Tuesday 31 October 2017

RIP Bonus Read: From Hell by Alan Moore & Eddie Campbell

I think (and hope) that we've all seen the Johnny Depp movie version of From Hell. The first of Alan Moore's comic books to be taken to the movies, it involves Johnny Depp as a opium addict widower Fred Abberline, hanging out with Mary Kelly herself and generally being rather handsome and detective-y. Oh, and Jack the Ripper is sort of there too. I guess. Alan Moore hates it (as he hates all adaptations of his work, I understand) and now that I've read the comic book, I kind of hate it too.

This comic, man. It's just so much... More. More than the movie, but also just more than most comic books*, which is really what I've come to expect from Alan Moore's work. This version of the Jack the Ripper story, if you're unfamiliar, involves a disturbing plot between a doctor and the crown, secrets and blackmail and a crochety old detective who is married and not addicted to opium, and who is definitely not Johnny Depp. But, you know what? That only makes it better.

I've picked up From Hell in bookshops about a bazillion times, but after the price, the main thing that has put me off from buying it was the drawing style. I found it a bit... I don't want to say scribbly, but yes I do. Having actually read it (I got it from the library, I'm not a millionaire) I now see that it's actually the perfect art style for the story. The pictures dissolve as the murders become more frenzied, and it's dark as hell but, you know, Jack the Ripper. It's supposed to be dark, or you don't really understand what happened.

It's just so comprehensive. All angles are covered, and even though nobody knows who Jack the Ripper was (obviously) I remain fully convinced that the version of events From Hell presents is the correct one. You're going to have to read it to find out exactly what that is, but I am so behind this theory I can't even. My excitement for this book was so intense that I found myself wanting to drop everything for it, leave work early and cancel all social engagements just so that I could read the damn amazing thing. All angles are covered, all tragedies explored, and there's even a glimpse of the future, for the man who brought the world into the twentieth century.

And yet. As much as I loved the book itself, I loved the extra part of this comic, right at the back, even more. This is probably just because I'm a bit of a history nerd, but this extra comic explores the history of Jack the Ripper theories. It talks about, and debunks, quite a few of the theories of who Jack was, about why Moore chose this one specifically (VERY CONVINCING) and in general, about how pointless it is to believe you can actually solve the mystery, but how very tempting it is to try. I'm pretty happy that Moore tried, and you will be too if you give this comic a read.

*Or just books, really!

Friday 27 October 2017

RIP XII Book the Fourth: Dark Tales by Shirley Jackson

I loved this book so much I want to bounce a whole lot just at the thought of it. I think I've practically read a Shirley Jackson book a year since RIP became a thing in my life, and whilst I've had some mixed results (in summary- her short stories > her longer works) I still loooove her more than almost anyone. I didn't think I could love her even more but THEN I read this book.

THIS. BOOK. As the title suggests, this is a short story collection of, you know, dark tales and MY GOD are they dark (and quite literally perfect). My best best best thing about Shirley Jackson is that she finds the darkness in the everyday, or rather takes the everyday and makes it, well, terrifying. So, with this book, you have the woman who is just hanging out with her husband one evening when she has the sudden and irresistible urge to smash him over the head with an ashtray. I won't tell you how that one ends, but Jackson brings settings that we could all easily see ourselves in, and adds thoughts or ideas that we don't want to think we're capable of, but that we probably are.

That's maybe why it's so unsettling.

This book is really all killer and no filler though. I mean for reals, I don't think I've ever ever read a short story collection where I loved every story, but Jackson has finally won that prize. Whilst I don't think that any of the stories have beaten The Lottery as my favourite (THE LOTTERY IS SO GOOD)  it's a collection that The Lottery could easily slot into because they're all so equally... nasty. But nasty in the FABULOUS sense, in that their characters are us, and they are nasty because, you know, humanity.

