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‘Fellowship of Ink’ Paul Magrs

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Brenda is back! It’s the 1930s, and Brenda (of Brenda and Effie fame!) finds herself in the old, medieval university town of Darkholmes in the North of England. She’s a housemaid, and teams up with fictionalised versions of CS Lewis and JRR Tolkien, who are conjuring up monsters from other dimensions through their writings. Together, they battle demons and solve strange mysteries.

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I’ve been in something of a reading slump these past two weeks and, as a result, it has taken me a rather long time to read this novel comprised of a mere 312 pages.

As is the case with most books, it was the cover of Fellowship of Ink that reeled me in initially. The rainbow colours, the sparkles, the dramatic tag line, the endorsement…combined, they promised a fun-filled, fantastical adventure, all from the comfort of my chair.

Now, I’m going to be honest, I have mixed feelings about this book and after some investigation (a rich term for having a quick Google), I discovered that Fellowship of Ink is a prequel to another series that features Brenda, the Tylers’ housemaid. I’m not sure if the fact that I haven’t read these other books has had an effect upon my enjoyment of this book, but I just found I couldn’t really immerse myself in the story.

Sure, there is a wide array of colourful characters populating this book and the way in which these characters interact with one another is fantastic. The dialogue between them is witty and fast paced and makes for some amusing scenes, particularly those involving Henry Cleavis. Each of the characters is well-rounded and unique and unlike any character I have ever come across elsewhere in fiction. They’re what make this novel so fresh and innovative.

I like the idea behind Fellowship of Ink; the idea that writing can wear thin the walls between the realms. I mean, who hasn’t, at one point or another, wanted to enter an alternate or fictional universe? I think that idea alone speaks to a small spark of hope residing within all of us.

However (god, how I hate that word sometimes), while the story is fast paced and exciting in places, I found it quite difficult to follow. As I said, perhaps this is simply because it’s a fictional universe that I’m unfamiliar with and I realised that this might be the case when I didn’t understand the ending of the book. I felt like I was missing something crucial and I think it might have been because I haven’t read Brenda’s series. If it’s a prequel, though, should a reader be left feeling like this? I don’t know, this is a situation I’ve never faced before as a book blogger.

Furthermore, from an editorial perspective, there are so many errors within Fellowship of Ink. There are multiple typos scattered among the pages, characters become other characters on more than one occasion and Brenda is referred to as ‘Bessie’ twice on page 300. As a writer, I understand editing is difficult but this is a book published by a professional publishing house. Books (I assume anyway) are supposed to be subjected to proofreading and multiple edits before being published.  Truth be told, I’ve never read a book with so many errors and it really pulled me out of the story every time I encountered one.

Rating: 3 out of 5

Song: Iron Maiden’s Stranger in a Strange Land 

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This book is available on Amazon in e-book and paperback format.

‘Psycho’ Robert Bloch: GUEST REVIEW

It’s always lovely to play host to fellow writers, bloggers and bookworms here at I swoon over fictional men HQ and today I’m delighted to welcome Chauncey Rogers, who has written a review for Psycho. 

I recently reviewed Chauncey’s incredible book, Home To Roost (you can check out my review here) so it’s an honour to be able to share his thoughts on my blog today.

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Norman Bates loves his Mother. She has been dead for the past twenty years, or so people think. Norman knows better though. He has lived with Mother ever since leaving the hospital in the old house up on the hill above the Bates motel. One night Norman spies on a beautiful woman that checks into the hotel as she undresses. Norman can’t help but spy on her. Mother is there though. She is there to protect Norman from his filthy thoughts. She is there to protect him with her butcher knife.

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First off, thanks Jazz for letting me post my review here. You’ve been great, your reviews have been great, and it’s nice to get to add something to I Swoon Over Fictional Men.

Second, I’ve never seen the film adaptation of Psycho. Sorry Alfred Hitchcock! I’m sure it’s amazing, though. On that same note, I haven’t seen any of the Bates Motel series, either.

Third, if the grammatical ambiguities in the book’s blurb bothered you, then know that I’m right there with you. However, take comfort from the fact that there are no such issues in the novel itself.

And now, on to the review!

Psycho was perfectly enjoyable. Robert Bloch’s writing is very smooth and fast. That, taken with the fact that this is a short novel at just over 50,000 words, makes it read very much like watching a movie–or, rather, watching the movie. Hitchcock even said, “Psycho all came from Robert Bloch’s book.”

