vs Pet Semetary (2019): Movie review showdown.

**Needless to say there are spoilers in this article so steer clear until you’ve watched the new film.**

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As I mentioned in my last post, my book review of Pet Semetary by Stephen King, my friends and I decided to make a little Stephen King book club. Every month or so, we would read one of his books and watch the screen adaptations because, yes, we are massive nerds and yes, we love horror. So we started with this one because a brand new adaptation just hit the big screens and it felt like fate. So we read the book and every one of us loved it, read my previous post for the full review. So far so good. Now, we were going to watch the two adaptations. One from 1989 starring Dale Midkiff and Star Trek Next generation’s Denise Crosby, before venturing to the cinema to see the new release starring Jason Clarke, Amy Seimetz and the beloved John Lithgow. They are both based on the same book so they won’t be that dissimilar, right? WRONG! The two films were worlds apart in both quality, performance and horror, so I thought I should write a review, comparing the two films to both the original book and each other. So here we have it, the ultimate showdown…who are you routing for?

Age before beauty, so let’s start with the 1989 adaptation. I had seen this once as a child, many, many moons ago (I won’t say how long because I don’t want to reveal just how old I am) but truthfully I barely remembered it. Not the best sign I suppose, but at least it meant I was going into it with no preconceptions. I can forgive 80s horror movies for their terrible special effects because they give me nostalgic vibes and sometimes, the way the directors and creators have got around issues with budget and technological constraints can sometimes produce what is often scarier and more tense than the all out CGI we have today. What I cannot forgive is terrible acting. Every single actor in this movie, with the exception of Brad Greenquist who played the ill fated Pascow, was beyond wooden. Honestly, it was like they weren’t even trying. The worst culprits were by far the main characters Louis Creed, played by Dale Midkiff and his wife Rachel, played by Denise Crosby. I’m not sure if they were just phoning it in for the pay cheque or they are honestly just terrible for the roles, but either way it was like watching shop mannequins fumble their way through.

Not a great start, right? But maybe, the script was good? Nope, not particularly. Look, I get that this is a big old book to squeeze into a ninety minute movie, so of course not everything will make it in there but what I have learned over the years is that you can practically throw the original book away as long as the movie captures the books vibe and atmosphere (see Netflix’s The Haunting of Hill House for the perfect example of this) but unfortunately this adaptation captured neither. One of the biggest issues with this film may actually be that it stuck TOO CLOSELY to the original book, choosing to go down the same murderous, psycho toddler route. There are two major problems with this: 1) Anyone can overpower a toddler, even a supernatural one and 2) Toddler’s aren’t scary, they are in fact adorable and the one chosen to play Gage in this film, actor Miko Hughes, is particularly cute. No matter how much he attempts to scowl and growl, I find myself cooing and awing at every shot of his chubby cheeks and wide eyes. A scalpel has never been as sweet as when it is being held aloft by this child’s chubby hand. The lesson here is, what works in a book doesn’t necessarily translate well to screen. The movie’s exposition is also ridiculously rushed so it feels like a poor adaptation rather than a movie in its own right. Lesson number two, if you can’t fit it all in Lord of the Rings epic trilogy style, then learn to edit.

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One of the other things that really bothered me was the set, specifically the forest beyond the deadfall. In the book, a dark, otherworldly, misty forest is described whereas this film gives us a very pleasant national park perfect for a Boy Scout’s nature trail. It just all felt rather half assed to be honest. But it did get a few things right. As mentioned, the actor playing Pascow, Brad Greenquist, puts on a great performance as the warning spirit and despite the bad guy being the cutest sweetie pie ever, the bit where he slices clean through Judd’s Achilles heel was painful to watch even with 1980s special effects. Overall though, this film fell flat and in my opinion is only really worth watching for nostalgia purposes.