It's been a few weeks now since I finished the book, so whilst I can't remember all the stories exactly (me, a fine and respected blogger, take notes? What is this madness you speak of?!) I CAN remember more than I would if the collection had only been half as good. Jackson's stories tend to linger, making you feel uncomfortable and uncertain for longer than you care to admit. There is a very short story about a woman, just a normal woman, who one night has the urge to smash her husband's head in with an ashtray, and one about a 'respected townswoman' who is stirring up trouble in all of the townspeople's lives with her poisonous letters. There's one about a mysterious honeymooning couple, and one about a girl who runs away, only to find out that she really can't go home again. It's a very specific kind of horror, very rarely supernatural, but scarier than that because you know that this could really happen. Hell, it already has.

With this book, Jackson has just really surpassed everything else I've read by her. I know I have quite a limited amount of her work left to read which makes me really sad, but I'm also so happy to have discovered her, too. I read The Lottery every year (at least once a year, tbh) in the autumn, and I think this book might have to join it too. IT IS JUST SO GOOD YOU SHOULD READ IT TOO.

Tuesday 24 October 2017

RIP XII Book the Third: Good Omens by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman

Firstly, as always, a quick and teensy history of me and these authors. I have never ever read a Terry Pratchett book (I know), and whilst I love The Sandman beyond all measure, I have struggled to finish a Neil Gaiman novel. I have told people this a lot, and you know what they always say? 'Read Good Omens! You'll love it! It's a good introduction to both! You'll be able to finish that!'

Well, godfuckingdammit, you all were right. I hate it when that happens.

Good Omens, for the uninformed, is an epic battle between good and evil, only in a super English way. I spent the first, I'm not even kidding, about 300 pages, believing that the movie Dogma was based on this book until I realised it almost definitely wasn't and actually looked it up. It isn't! And from that moment I could actually read this book for itself and stop trying to work out why it wasn't following the plot of Dogma properly (where tf was Alan Rickman, you dig?)

Anyway! Digressions aside, Good Omens is really actually very good. There's a good angel and a bad angel, only sometimes its difficult to tell the difference, and I'd tell you they were the main characters only there's a giant cast of other characters who are all equally as excellent and so freaking eccentric I can't even. There's a descendent of a prophetess, a witch hunter, the four horsemen of the apocalypse (for reals), and ok it's been a long time now since I read it so I can't remember but let's just say- all the characters are so good.

And so English! Like I almost can't believe this book even sells in other countries because there are so many injokes and so many things that I think of as quintessentially English. I feel like this would normally annoy me (maybe it's why I can't read Gaiman books!) but, once I'd gotten into the story (which, I will admit, took me longer than usual, but once I was there, I was really there, you know?) I was all about identifying with this INSANE cast of characters because, for all their eccentricities, they're also my fellow countryfolk, and I just kind of get them. It felt pretty good.

And so. Believe the hype! Good Omens is a gateway drug into Pratchett and Gaiman (I may even read my first Pratchett soon!) and it's one that I'm pretty sure I'm going to read again in the not too distant future, because hey, I know what's going on in the first bit now! Huzzah! You're totally allowed to read it too, just so you know.

Saturday 21 October 2017

Dewey's 24 Hour Readathon!!!!!!!!!!!

Greetings, intrepid readathoners! It's today, it's today, it's today! I first readathoned 6 (!!!) years ago which makes me a partial veteran but nowhere near as much as some of todays participants. That readathon was my best effort (I think I got maybe 4 hours sleep?) and won't be beaten by today, but I do plan to spend The. Whole. Day. (from 1pm) reading which, honestly, is good enough for me!

I'll update on this post for ease of life, and, well, let's begin!


Hour One


1. What fine part of the world are you reading from today?
Surrey, England. I used to be able to say London but I moved in September and I'm really sad about having to say I live in Surrey again (but, that's the only part of my living situation that makes me sad, which is good!)

2. Which book in your stack are you most looking forward to?
It's probably Fresh Complaint by Jeffrey Eugenides even though it's one of the bigger books in my stack... Because, NEW EUGENIDES WHAT EVEN IS THIS LIFE?!

3. Which snack are you most looking forward to?
Ok so I never have good snacks, but today I am actually prepared so I have ALL THE PARTY FOOD. I am maybe most looking forward to Quality Street because Christmas feels, but also there are veggie sausage rolls so it's all good. 

4. Tell us a little something about yourself.
Ummm, let's see. I'm a feminist, vegetarian reading nightmare and also super awesome and cool? Or something like that, I don't know I'm pretty tired already.