And really, I feel like that might be review enough. Alfred Hitchcock, the man known as “The Master of Suspense,” liked the book so much that his film adaptation is almost a scene-for-scene remake of the book. (And how would I know this, seeing as I haven’t seen the movie? I don’t. But that’s what other reviewers have said, and, given the feel and pacing of the novel itself, I believe them.)

For those who are big on the film, know that there are some differences: Norman Bates’s appearance, one of the character’s names, and the specific manner of one character’s death–and I do mean specific.

Now, I really did enjoy this book. However, I could imagine somebody who is a much harsher critic saying some of the following things:

1. The plot was predictable. (Probably not really true. More likely, this book just made such a splash when it first came out in 1959 that we’ve all encountered spoilers for the plot before.)

2. Characters were stereotypes. (This sentiment may be valid–the Private Investigator, for example, wears a fedora and smokes a bunch.)

3. There isn’t enough gore. (Anyone who whines about this last one really misunderstands the mentality and motivation of the story’s killer. They’re just wrong. Also, they’re forgetting that this book debuted in 1959.)

It’s a quick, smooth read, with a film (two, actually) and television series to its credit. It also starts off with a textbook McGuffin, for anyone excited by that term, and was inspired by the true story of the murderer Ed Gein, though I wouldn’t recommend reading up on him until after you’ve read Psycho.

If you like the movie Psycho and are wanting a bit more depth to appreciate, you should read the novel. If you’re watching Bates Motel, the same applies. If you like thrillers and haven’t read Psycho, you should. If you’re wondering whether or not you like thrillers, give Psycho a try and find out. You might like it.

Rating: 4 out of 5. (I would give it 5/5, but I factor in cost on Amazon, and they just bumped up the kindle price from around $5, which is what I bought it at, to closer to $10. Still good, but the price seems steep for being a shorter book.)

Song: The Avalanches’s “Frontier Psychiatrist

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This book is available on Amazon in both paperback and ebook format.

 

About Chauncey

 

Chauncey Rogers has been reading and writing since before he knew how to do either–he carried around a copy of Michael Crichton’s Jurassic Park until he could read it, a labor that lasted from the first grade through the third grade; and was known to write and illustrate lengthy, illegible stories about dragons and dinosaurs. After a two-year ministry service in Los Angeles, he attended and graduated from Brigham Young University with degrees in linguistics, history education, TESOL, and editing. While there, he met, fell in love with, and married his dream girl. After realizing that now was as good a time as any to chase a dream, Chauncey and his wife decided to pursue writing professionally.
His debut novel, Home To Roost, was released in March 2017. His second novel, Cleaving Souls, will be released this summer.
He has two children and a pet sheep. The sheep annoys him very much. The children, less.

Jazz’s interrogation 

What do you look for in a book?
Writing is predominant. I don’t care how good your plot, if the story is poorly told, I will not read it. After that, I want a story to move me, or give me something to think about. Genre does not matter as much to me, but the book must be reasonably family friendly.

Why do you read?
For entertainment, and to develop my own sense of good writing and writing style. I’ve often found what I read reflected in what I write.

If you could visit any fictional world, which would you visit and why?
If my resources were limited, Middle Earth. I’d love to see the Shire, Rivendell, and the Woodland Realm. Unfortunately, as a human I would belong better in Bree, Rohan, Gondor, or Laketown.
If I had more resources, I’d love to travel the Star Wars galaxy in my own ship, with the obligatory alien and droid sidekicks.

Buy your copy of Home To Roost today and be sure to check out Chauncey’s website!

 

‘Flowers for Algernon’ Daniel Keyes

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The classic novel about a daring experiment in human intelligence Charlie Gordon, IQ 68, is a floor sweeper and the gentle butt of everyone’s jokes – until an experiment in the enhancement of human intelligence turns him into a genius. But then Algernon, the mouse whose triumphal experimental transformation preceded his, fades and dies, and Charlie has to face the possibility that his salvation was only temporary.

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Y’know, I’m ever so slightly concerned that the list creatively entitled ‘Jazz’s Top Reads of 2017’ is filled with books I wouldn’t have even considered reading if it hadn’t been for the recommendations of friends. Flowers for Algernon is one such book. It’s a relatively short novel, totaling a mere 216 pages, but, man, do those pages pack a punch! Flowers for Algernon is a book that has a number of important ideas lacing its words and these ideas are still relevant today, 58 years later (see, I can math!), making it something I recommend to all readers, regardless of preferred genre.