So what of the new film? This film demonstrates in glorious HD how an adaptation should be done. First of all, the actors are great providing believable performances throughout. I’m a massive fan of Jason Clarke, particularly after his performance in the thoroughly recommended Winchester, and he does a great job of playing Louis perfectly depicting his grief. This movie was also smart enough to ditch the whole killer toddler thing instead having the Creed’s older child Ellie die and be brought back. Whilst toddlers are adorable and cannot possibly be considered scary (with the possible exception of my daughter when she is hangry) older children can make creepy little villains…think Samara in The Ring, Children of the Corn or The Omen. The actress playing Ellie, Jete Laurence makes a very convincing little psychopath and provides that much needed horror to the movie. Whilst it isn’t the scariest film I’ve ever seen, it’s pretty well done, with great sets, convincing special effects (without going overboard with CGI as so many modern films tend to do) and great actors.

I particularly loved this movie’s nods

to the previous adaptation, with the truck driver who kills Ellie being distracted by a text from Sheena (the original truck driver is singing along to Sheena is a punk rocker by The Ramones), with Gage running to the road just as he does in the book and the original adaption as a red herring for Ellie’s death and finally, with that Achilles heel moment mentioned above, except in this version Judd kicks the bed away with no psycho child to be found underneath only to be sliced and diced as he descends the stairs. This self referencing is something Stephen King does throughout his own books, with winks and nods to other stories and novels peppered throughout. This movie perfectly captured this on screen. In fact, at one point Ellie explains to Jud who Winston Churchill is and he exclaims he knows well who he is- the actor John Lithgow plays Churchill in Netflix’s The Crown. Again, that little wink to the audience is exactly the type of thing King himself would do.

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This adaptation completely strays from the book in some ways, some good, others not so good. In this adaptation, Louis tries to offload the now psychotic family cat Church by driving him into the middle of nowhere and abandoning him. Of course, he finds his way home and when the very happy and relieved Ellie runs to him, being struck down in the process, it only goes to increase Louis’ feeling of guilt and fault at her death. If he hadn’t tried to get rid of Church, perhaps this wouldn’t have happened. I also love that, unlike the book, the cat is fully feral in the new adaptation. His issues as described in the book, his odd zombielike motions, his smell of earth and rot and the fact that he causes unease and general discomfort wherever he goes, is not necessarily easy to translate onto the big screen whereas a cat clawing and snarling works well. The ending is dramatically changed from the book and original movie and this is one I had a bit of a problem with. In this ending, Ellie kills Rachel and drags her to the semetary. She then returns and kills Louis, then proceeds to drag him to the semetary, before the entire now evil, regenerated family complete with psycho cat, now walk towards Gage after burning down Jud’s house. I assume Gage will be next on the hit list, or maybe they’ll wait until he is older, who knows. I wasn’t a fan of this ending. I much prefer the ending of the book, and subsequently the original adaption, with Louis killing his zombie child after he has killed Rachel, before taking Rachel to the semetary and bringing her back to life. It ends with her simply dragging her dirt covered feet inside and saying, “Darling” leaving it up to ourselves to decide what happens to Louis and his remaining child. I understand that the writer of this new adaptation wanted a new ending in order to surprise audiences who are well familiar with the original ones as well as satisfy those new to Stephen King’s work, but sadly it just didn’t pull it off for me. Personally, I would have had Louis kill Ellie, then flee with Gage only to have Rachel stumble out of the forest and stare after them, again leaving it up to the viewer to imagine what is coming next. But that’s just me.

Overall though, the new film is thoroughly entertaining and an enjoyable watch for any horror fan whether you like Stephen King or not. I would recommend it to any horror fan.

But these are just my opinions- what did you think of the old and new adaptations? How would you have ended the new film? Comment and let me know and don’t forget to subscribe so you can keep up to date with all my latest posts.

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!

Blood Bath Literary Magazine: A Review of Issue 1 & an Interview with the Editor.

Blood Bath Literary Magazine: A Review of Issue 1 & an Interview with the Editor.

There are some awesome literary magazines on the market out there.  They offer readers a chance to read pieces and styles they might not normally explore, from authors they are yet to discover and they are a great way for indie writers such as myself to get your writing out there.  I love a good literary magazine, so when I discovered that a new Horror based literary magazine was coming out of Edinburgh (one of my favourite places in the world) called Blood Bath, I was beyond excited.  And when I found out their first issue was based around the theme of Bodies and I saw that epic cover art by Jo Ruessmann, I knew I would have to buy a copy then and there.  Read to the end for my full review of the first issue (spoilers- I loved it!).  I was honoured to interview the Editor of the magazine about her love of Horror and why she decided the world needed a little more of it.