5. If you participated in the last readathon, what's one thing you'll do different today?
Not the last readathon, but previous ones, and I think I've already mentioned it- BETTER AND MORE SNACKKKKKS!

I'm off now to (finish) reading The Night Watch by Sarah Waters, brb YAY READATHON

Hour 6

Oh heyyyyy I'm here and I am not dead! Yes! I've been reading but maybe not as much as I had anticipated cause my boyfriend has the weekend off which almost never happens so obviously he needs like... 20% of my attention? Maybe less, if he's being annoying.

ANYWAY. I haven't finished a book yet but I've had fun spending the majority of my afternoon reading, so what more can I ask for? Exactly.

Books Finished: 0
Pages Read: 182 (SHOCKING I KNOW)
Snacks consumed: I ate a lot of crisps, basically for my lunch, but my favourite snack has been a cupcake THAT MY BOYFRIEND MADE UNSUPERVISED. I'm pretty proud, I can't lie.
Communication: Basically none with the internet... Sadface. I think I'm having a bit of a quiet readathon this time, chicks and dudes.

Hour 9

I FINISHED A BOOK and then two more because comic books are magical and I have had Paper Girls 1 & 2 out of the library for too long. I have decided to do the 10 books in 10 years thingy, not just because the prize is excellent, but just because it's fun choosing books and stuff. I basically never read books in the year they are published, so it will be genuinely interesting to me to see what books go with each year (relying heavily on google for this) and which one from each year I like the best! So:

2007: Heart Shaped Box by Joe Hill
2008: What I Talk About When I Talk About Running by Haruki Murakami
2009: Columbine by Dave Cullen
2010: A Visit From The Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan
2011: 11/22/63 by Stephen King
2012: Tell The Wolves I'm Home by Carla Rifka Brunt (honourable mention to Wild THIS WAS A GOOD YEAR)
2013: Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell
2014: The Silkworm by Robert Galbraith
2015: Finders Keepers by Stephen King
2016: The Fireman by Joe Hill
2017: Gwendy's Button Box by Stephen King and Richard Chizmar

Ok so fully half of this list was formed of the King family, but what can I say, they write good books? Also as I suspected, there were years where I struggled to find a book I had actually read (and I didn't want to go through the ENTIRE Goodreads list...) so ehhhh what can you do? Also, this was fun! Now howsabout some stats?

Books Finished: 3! What a turnaround!
Pages Read: 504
Snacks consumed: veggie sausage rolls, southern fried 'chicken' bites, mozzarella sticks and really nasty mini onion rings. There is nothing like health going on in my flat today.
Communication: I did two instagram posts and I posted my last update on twitter. That counts as communicating, right?

Hour 10

What is this? Two updates in two hours? As far as I'm concerned, that can only mean one thing- I'm going to beddddddd! No longer the hardcore readathoner, I do actually get all the sleeps now during the readathon, but since I've just started reading Jeffrey! Eugenides! Short! Stories! I will for sure be back in the morning. All the UK people reading through the night- shine on you crazy diamonds, and all you Americans/Canadians/South Americans etc for whom it is now daytime, damn you are lucky, and keep keep going! I'll catch you in 8 hours (loljk I don't sleep that long basically ever)

Books Finished: 3
Pages Read: 540
Snacks consumed: Nah, it's just too late. Or too near bedtime, I should say.
Communication: Nah, and even my fella's asleep now. Definitely time to sleep, ya know?

Friday 20 October 2017

RIP XII Book The Second: The Fireman by Joe Hill

Ah, Joe Hill. I've been enjoying his books for quite a while now, but I feel like for the very first time, The Fireman has made me stop thinking of Joe Hill as 'Stephen King's son', and just as Joe Hill. I don't think I've been unfair in such a judgement, but whereas in his other books I've been casually looking out for Stephen King similarities, The Fireman is so good that I was too busy being excited about it to care even the tiniest bit about its author, or, I guess, its author's familial relationships.

This book though. OMG. Full disclosure: I started this book ages and ages and ages ago (honestly its so long ago I can't even remember when) and, because I have it on kindle and am an idiot, I stopped reading and just didn't start again. This, as I'm sure you can tell, was a big mistake, but also means that I only have the vaguest memories of the very early chapters of the book so don't ask me any questions please. Let's all pretend I am the fountain of all knowledge here, yeah?