Flowers for Algernon is written from a first person perspective and our narrator is Charlie Gordon, a young man who chronicles his experiences through a written progress report which we, the readers, are reading. I found this method of narration extremely effective for a number of reasons. Firstly, the first few progress reports are written in a way that makes you truly feel as though you are reading the report entries of a man with an IQ of 68. The spelling is often incorrect, there’s no grammar and it’s difficult to understand. The latter point especially conveys the difficulties Charlie initially has with communicating with those around him and, as a result, a reader’s sympathy is immediately evoked. Furthermore, following Charlie’s operation, we see the quality of writing improving and it creates this sense that you and Charlie are one and the same almost, experiencing this often traumatic journey side-by-side and in real time. For me, this meant I connected to Charlie and this is what made it such an engaging and emotive read for me.

I found Flowers for Algernon to be an interesting exploration into the way in which people with mental and learning disabilities are treated in society. We need only look to recent cases of discrimination – such as a 2016 case in which a dyslexic Starbucks employee was left feeling suicidal after being given lesser duties due to difficulties with reading and writing – to see that this is still very much a problem in modern day society. Charlie is frequently talked about as though he’s just the result of an experiment and wasn’t a person in and of himself prior to his operation. He’s mocked, he’s patronised and often faced physical abuse as a child simply for being who he was. Why is Charlie treated like this when he’s a person with an IQ of 68, yet not when he’s a so-called ‘genius’? Can a person’s ill treatment be justified by their apparently low intelligence? No, of course not. Such treatment is immoral and inhumane and Flowers for Algernon seeks to make readers understand that. Each and every one of us is a person, regardless of our intelligence or ability.

Before his operation, Charlie is beyond excited to become smart and to be able to read and write like other people. This excitement makes later scenes all the more heartbreaking. Charlie truly believes he’ll be happier when he’s academically intelligent and the truth is, he’s simply not. At the beginning of the novel, although he has a low IQ, Charlie is kind, gentle and friendly to all he meets. After the operation, he becomes something other, something other than CharlieHe loses himself in the process and Charlie’s experience serves as a lesson to us all; sometimes – not all the time, admittedly – we don’t see what we have until we don’t have it anymore.

Flowers for Algernon is heartbreakingly beautiful and, as I said at the beginning of this review, has found its way onto my top reads of 2017 list.

Rating: 5 out of 5

Song: Keaton Henson’s You don’t know how lucky you are (get the tissues ready, guys)

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This book is available on Amazon in both e-reader and paperback format.

‘Neon Soul’ Alexandra Elle

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Alexandra Elle writes frankly about her experience as a young, single mother while she celebrates her triumph over adversity and promotes resilience and self-care in her readers. This book of all-new poems from the beloved author of Words From A Wanderer and Love In My Language is a quotable complement to her beautiful blog and Instagram account.

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So, I had some massive issues when it came to choosing my favourite poem from this wonderful collection…ahem, see below.

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And do you why? Well, the answer is simple; this is the best poetry collection I’ve read in a while. I saw it in my local bookstore last month but as it was nearing the end of the month, I figured it wise to treat myself to it after pay day. You know how it is. I left the bookstore and in the weeks that followed, I did many things and through it all, Neon Soul remained lodged in my mind. I had to read it!

Neon Soul outshines its contemporaries for many reasons and one of these reasons is the positivity and hope that runs like an unbreakable thread throughout the entirety of its 160 pages. As a poet myself, I know that a lot of poems are born out of hurt and heartache and while these two emotions are most definitely present within Neon Soul, it’s a unique collection in the sense that it addresses the fact that there is life after the events that cause these more negative emotions to surge to the surface of our psyche; it’s a collection that urges its readers to have faith in the fact that happiness isn’t an impossibility.

Neon Soul speaks directly to its readers; it comforts them, it praises them…it encourages them, as the following poem below demonstrates:

resilience 

look at you 

still standing 

after being 

knocked down

and thrown out

 

look at you

still growing 

after being 

picked and plucked 

and prodded out of 

your home

 

look at you

still dancing 

and singing 

after being 

defeated and 

disassembled 

 

look at you, love.

still here and hopeful

after it all.

