This very blog that you feast your eyes upon has recently become rather book review-heavy. Now this is not a bad thing, and I’m not complaining to you (me?) about this. I could argue that the increasing number of book review posts is because I’m running out of other, more writery topics to post about. That could be it.
I could also offer up that I’ve been getting through a ton of books that I just need to tell the world about. That is definitely another reason.
But the most important one of all, is that authors need reviews. Not in the food-and-drink substitute kind of way, I’m sure they’d survive without them, but when an indie author either self-publishes a book, or indeed is published by a small press, the marketing can only go so far. But a long list of 4 or 5 star reviews on Goodreads and Amazon? It’s basically free advertising.
I hope that one day, when (if? No, when) I finally publish the novella I’ve been working on for the last 18 months or so (there’s also a novel, which I’ll go back to once this second baby has been unleashed), that I can get a few reviews from people like myself who have only recently discovered the power of the book blogger!
Now I don’t expect you to go trawling through earlier posts to find out exactly what I’ve reviewed so far, I may provide links at the end of this post, we’ll see. But these reviews are only a detailed close-up of my reading exploits, as I don’t review every book I read (tut-tut). My rationale for posting a review is based on two criteria;
The book was so amazing it had to be raved about.
It didn’t have enough reviews on the two aforementioned sites.
Actually 3; It wasn’t amazing and also had plenty of reviews, but I felt like I could add something else to what had already been said.
I’m not one to write a review of a book that I didn’t enjoy. OK, with my cautionary words I may save someone’s time who might read it and not like it, with them then bemoaning they could have occupied their free time with something better. But if you’re in the habit of buying and then reading a book based solely on reviews, then is mine really going to change your mind?
So here I thought I’d give you a quick rundown on what I’ve read (and not reviewed) so far this year. Some of these I’ve loved, some, meh not so much. And I’d like to say in advance that as I’m going back to some of these without having read them in a while, they aren’t going to be the most in-depth explanations of plots and characters. So if you’ve read any of these and are thinking to yourself, err that’s not right, then forgive me, I have slept since reading these.
Mongrels by Stephen Graham Jones had been on the Amazon wish list for a while. I’d got a paperback version for Christmas and it was one of the first I read this year. I bloody loved it. It’s about werewolves, and a young boy, teenager I think, who is raised by his brother and sister (?) who are themselves werewolves. Is the kid going to follow in their footsteps? He’s keen to, but it just seems like it’s not going to happen for him. The werewolf in modern-day America was great and the lessons explained to our plucky would-be werewolf are both interesting and enjoyable. There’s also some nice gore moments and werewolf transformations.
Another Christmas read was Relics by Tim Lebbon. Now, what was this one about again? Yes, I remember, relics. Well, relics of fantastical creatures like unicorns and fairies and stuff. It’s about a relic hunter in London and the dark underbelly of the city with its crime lords and mythical creatures. I got a real Neverwhere and King Rat vibe from this one. It was a fun ride, although I’m kind of forgetting exactly what happened now. But past-me recommends it
I purchased When You Disappeared by John Marrs after reading a review from somewhere I now can’t remember. Ugh! I’m not a snob when it comes to books, I’ve enjoyed the odd Sunday Times Bestseller in the past, and this was one of those I believe, but ugh! OK, it was well written and easy to read, and I flew through it but mainly so I could move on to something else. I know you have to suspend disbelief in fiction, but this story is supposed to be believable. I lost count of the amount of times that I told the book to ‘fuck off’ while reading. If you’ve not read it then none of these examples will make sense, if you have then I’m sure you’ll agree.
An international rock star chats with a 13 year old kid on Twitter then arranges backstage passes for him and gives him a bloody guitar?? This is all so two characters can meet. A woman who’s survived cancer asks her Doctor out and he says yes, just like that?? Then they get married, obviously! And the ending, grrr, it was supposed to be shocking. I thought I’d figured it out, but the ending in my head was much more shocking than what actually happened. And the bloke in it, what a complete cockshite! I know you need a villain but when half the story is told from his viewpoint and every word he says is egotistical and probably factually inaccurate bollocks, it’s kind of annoying. There other examples that I’ve erased from my mind so I’ll stop there, I don’t want to slag the book off too much. Whoops!
Let’s get things back on happy territory. Exoskeleton by Shane Stadler was a great premise. A man on death row for a crime he didn’t commit (no, he really didn’t) is given a chance to reduce his sentence to only one year. But to do this, he has be encased in an (you guessed it) exoskeleton that is designed to inflict the worst pain imaginable on him. He is sent to the limits of both physical and mental endurance before he finds a way to control what’s happening to him. As I write this, I’m remembering more about this and how it was pretty good actually. I wouldn’t say it was a 5 star masterpiece, but it was definitely something different.