So. The Fireman is sort of an end of the world book, except that it's more of an 'the end of the world doesn't have to be the end of the world' book. A disturbing disease called Dragonscale is running wild, and people are bursting into flames all over the (country? World? I think world) and it's all very upsetting. Our very very very excellent heroine is Harper, a former school nurse who is now a special Dragonscale nurse who finds out she is both pregnant and infected with Dragonscale at about the same time (like I say, very hazy beginnings...) We basically follow Harper through this scared new world and into a disturbing and AMAZING and tense story and omg it's so good.

As always, I never know how much to share and how much information turns interesting stuff into spoilers. Here's what I do know:

  • There are set pieces in this book that are too perfect for words. I'm talking setting up scenes and tension, executing plans, things going wrong and weird and bad but sometimes good, but also keeping the thread of what's happening better than this sentence is. There's a part where Hill practically apologises because the following description isn't going to be adequate enough, and the following description turns out to be so much more than adequate. This kid's got talent, ya know?
  • HARPER IS THE BEST. There's some really interesting stuff between Harper and her husband and kind of dormant violence against women and what that can turn into when given the opportunity, but Harper by herself is strong and capable and *whispers* exactly the kind of heroine that King is sometimes lacking. I LOVE HER and yes.
  • The ending! It was so unexpected (to me, anyway) and obviously I'm not going to tell you about it but OMG that ending. I just... Yes. Yes. So much yes.
And look! A whole review where I've revealed literally nothing about the book. As always. There's almost nothing I didn't like about the book, except for a romantic storyline that did pretty much nothing for me, but hey, I still wanted it to be there? Regardless, this book is incredibly thrilling, shocking, and so well crafted that I can't even with it. I give you my full and complete permission to read it, do it, do it nowwwww!

Sunday 1 October 2017

Things I Read In September

Oh man. Let me tell you, everyone, moving to somewhere you have to get the bus both ways to work does actual wonders for your reading levels. I feel like I've hardly read at home (this is not entirely true) but I still managed to read a hefty 10 books in September- more than any other month this year, and not one of them was a comic book!*

That being said, I'm still going to try and keep this monthly reads post short because MANY of the books were RIP reads and I'm trying to review them... Since this is me, we'll see how well that goes. But still here are the books (mostly- hey guess who read a couple of digital books this month!):

Here's what they were like:

White Teeth by Zadie Smith
In the interests of full disclosure, I read most of White Teeth in August, but it's still the first book I finished in my new home! It was interesting- there's a lot in it about race and British society and all sorts of twin things (I like twin things...) but for me it didn't quite come together as nicely as it should have, although it does come full circle rather exquisitely. I didn't hate it at all, I just wasn't in love with it as much as with, say, On Beauty.

End of Watch by Stephen King
As you may have seen, I'm all up to date with Stephen King reviews! (this is both a yay, and a boo). You can find the review of this one here, but let's just say that this is just an excellent detective story and I really couldn't get enough of this trilogy. I mean, you gotta read them all, but this one was especially excellent because you get some supernatural King as well as the thriller-y stuff.

The Talented Mr Ripley by Patricia Highsmith
Oh hey, another book I've reviewed already! THIS WAS SO GOOD, you have my infinite recommendation and you can talk with me for hours about how intricate and also just fucking thrilling it is, ya know?

Undermajordomo Minor by Patrick Dewitt
Patrick Dewitt is, of course, the genius behind The Sisters Brothers, so it is frankly shocking that it has taken me so long to read Undermajordomo Minor. A couple of things put me off- in a minor (haha) way the title did cause wtf does that mean, but if I'm being honest, it's mainly that it was trapped in my Kindle app and can I read digital books? I cannot. HOWEVER. I took my iPad on a train with me with the intention of reading The Fireman but it wasn't downloaded and no wifi and yadayadayada. I hadn't bought another book with me to literally force myself to read on my iPad, and so this is the book I chose.