Neon Soul, page 97

 

How can you not derive comfort from such words? Pain in all its forms is a part of life and sometimes we just need that gentle reminder that we both survived and thrived.

Neon Soul also includes ten poetry prompts for its readers, so not only is it a collection that showcases the breathtaking creativity of Alexandra Elle, it’s also a collection that encourages readers to tap into their creative side.

Rating: 5 out of 5

Song: Two Steps from Hell’s Victory  (I like Two Steps from Hell, okay!? I know I use their music a lot, but they’re fantastic!)

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This book is available on Amazon in both e-reader and paperback format.

‘The Darkest Lie’ Gena Showalter

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Forced to his knees in agony whenever he speaks the truth, Gideon can recognize any lie―until he captures Scarlet, a demon-possessed immortal who claims to be his long-lost wife. He doesn’t remember the beautiful female, much less wedding―or bedding―her. But he wants to…almost as much as he wants her.

But Scarlet is keeper of Nightmares, too dangerous to roam free. A future with her might mean ultimate ruin. Especially as Gideon’s enemies draw closer―and the truth threatens to destroy all he’s come to love….

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Okay, so anyone familiar with the Lords of the Underworld series will know that sweet, darling Gideon (hm, wonder who my favourite character is!?) is keeper of Lies and, as a result, can’t utter a single truth without suffering intense, debilitating pain…so Gideon communicates in a rather interesting way. Picture this; you meet the man (or woman) of your dreams, perhaps on the daily commute into work, and they flash you a smile that promises sin and seduction. They lean forward and whisper in your ear, their voice nothing more than a husky murmur…

“You’re so ugly.”

Oooo. Awkward…not to mention rude and hurtful! You’d probably give them a slap, right? Now do you understand poor Gideon’s problem? Everything he says is the opposite of what he means and I did seriously consider writing this review in Gideon speech but figured it’d be way too confusing. But enough about Gideon, let’s talk about his book, a book I was eagerly powering through the series to read!

The Darkest Lie has it all; humour, heartache, romance, action, kinkiness…and it’s all rolled up into one tidy package (pfft, package! C’mon, Jazz, be mature about this!) comprised of fantastic world building and equally fantastic writing. The LotU series is set in universe that blends our reality with the conjurings of Gena Showalter’s imagination and the result is a world in which readers can quite easily lose themselves for hours on end. Each of Gena’s characters are as unique as they are believable and I’m not sure if this is fair on the reader’s part because I have genuinely been looking into a weekend break in Budapest and my heart breaks to know I won’t be able to hang out with the Lords!

As for Gideon and Scarlet’s story, I think it’s one the best in the series yet. It’s not just your average run-of-the-mill romance. It runs deeper than that and their relationship is layered with complexity, which makes for an interesting, unexpected twist around half way through. Gideon is the man we all want (okay, maybe generalising there); he’s a little rough around the edges, he’s a bit of a bad boy…and yet he’s kind, sweet and gentle, even if he does struggle with the sweet nothings he whispers in Scarlet’s ear (I’m pretty sure he says at one point “I don’t want you, devil.”, although admittedly it is go-weak-at-the-knees sweet when you’ve translated it). Scarlet is one hell of a bad ass and she’s the woman I think I’ve always tried to be; a tough, take-no-shit exterior but with a squidgy, marshmallow, please-hold-me center (I am purely the latter).

I’ve mentioned this in a previous LotU review, but let’s talk about Cronus for a moment! Am I the only person who thinks he isn’t actually all that bad? Sure, he does have his faults (what he did to Aeron in the first two or three books wasn’t cool, I get that and how he treated Scarlet in Tartarus wasn’t all that nice either) but he’s making amends I like to think. He’s just a regular guy trying to do his best in this cruel, cruel world we live in. I kinda feel he tries to exude this cold-hearted, almighty persona but I think he’s a bit of a softie. He dishes out threats like I dish out baked beans on the breakfast shift at work, but he always, always relents. He’s like “Awww you kids, all loved up. Sure, don’t worry about the threats of eternal damnation and death! You go have fun, ‘k?”

Anyway, the votes are in and…

Rating: 5 out of 5 (in Gideon speak, I hated this book!)

Song: Fleetwood Mac’s Little Lies (I was brushing my teeth this morning and thinking of appropriate songs and when I thought of this, I spat my toothpaste out in excitement (in the sink, whoah, brackets within brackets))

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This book is available on Amazon in both e-reader and paperback format.

