Tuesday 30 October 2018

RIP XIII Book The Third: Strange Weather by Joe Hill

It's disturbing to me that one family can create two such excellent writers of scary shit. I think I've said in every Joe Hill review so far, 'I don't want to compare Joe Hill to his dad but hey did you know that his dad is Stephen King?' and now we've got that out of the way, let's talk about this book.

I believe this is Joe Hill's first collection of novellas, and my GOD it is a length that he excels at. This book is fairly large, but I read most of it in a day because I literally couldn't stop. At the end of each novella, I felt like I should stop reading and do something productive or something, but I also didn't want to, so I didn't. These stories are so engaging and excellent and I literally couldn't get enough of them, and had they all been novel length that would have been wonderful. 

Let's discuss each novella individually:

As the title suggests, this story is about a creepy ass camera which I can't really talk about because it's a spoiler, but just believe me when I tell you that it does bad things. Our hero is a young boy who watches the bad things happen and eventually takes on the villain with the camera, and the story is especially good for the fact that he's recounting this as an adult. This novella was particularly scary in a human way, because the subtext of it is dementia and the way that as people forget themselves, they themselves are also forgotten. This made it surprisingly moving, as well as chilling as heck.

This story started with gun crime and then became bonkers awful and terrifying. It's kind of the classic story of a man committing one crime and then having to continue committing more crimes to cover his tracks, but it's probably a lot more horrible than you're thinking. There are some not veiled at all messages about gun control in this story (love you, Joe Hill) and the fact that it's all real world with nothing supernatural makes it a lot more upsetting than it might otherwise be. It's horrid and scary and makes you feel like the world is fucked because this is real life (you know, kinda)

This story was weeeeird. It was probably my least favourite of the collection (because it was weeeeird! But not in a good way) but because this collection is so good, it was obviously still pretty decent. It starts pretty innocuously, with a group of people in a plane, getting ready to skydive out in memory of their friend/sister who has just died of cancer. Our hero, who is only there to impress the girl he loves, is in the process of chickening out when he is forced to jump, and he lands on a solid cloud. His time on the cloud serves as a learning and growing experience and for me the most interesting parts were his memories of his time on earth as opposed to his (seriously weird) experiences on the cloud. Interesting, but strange, but interesting... But still not my favourite.

THIS WAS THE BEST ONE. Ahem. But seriously. This novella is an apocalyptic dystopia, aka the best kind, aka my absolute favourite jam. Our story starts tragically, with a load of the population dying in a rainstorm of needles because rain has turned to rock (essentially) in the clouds. This is made especially sad because the first rainstorm happens on the day that our heroine's girlfriend is meant to be moving in with her, and so she watches her and her mother die in the storm. From then onwards, everything gets grimmer and grimmer, more and more people die and our heroine goes on a pilgrimage to tell her father in law (ish) that his wife and daughter are dead. GRIM right? It's also, delightfully, a detective story of sorts - who has done this to the clouds, and who has the power to stop it? It's a fabulous end to a fabulous collection of stories.

So, seriously. This book is great and you should definitely read it and everything in the world will be good but also, so horrible. It's confusing, yes.

Sunday 28 October 2018

Sunday Sundries

Well hello there, good folk of this little blog, and happy Sunday greetings to you!

I say happy, when actually what I mean is WAH the clocks have gone back and it has been dark since 5pm and I know I got one hour extra of sleep but what kind of price is that to pay, really?! I guess, however, it means I have time for the oft-neglected, never-requested Sunday Sundries post, so we're all winners really, right?

I am mainly writing this to procrastinate from writing the posts that I optimistically lined up the last time I had a burst of blog energy, but I also want to write at least some of those tonight because I am DETERMINED to tackle NaNoWriMo this year and WIN and write my second novel before I'm 30 (please don't ask to see my first novel, which I wrote during 2012 NaNoWriMo and which I'm too embarrassed to read back through). As you can see, I'm a pro at writing giant sentences, and isn't that what novels are really all about anyway? (No.)

Let's see, what else. I've recently removed the facebook and instagram apps from my phone (weirdly not twitter, which I can only explain through pointing out that I'd already reduced my usage of that quite a lot in recent years) for reasons which will be explained in a future blog post. The plan, if there was a plan, for this was to try and make me more productive, less reliant on my phone for entertainment and more focused on the world around me, and if it's been successful for the latter than it has not so much for the former. However, I would say that I use the HOURS (honestly, hours) of life I've clawed back from them for extra reading (yay), TV watching (less yay, but it's focused watching, and of things I actually want to see, so yay again) and more sleeping, so I guess that's healthy? The extra sleep part has definitely made me feel more prepared to face the day, and I think all of this will be good practice for buckling down during NaNoWriMo so it is all good stuff, I guess!

I had many plans this weekend that involved a lot of time spent outdoors, but since both my boyfriend and best friend are ill (unrelated... OR IS IT [yes]) these did not happen and... I'm pretty ok with the amount of time I've spent indoors being cosy, I'm not going to lie. I've baked flapjacks and read books and watched a load of videos about Pokemon Go on youtube because that's just the nerdy thing I'm doing these days. I actually did get a fair amount of outdoors time because of Pokemon Go too, so I guess at least my chronic nerd disorder is making me exercise in the fresh air, you know? DO YOU PLAY POKEMON GO if yes please add me cause I need friends and gifts and all that good stuff.