TL;DR, Undermajordomo Minor is great. It's like a really fucked up fairytale where places are left purposely vague and where very strange things are happening. Thieves are kind of heroes and Dukes are crazy and Undermajordomo is a made up title for Mr Minor's job and that is where the title of the book comes from. I say it's a fucked up fairytale, and it's kind of part that, and partly a drawn out version of The Aristocrats (the joke, not the disney film with cats). I liked it a lot and it got me through a train journey and its return so what more can you ask for, really?

The Fireman by Joe Hill
I finally did download The Fireman onto my iPad (I did have one terrible and dark day where the battery died and I had to read it on my phone though) and it is SO FUCKING GOOD. I started reading it ages and ages ago but stopped because iPad (are you sensing a theme here?) but it is so fabulous I can't even. I want to fully review this because RIP read, but there is so much drama and terror and end of the world stuff and even the ending is so amazing and I just can't even. I could barely stop reading it to get off the bus and get to work, and not just because I hate my job at the moment.

Gwendy's Button Box by Stephen King and Richard Chizmar
Hey, I already reviewed this too! I really can't recommend it enough- it's a teensy story but contains so much, and it turned out to be so different from how I imagined it to be. A++

Amrita by Banana Yoshimoto 
I love Banana Yoshimoto so much. Amrita is, I believe, her only full length novel (and in the afterword she implies that she'll probably never write another) and even though it's good and I liked it, you can definitely tell that it's one of her earlier works. What I mean by this is that, it has many of the hallmarks of her earlier work, with its dreamlike qualities (and actual weird dreams) and mystical things happening alongside everyday events, but it feels in parts too drawn out, and almost like it should have ended already. Had each of the ideas she goes with in the novel been presented in a different short story, it probably would have been a better book, but at the same time, I'm never really bored or disappointed reading her work because the writing is just too good. So, an inconclusive shrug, I guess, but I still lean towards liking it rather than not.

Good Omens by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett
Ah, so many books to review, so little time. THIS IS PRETTY AWESOME, just like everyone's been telling me for years. It's just such a British look at the end of the world and I liked it a lot and I'm also going to try and write a full review of it so watch this space.

Horrorstor by Grady Hendrix
Hey, this is that horror story about Ikea that everyone read about three years ago, look at me I just read it! (in case you're counting, this is easily my fourth RIP read, but I'm probably not going to review this one fully so does it count? Of course!) I feel like most people were underwhelmed by this but I actually really enjoyed it- it creeped me out just enough to feel sort of uneasy on the bus, and I liked the underlying horror and the backstory to the reason for the horror. I liked just about all of it, actually, and the end just leaves me free to imagine well, of sorts of different possible endings, all more grisly than the rest. It's pretty good, and if you're one of the few people who still hasn't read it, I am totally giving you permission to.

The Beauty Myth by Naomi Wolf
Maaaaan, this book. This fucking book. This fucking book deserves its very own review but I doubt I'll have time to write one, so let me try to be awed but brief. This book was written in the 80s but is equally, but probably more relevant now. It's depressing that this is the case, but there you go. Wolf writes about how women are made to feel bad because of how they look, and constantly told that they are less than, that they are defective in some way, that they need surgical correction, and they need to be thinner and they need to do all sorts of things to make them acceptable to the world. Wolf suggests that all of this, all of this pernicious and horrible propaganda is all manufactured so that women are kept distracted by their appearance, are kept poorer to maintain their appearance, are left weakened and tired and hungry by trying to reach an 'acceptable' weight, and this is all a trick and a way of keeping us distracted and too tired to deal with the real problems at hand (you know, men) (ok, fine, the patriarchy).

I feel like I'm probably one of the people who least needed to read this book (I'm pretty chubby and I don't wear makeup and I still think I'm a divine creature) but SO MANY PEOPLE DO, and not just women, to be honest. Basically, embrace yourselves ladies, you are already beautiful and divine and you deserve to be whatever you want to be. And if you don't believe me, read this book.

BOOM that wasn't really short, was it? Many sorries. But hey, I read a lot of books and basically all of them were good so yay reading! Who knows what joy there is to come in October...

*Not that comic books are bad, OF COURSE, just that they don't take long to read**, you know how it is.
**Except Watchmen. Hey, you should read Watchmen.