 

‘Norse Mythology’ Neil Gaiman

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Neil Gaiman has long been inspired by ancient mythology in creating the fantastical realms of his fiction. Now he turns his attention back to the source, presenting a bravura rendition of the great northern tales. In Norse Mythology, Gaiman fashions primeval stories into a novelistic arc that begins with the genesis of the legendary nine worlds; delves into the exploits of the deities, dwarfs, and giants; and culminates in Ragnarok, the twilight of the gods and the rebirth of a new time and people. Gaiman stays true to the myths while vividly reincarnating Odin, the highest of the high, wise, daring, and cunning; Thor, Odin’s son, incredibly strong yet not the wisest of gods; and Loki, the son of giants, a trickster and unsurpassable manipulator. From Gaiman’s deft and witty prose emerges the gods with their fiercely competitive natures, their susceptibility to being duped and to dupe others, and their tendency to let passion ignite their actions, making these long-ago myths breathe pungent life again.

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Despite being an avid consumer of all things mythological and folklore-related, I didn’t actually know that much Norse mythology (unless you count the scraps of information the Marvel movies have fed me over the past few years). I’d always been more interested in Greek mythology, an interest fueled by my love for the paranormal romance genre which seems to favor this pantheon above all others.

So, after realizing that Tom Hiddleston’s Loki wasn’t going to teach me all that much about Norse mythology, I decided to embark upon a fantastical journey with the talented Neil Gaiman as my guide. I hadn’t previously read anything by Neil Gaiman (unless you count an uber short, maybe ten page story) so I wasn’t sure what to expect, but because this book had been receiving such positive reviews, I decided that I had nothing to lose (except fourteen of my well-earned pounds, which isn’t much in the grand scheme of things).

In the introduction, Gaiman stresses the fact that this collection of tales is his personal take on the more popular of the Norse myths, so there might be some discrepancies between the versions found in Norse Mythology and the versions readers have read or heard elsewhere. But that’s okay, right? I mean, it’d be pretty stupid to argue over whether or not bad poetry is a direct result of a particularly nasty fart straight out of the All Father’s ass. Myths are supposed to be fun. Myths arose (I literally just typed ‘arouse’) from the imaginations of our long dead ancestors who sought to explain what was then unexplainable. Why conjure a boring, half-assed explanation behind, say, the stars, when you can say that they’re the eyes of a dead giant instead?

I really enjoyed this collection of tales. A lot of mythology books that I’ve read read like university dissertations. They’re dry and they’re lacklustre. Neil Gaiman, however, has injected humour and life into these ancient, often forgotten stories and has brought each of the characters to life in a way that will have a reader greedily devouring each and every single word.

The characterization is fantastic. Each of the gods, goddesses, dwarfs and giants has their own unique personality. Thor, for example, is the typical all-brawn-and-no-brains character which makes for some hilarious one liners, while Loki is the mischievous, sly and annoyingly lovable rogue. These are characters a reader can believe in. They’re just as a real as the people we interact with on a daily basis here in Midgard.

Sometimes, when reading things such as fantasy, it’s all too easy to become lost among the lore of the fictional land you suddenly find yourself in and this was one of my initial concerns upon my decision to read this book. Would I need to do some background reading beforehand to be able to put these stories into context? Would I find myself completely and utterly confused by the names and terms thrown about the text like confetti?

The answer to both of these questions was “No.” Norse Mythology offers readers a gentle and easy introduction into an area of mythology that is often forgotten about and it does it in way that isn’t patronising or laborious to read. Everything – be it the reason why Odin only has one eye or why there are clouds in the sky – is explained in a clear, concise and fun way.

Overall, Norse Mythology is quick, easy and fun read and one I can wholeheartedly recommend to any mythology geeks such as myself.

Rating: 4 out of 5

Song: Two Steps from Hell’s Aesir (Two Steps from Hell are one my absolute favourites, you should definitely check them out!)

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This book is available on Amazon in both paperback and e-book format.

‘The Hatching’ Ezekiel Boone

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Deep in the jungle of Peru, a black, skittering mass devours an American tourist party whole. FBI agent Mike Rich investigates a fatal plane crash in Minneapolis and makes a gruesome discovery. Unusual seismic patterns register in a Indian earthquake lab, confounding the scientists there. The Chinese government “accidentally” drops a nuclear bomb in an isolated region of its own country. The first female president of the United States is summoned to an emergency briefing. And all of these events are connected.