I watched the TV adaptation of The City and The City by China Mieville recently. While I thought they did a good job at filming the unfilmable, the whole thing did reek a bit of ‘BBC drama.’ I remember saying how there were lots of things I couldn’t remember from the book, which I read a few years ago and loved. So I read it again. And after finishing it I began really disliking the TV version. I didn’t remember a lot of things whilst watching the show, because they didn’t actually happen in the book. The whole missing wife thing???
What a superb world this book creates, so much so that it’s not really the plot or the characters that makes this novel great, it’s the setting. Two cities that share the same geographical space but are two separate states… I’m going to stop there, if you haven’t heard of this and are a fan of sci-fi murder mysteries, do yourself a favour and look this one up.
After Mieville-ing myself crazy with ‘City, I picked up Kraken by the same author that was sitting on the bookshelf. While not as engrossing and bloody amazing as the previously cited masterpiece, it was a really enjoyable, albeit extremely convoluted story. Its feet are firmly planted in fantasy land, but the journey of Billy the squid expert, as he is thrown into ancient conspiracies of the Squid God, is both entertaining and dark. There was also a healthy dose of humour in here, too, which was very welcome.
Paul Tremblay’s A Head Full of Ghosts was a book I’d been excited to read. I think with this one my expectations had been set far too high. I didn’t really feel this one. Yeah there were scares and creepy shit going down, but the whole film crew and documentary thing didn’t really keep my attention all that much. Perhaps in a few years I’ll dig it.
Where Nightmares Come From; The Art of Storytelling in the Horror Genre from Crystal Lake Publishing was, in a word, awesome. This is a collection of expert advice from, well experts such as Joe R Lansdale, Clive Barker, Ramsey Campbell, and a shit load of others. If you are a horror author, playwright, screenwriter, filmmaker, or just interested in what goes into the art of creating horror, you need to read this. Whilst I didn’t find each chapter relevant to my particular circumstances, each was interesting enough to hold my attention. There’s certainly something for everyone in here. My personal favourite was Pixelated Shadows; Urban Lore and the Rise of Creepypasta by Michael Paul Gonzalez. This was a look at horror in the advent of technological advances and media. It even inspired me to write a short story about an infamous internet video that you should never watch.
Earlier on this year I delved deep into the world of Hannibal Lecter, ploughing through Red Dragon, The Silence of the Lambs, and Hannibal by Thomas Harris. Obviously I knew all about these prior to getting involved, and although it had been many years since I’d watched the film adaptations of these, I could still remember most of TSOTL, but not much from the others. So the best way to get stuck in then.
Red Dragon was excellent; a great thriller with great characters, a brutal bad guy with a shocking history, and some cannibal doctor bloke. I Loved it. I’ve since re-watched the film Red Dragon and also Manhunter, but this isn’t a film review post.
The Silence of the Lambs was also excellent, although I preferred Red Dragon for some reason, I wasn’t quite sure why. Perhaps knowing a bit more from the film version detracted from the novel, I don’t know. But anyway, I’d still recommend it. I re-watched this film, too.
And so we move on to Hannibal. Ahem. I’d read reviews that said it wasn’t a patch on the previous instalments, and how Harris was kind of taking the piss with this one. But I was in for the long haul so had no hesitation in picking it up. A hundred or so pages in it was feeling quite a struggle, but I stuck with it. And, at the time, I was glad I did. Things were turning out pretty darn good. Lecter was being a genius and charismatic bad guy, evading capture, killing, etc. The man who wanted him captured to torture and stuff, was horrifyingly described and also a right bastard. Things were going well.
Then came the ending. The copy of this I read was borrowed from a friend, if it had been mine I would have thrown it to the floor and stamped on it. I hated that ending. What the shite?? You probably know what happens, although I’m not sure if it’s the same in the movie (I refuse to watch it now), but to me it was absolutely ridiculous. Bull. Shit. I have a borrowed copy of Hannibal Rising on the shelf over there, it’s even a hardcover, but it will stay there for a while methinks.
(See how this one didn’t even get a picture? Yeah, that’ll show em!!)
The last month or so I’ve been on a short story collection bender. Baby Powder by John C Foster was brilliant, it had zombies, ghosts, monsters, and lots of people smoking.
Brain Dead Blues by Matt Hayward started spectacularly, the first story grabbed me by the sweaty balls and squeezed like a metallic fist hell bent on destruction. But I think the first story was toogood, because everything else after it seemed a bit of a letdown. They weren’t bad stories, I just craved a bit more.
So there you have it, that’s brings us up to date, if you were interested. I’m currently on The Nameless Dark by T.E. Grau, which is another story collection, and this one will most definitely be getting a review I can tell you (it’s good).
That’s all I have for now, thanks for reading, you truly are a wondrous human being! (And a patient one)
Ooh look below, it seems I was arsed to add links to the other reviews this year!
Categories: book review