  1. Tell us a little about you, the person behind Blood Bath zine.
katy at bloodbathHi!! My name’s Katy, I’m editrix of Blood Bath! I live in Edinburgh, Scotland. I’m also a genre
fiction writer, mostly sci-fi, horror and weird fiction. I’ve been running BB since April
2018.
2. What Inspired you to start the magazine?
I wanted to start BB because I was struggling to find a local horror publication that I wanted to send my work to. I like sharing my work through local publishers, and I was constantly finding that most horror publications were American or Canadian. I thought with Edinburgh being Gothic, haunted and one of the weirdest cities in the world, it was strange that we didn’t really have a cool, genre specific, weird, spooky publisher. I also know loads of horror writers who are writing great stuff, but no-one wants to take it. So, I decided to make my own space for them.
I came into some money when my Dad passed away in January 2017, and he always encouraged my love of horror, so it seemed appropriate to use the money to start BB. When I was a teenager and just getting into weird stuff he would give me serial killer books, horror novels and movies and even (accidentally! He didn’t realise what it was, and neither did I until I got to a certain point!) a soft core porn novel about Elizabeth Báthory, the Bloody Countess who (legend has it) bathed in the blood of her victims. So the first issue is dedicated to him, and we’re also hosting the next issue’s launch party on his birthday! We’ll be announcing the date very soon.
3. Why Horror?  What about the genre fascinates you?
I think everyone is into horror! Even if you say you can’t watch horror movies, everyone secretly wants to look. It reflects so much of what is inside us, the things we don’t like thinking about, but we’re frequently forced into looking at. Life is horrifying and awful, and horror has always shown that, unflinchingly, and made it beautiful or poignant or just illicit an emotion in you, which I think is cool. Horror and sci fi and fantasy occupy such a special place because we can look at ourselves stretched to the extreme, or in a different world. It lets us attack, deconstruct or challenge the world around us. Also I just think horror stories are about better things. Genre fiction as a whole is just more fun and exciting to read than regular fiction, for me at least.
4. What do you look for in the pieces you include?
I always look for something I haven’t seen before. So much of horror is the same, people cover bloodbathre-hash ideas all the time, which is not a problem! You can do something that’s been done before, but just twist something essential about it. You can do a werewolf story, but go and read and watch all the werewolf stories you can. See what’s out there. Find out what perspective or message or theme is being overlooked, and do your own version of it, or subvert the pieces that are already there. Originality weighs in much more than a perfectly polished and edited story I’ve read a million times before.
I think when someone knows the purpose of their piece, when they know what they want you to do as a reader, that just lets you enjoy the world or the cool ideas they have to show you! So knowing your piece and what you want it to do also helps. As I’ve already mentioned, being socially aware and subversive is important for me in choosing a piece. But being in this gatekeeper position is very subjective, and I will pick pieces that appeal to me specifically. That’s why it’s important to keep trying until you find a home for your writing.
5. Do you have any tips or advice for new writers out there, keen to be published?
First, the guidelines are not loose guidelines they are rules! Follow them! The publisher has written them for a reason.
Just be nice!
Keep trying! Just because you don’t get into one publication, doesn’t mean your work wouldn’t be perfect for another.
There’s no need to put on a show in your cover email, your work should speak for itself. Just list your top 3 or 4 publications if you have any, some people send a full list of every publication they’ve ever had. It just doesn’t really add anything to your submission, and it’s a little annoying to scroll through to get to the end of your email. Keep it concise.
Write a lot and edit more! Editing is less fun than writing for me, but it always improves my work when I do a lot of careful, considered editing.
I haven’t given much writing advice, but I think it’s better to just develop your work in your own way, only you can figure out what kind of writer you are and what kind of work you want to create.
Lastly, look after yourself. It’s easy to be overcome by rejections or writing that’s not working. It’s a tough and highly emotional job, make sure you make time for self care, whatever that looks like.