As panic begins to sweep the globe, a mysterious package from South America arrives at Melanie Guyer’s Washington laboratory. The unusual egg inside begins to crack. Something is spreading…
The world is on the brink of an apocalyptic disaster. An virulent ancient species, long dormant, is now very much awake. But this is only the beginning of our end…

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I wasn’t 100% sure whether it was a wise idea for me to read this or not since I’m an arachnophobic who frequently has night terrors involving spiders…but I did anyway and despite having two spider-themed nightmares following bedtime reading of The Hatching, I have to say that I don’t really know where to begin with this review because I enjoyed this book so much!

Hmmm…so I’ll begin with the awesome characterization within this novel since this is one of the first things, aside from the horror element, that really jumped out at me. There are so many characters who break the gender stereotypes so often found in literature. There’s Lance Corporal Kim Bock, a Marine who finds herself leading her team into the midst of an unimaginable horror when the spiders finally reach the US. We’re introduced to Professor Melanie Guyer in chapter three, a world-renowned scientist specializing in spiders, who I instantly fell in love with when she agreed that cicadas are actually really creepy (so extra brownie points for her on that! I’d never been so grateful to be a Brit until I encountered my first cicada in the land of the rising sun. Seriously, they’re like red-eyed miniature demons who sit in trees screaming until you walk beneath them, at which point they dive bomb you *shudder*).

And, of course, there’s the first female president, Stephanie Pilgrim, a foul-mouthed, dry-humored badass of a woman.

There are so many strong female protagonists within The Hatching and I found them to be a breath of fresh air in a genre so often populated with macho male leads.

The narrative shifts from chapter to chapter; there are named characters who we continually check in with throughout the course of the book, and then there are shorter chapters from the perspectives of unnamed, seemingly irrelevant characters. However, I think these characters are far from just filler material. The fact that they’re unnamed demonstrates the fact that they’re interchangeable, that they could be anyone. They could be you and me, they could be our co-workers or friends, mothers or fathers etc. For me, the universality of this book is what truly makes it terrifying. It’s human nature to think ourselves separate from the woes of others. We think “It’ll never happen to me.” but The Hatching demonstrates that we’re all just human and that we’re all susceptible to the same terrible fates prevalent within the horror genre.

I’m not much of a sciencey (it’s a word, okay?) person, but one of the many things I really enjoyed about this book is how believable it is. Obviously, the species of spiders at the helm of all the chaos don’t actually exist (we hope), but Professor Melanie Guyer’s dialogue has been written in such a way that when she spoke of facts, statistics and research, I found myself believing wholeheartedly in her words. A horror novel about hoards of killer spiders sounds kinda ridiculous as a premise, but Ezekiel Boone has executed the plot in such a fantastic way. The sheer effort that has been put into crafting a realistic world that is faced with a global attack like no other is astounding and allows a reader to be completely and utterly immersed in the blood-curdling, skin-crawling events of this book.

Is this book terrifying? Fuck yes. A lot of the terror lies in the universal nature of it that I mentioned before. Sure, books about monsters, ghosts and ghouls are scary, but c’mon, how often do we actually experience these things on a daily basis? A true horror is born when something ordinary, something commonplace – a spider, for example – is morphed in something quite other. When the world we thought we knew turns on us, where do we run?

Rating: 5 out of 5

Song: Michael Bublé’s I’ve got you under my skin 

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This book is available on Amazon in e-reader and paperback format.

‘The Last Werewolf’ Glen Duncan

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For two centuries Jacob Marlowe has wandered the world, enslaved by his lunatic appetites and tormented by the memory of his first and most monstrous crime. Now, the last of his kind, he knows he can’t go on. But as Jake counts down to suicide, a violent murder and an extraordinary meeting plunge him straight back into the desperate pursuit of life.

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Okay, so I saw the words ‘werewolf’ and ‘sexy’ and I was like:

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You know me, I do love a bit of the ol’ paranormal romance and thought I’d gotten myself a pretty sweet deal when I bought The Last Werewolf for £1.99 from a local charity shop.