This coming week, then - I actually have a disturbing number of plans after work (three!) and I am avoiding halloween by hanging out with my parents. Thursday marks the start of NaNoWriMo so I guess I will start writing things, although two out of my three plans are on Thursday and Friday so I might not really get started until Saturday - which is fine!

But enough about me- what have YOU been up to this week, and how are you avoiding halloween? Enquiring minds want to know.

Thursday 18 October 2018

RIP XIII Book the Second - Strangers on a Train by Patricia Highsmith

Ah, Patricia Highsmith. Having finally read The Talented Mr Ripley last year, Patricia (may I call her Patty?) has started to become a staple of the glorious RIP reading season. I say this, of course, having read Strangers on a Train because OMG have you read this book? It's like a masterclass in suspense, and I honestly felt slightly uncomfortable and stressed out the whole time I was reading this book, even when I wasn't actually reading it.

10/10 great holiday read, am I right?

No. But it is the perfect RIP read, and let's explore why. I think, if pop culture has any kind of effect on your life, you probably know the very basic plot of Strangers on a Train. My introduction to the basic plot was via Diagnosis Murder (it's amazing, come fight me), where a madman murders the woman who is making the fine, upstanding Dr Mark Sloan's life a misery, and then expects him to do a murder for him in return. Dr Mark Sloan, of course, being the fine upstanding man that he is, doesn't, which as I understood it is not what happens in this book.

I was right, but I was also kinda wrong, as well. I thought that Strangers on a Train involved the meeting of two men who genuinely want difficult people out of their lives and they agree together to make that a reality. Actually, the beginning of this book is a lot more like Diagnosis Murder (I know, I'll stop soon) than I had expected - Guy is an upstanding young man whose ex-wife is causing him problems, but once his mildly psychopathic seatmate Bruno suggests that he murders her in return for Guy murdering his father, he is half horrified, half in disbelief. It doesn't even occur to him that Bruno is being serious, and he doesn't consent at all to the plan. AT ALL.* Are you listening, Bruno?

Anyway, things happen, people do murders, it's all bad. What's so great about this book is that you're kind of getting two experiences in one. When the book is following Bruno, it's all frenetic, wild, a man constantly plotting and trying to bend the world to his will and, really throughout the whole book, a man falling apart at the seams. He is broken from the beginning, and he only degenerates from there. Guy, on the other hand, is an upstanding, well, guy. He is progressing in his career, he has Anne, who loves him, he has friends and family and a whole life that is more or less perfect, or at least getting there. What we get when we follow Guy, then, is a person trying to hold all of this together, and hold himself together, when there is quite literally a madman pursuing him at every turn. I don't mean to say that Guy is blameless, and I don't think the novel wants you to feel that either, but he is still a victim of Bruno as much as the other characters, and it's just more interesting to see his degeneration than to watch Bruno's depravity.

This book, then, might not be exactly what you're expecting, but you for sure won't regret reading it. Suspense and nervousness and all of that good stuff await you, gentle reader - just watch who you sit next to the next time you're on a train...

*I have only read the book and I'm super aware that this could be played different in the movie and I want to see that! But this is how I read the book.

Monday 15 October 2018

RIP XIII Book the First - It by Stephen King

I do believe that this is the first time ever on this blog that I have granted a second review to a book, and it seems fitting that It is the recipient. It (whilst incredibly frustrating to write about because of the number of times you end up saying It) is my absolute favourite Stephen King novel, and also the one that scares me the most. Having looked back at my last review (or, should that be 'review'), I can see that I had already read it so many times that I can't talk about this book in terms of the narrative anymore, so much as a collection of moments that I have thought about so much that the characters are almost real to me, and as a story that I know so well, and yet read in a different way every time.

This book is also full of memories of reading this book. I can remember my first read at 15, and reading it in my mum's car at some garden centre, refusing to leave until I'd finished the chapter. I can remember reading it one endless summer in my nan and grandad's back garden, bittersweet because I can't do that anymore. I can remember reading it too late, then getting up the stairs at my mum and dad's house as quickly as I could, and brushing my teeth as far away from the sink as I could because, well, there's this thing with the drains...

Reading it this time, nearly 30, I found, for the first time, that I am finally starting to relate more to the adults than the children. I KNOW. There are a lot of themes in this book that deal with losing ones childhood, and I think that's a feeling that overwhelms all of us at one point or another. I am (finally, some might say!) starting to feel like a grown up to a certain extent, and whilst that's scary in a big life decision way, it's also scary in that, I don't want to lose my childlike glee with the world in the process.

Or something. Where were we?