6. How does someone submit their writing to you?
They can submit via email, bloodbathlitzine@hotmail.com. But read the guidelines on our website first!
7. What does the future hold for the magazine?
I’m not quite sure! And that’s exciting! I’m working with some people I really admire to create the second issue, and I can’t wait to see how it all turns out! DEMONS will be launching in early May, with an incredible launch party in Edinburgh. I wish I could share more details with you, but it’s going to be a great night! It will definitely be demonic and debaucherous.
We’re going to a few more small press fairs and zine fests, as well as publishing conferences and literary events. I want BB to just keep growing, as there’s so much writing and art I want to share with the world. I do want to expand to publishing books, short story collections, and some weirder stuff. I’m very excited to see what the future holds!
My Review of Issue 1: Bodies.
bloodbathzineThe human body can bring about a mix of emotions, everything from lust to fear.  They fascinate and disgust us and they are discussed and picked over constantly, whether by our own harsh assessments of how our own body measures up to modern beauty standards, to the constant media attention they receive.  I have read countless horror novels and seen dozens of movies where human bodies are subverted and twisted into something which haunts us, hence why they make the perfect theme for the debut of Blood Bath.  The Magazine contains 13 pieces of writing, all with this common thread and all with a dark and macabre edge to them.
We start with Miss West’s Requisitions by Ever Dundas, a depiction of a truly disgruntled employee and perhaps, if we are honest with ourselves, a version of those horrible little dark thoughts we have in the back of our mind when someone irritates or upsets us at work.  It’s a great story, with a humorous side and a fab start to the magazine.  Petrified by Felicity Anderson-Nathan depicts someone’s hand, then arm, becoming petrified.  It’s short but impactful and leaves you feeling very sorry for its protagonist.  Feed Them by Mary Crosbie is one of my favourites featured in the magazine, depicting a woman who is willing to go to incredible lengths in order to stay thin.  It’s a chilling indictment of the pressures put on women to conform to modern beauty standards and to maintain a skinny, size zero body….is it weird that reading it made me hungry?  Probably says more about me than I would care to admit.  Next up, we have The Sea Witch by Angie Spoto, is a much darker version of that classic mermaid with a human lover trope.  It’s gory and gross, in a good way.  Family Pool by Scott Clark is my favourite of the contributions and tells the tale of a family and their very hungry, utterly terrifying swimming pool.  This one really stayed with me and even sent a little shudder up my spine.  Maleficae by Tiffany Morris is a vampiric poem, short but beautifully written.  Ghosted by Kristy Falconer describes one Hell of a bad break up.  I liked this story.  It was filled with melancholy and Falconer has a particularly beautiful way with words.  A Terrible Meat Eating God by Holly Lyn Walrath, a piece of flash fiction, is all about consumption and is again, beautifully written and very poetic.  The Unrecalled by Rita Hynes, depicts a teenage girl and her morbid fascination with the things happening to her body.  This one made me feel a little nauseous! If any story manages to have a physical affect on you, you know it’s a good one. The Eye that Offends you by Alys Earl is a dark and haunting twist on the traditional fairy tales we loved as a child.  I really loved this one, it was just perfect.  Cleaver by Jelle Cauwenberghs features a girl haunted by the ghosts of the past as well as a future threat she must be ready to face.  This is another of the stories with wonderful language and I loved the snippets of past memories dusted throughout.  Witch Ridden by Katie Bootland, is based on the tale of the blacksmith’s wife of Yarrowford and is short but beautiful. Finally, Enclosed in clothes by Laura Dehaan, the final contribution and the third of the poems is a wonderful end to the collection of tales.
Overall, I loved this magazine.  The stories and poems are all so unusual and well written and perfectly chosen for the issue’s theme.  I love the cover art so much and I look forward to issue 2: Demons, coming soon.  Definitely a 5 stars out of 5 from me!!
Katy is accepting submissions for the Demons issue until February 14th, head to their website to find out what she is looking for.  You can also buy prints of the fantastic cover art by Jo Ruessman on the Blood Bath website, but hurry because there is a limited amount and they’re selling fast.