It. Right. Books. I mean, It is fucking scary. It's become sort of incomprehensible in my brain that anyone hasn't read It because it is my everything and has, I guess, been a part of my life for pretty much half of my life, but that is a stupid thought and of course everyone hasn't read it. You should read it, of course, as long as you can cope with a newfound fear of clowns and feeling very uneasy around drains, but also probably even if you can't. It's definitely on the long side, even for King, but unlike something like, say, The Stand, in my opinion every single part of it is necessary and important and I wouldn't be without any of it. It is fucking disgusting as well, of course, but it's just such a good book, you guys.

Ummm... Also, spooky spooky, tremble tremble. Here endeth my RIP book the first. Or something, IDK just read It because how can you not? Exactly.

Monday 1 October 2018

Things I Read in September

October! It's here! I'm not completely sure what my exclamation points are doing there, since tomorrow sunrise will be after I leave the house to get the bus to work (WAIL), but, you know, autumn is pretty plus it's too cold to be outside much so I'll simply have to stay inside and read a lot! Such a trial.

September was somewhat of a mixed bag, to say the least! I started a new role at work because apparently that's just what I'm doing this year, so I felt somewhat out of my comfort zone for basically the whole month (which, especially for me, is not necessarily a bad thing, but it feels sorta bad). What also didn't help is that I actually haven't worked a full week in my new department yet, due to my boyfriend's dentistry work, working an event for my old department, and (nearly) a week's leave so October is the time to consolidate myself in my new role, I guess!

My (nearly) week off though! I returned to the Cat Cafe with my mama and fella, went on a super impromptu trip to IKEA, went away for a couple of days to the seaside and went to a teeny zoo in a gorgeous park - yes it was great and yes it was exhausting somehow! It was a trial to go back to work today, but it was actually an ok first day back so yay for that.

Anyway! Enough about me, let's talk about books books books! I feel like I didn't read as much as I could have last month, but I did (re)read an enormous Stephen King so what can you do? Read more, that's what!
Firstly, I know my photos are never exactly top notch, but this one is especially Not Good and I am sorry. Books tho! Let's discuss.

Vinegar Girl by Anne Tyler
I love Shakespeare, I love Anne Tyler, I do not love The Taming of the Shrew, which this book re-tells. I liked this book a lot more than The Taming of the Shrew, but that's not really saying much, and it's my least favourite of Tyler's books that I've read so far. I guess that I found it a little far fetched, which I think you sometimes have to do when modernising Shakespeare, but I didn't really buy the family set up, or the meals, or the fact that a woman would marry a man just because her dad wants her to so he can stay in the country and work for him! Still, it wasn't a terrible way to spend an afternoon, I just don't need to read it again or anything.

The Missing Girl by Shirley Jackson
I should really review this properly as a RIP read, but it's sooooo teeny I'm going to do it here. This was, of course, fabulous - three short stories by Shirley Jackson quite literally can't be bad, and these certainly were not. The one that sticks in my brain most is the last one - a really quite disturbing (of course) story about a woman who is just going about her daily business but gets caught up in a weird game that she never agreed to be a part of. It's really unsettling, and just so incredibly good.

The World is Full of Foolish Men by Jean De La Fontaine
I picked this up at the end of the minithon when I was too tired to cope anymore, and it. Was. Weird. As far as I can tell, it's pretty much Aesop's Fables in poem form (which they may well have been in originally, I... have not read Aesop's Fables) and translated from the French to English, and that is not what I was expecting it to be at all. It wasn't bad, it's Aesop's Fables, but it was confusing and I was tired. Helpful, huh?

Bitch Planet Vols 1 & 2 by Kelly Sue De Connick et al
I bought Volume 2 of Bitch Planet ages ago, and I finally finally managed to read it this month. I had to re-read Volume 1 again first because I had completely forgotten all of it, but once I'd done that, I was off and running. I literally can't tell you anything about either of them now, but they're fabulous, I can tell you that - really smart and clever and infuriating and funny and ugh so good. It's SO good, in fact, that I immediately looked to see when the next volume will be out and was horrified to realise I've now read all of the Bitch Planet there is. Does anyone know if there's more coming, and more importantly, can you please buy this so that we can ensure there is?!

Made in America by Bill Bryson
I feel like I was reading this book forever because I had to read it very slowly on the bus to make sure I didn't read any important info. Important info, incidentally, is what this book is full of - as the name implies, it's a history of America, combined with a history of the English language in America - what it started with, what it borrowed, and where a whole multitude of words came from. It's packed full of interesting facts, and what it's missing in Bryson sass (I think this is one of his older books, where he was maybe a little bit too shy to bring out the attitude) it makes up for in pure pure knowledge. It's good stuff.

It by Stephen King
This was fully a re-read even since I started blogging (a rarity, believe me) and even so I want to talk about it in a separate review because, well, RIP needs my attention and I have been negligent. But, I mean, it's It. It's my favourite Stephen King book, and Stephen King is my favourite so how could anything be bad?

Strangers on a Train by Patricia Highsmith
Another RIP book so a review is up and coming! You know, at some point. Let's just say that I was very stressed at all times whilst reading this, and the TENSION is all there and Highsmith is a fucking master of everything. Very good stuff.

September! I read books! Apparently only 3 novels, but books nonetheless! Now let us see what gifts October has to bring...