I have very mixed feelings about this book, though, which is the first in the Last Werewolf trilogy. All paranormal romance jokes aside, it was refreshing to read a book in which the werewolf myth hadn’t been romanticized. The extended life of Jacob Marlowe hasn’t been one filled with passion and mystery. Instead, it’s been filled with guts and gore aplenty and he isn’t portrayed as some dark, brooding, torn-up antihero. I was going to say that once a month, he falls victim to his inner beast, but that would be incorrect. Marlowe isn’t a victim. He is very accepting of the fact that he has to do what he does in order to survive, regardless of whether or not his victim is an innocent. His narrative is raw and honest and despite everything, I admire him, as a character, for it. He’s a character that lurks in the murky grey area between the stereotypical ‘good guy’ and ‘bad guy’. He doesn’t necessarily show remorse for the brutal deaths of his victims, yet he donates his money towards worthy causes. He isn’t inherently good nor inherently evil. He’s simply imperfect just like the rest of us.

However, I had a trying time following his narrative. The Last Werewolf is written from a first person perspective and while this is often something that can be employed effectively, I found it somewhat tedious within this book. Marlowe seemed to go on a rather roundabout way of telling the reader something and while it’s always good to be able stretch out a story, I found it was a just a bit too stretched out for my own personal liking. I found that by the time Marlowe actually made his point, I had usually lost interest.

I feel it’s my duty to offer a quick heads up to anyone who’s considering reading The Last Werewolf. It’s quite gory and the descriptions are often somewhat graphic. Approach with caution if you’re a bit squeamish like me!

Overall, The Last Werewolf is a fresh and modern take on the werewolf myth and while it wasn’t my cup of tea, I can definitely understand why it received the endorsements that it did.

Rating: 2 out of 5

Song: The Tragically Hip’s I’m a werewolf, baby 

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This book is available on Amazon in e-reader and paperback format.

‘Let Them Eat Chaos’ Kate Tempest

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Let Them Eat Chaos, Kate Tempest’s new long poem written for live performance and heard on the album release of the same name, is both a powerful sermon and a moving play for voices. Seven neighbours inhabit the same London street, but are all unknown to each other. The clock freezes in the small hours, and, one by one, we see directly into their lives: lives that are damaged, disenfranchised, lonely, broken, addicted, and all, apparently, without hope. Then a great storm breaks over London, and brings them out into the night to face each other – and their last chance to connect. Tempest argues that our alienation from one another has bred a terrible indifference to our own fate, but she counters this with a plea to challenge the forces of greed which have conspired to divide us, and mend the broken home of our own planet while we still have time. Let Them Eat Chaos is a cri de coeur and a call to action, and, both on the page and in Tempest’s electric performance, one of the most powerful poetic statements of the year.

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The first page of this poem begins by describing our sun, drawing our attention to the fact that, “amongst all this space” it is nothing more than a “speck of light in the furthest corner”. Kate Tempest then moves on to the planets circling the sun, “held in their intricate dance”, capturing our attention once more with the notion of “our Earth“.

Our. Earth. 

A place that is home to over 7 billion people and yet, despite being nothing more than a grain of sand in the infinity of this universe, is one of the loneliest places to be. This Earth is ours; it doesn’t belong to me or you, or the guy down the road. Hell, it doesn’t belong to Donald Trump, although I’m sure he would like it to. It is ours. This Earth is a gift to all 7 billion of us and yet, looking around , you wouldn’t think that, would you? Tempest talks about the “myth of the individual”, something that has rendered us “disconnected, lost and pitiful”. We’re divided by race, religion, gender and class and there are those who deem themselves above all others and focus only on themselves and their own. The rich get richer and sit glued to their wide-screen TVs, blind to the suffering of the billions of others around them. The world is crumbling around us and we sit by and do nothing, believing that if we’re okay, everything is okay.

In Kate Tempest’s Let The Eat Chaos, her message is simple; nothing is okay. This poem, a piece written to be read aloud and which has an album accompaniment, strikes its listeners down with the brutal honesty of its message. Throughout the 72 pages of this poem, we meet seven seemingly different individuals, all living on the same street and all unable to sleep. They’re of different genders, different ages and different sexual orientations, and yet they are all alike in a way that they cannot imagine.

They are all damaged and lonely and they’re too wrapped up in their own lives to realise that others are as well. The whole Earth, our Earth, is damaged, in fact and we vehemently deny this, “staring at the screen so we don’t have to see the planet die”.

Tempest ominously warns that “a roaring storm is coming” but people – such as the seven individuals of Let Them Eat Chaos – “are too concerned with their own thoughts to think about the weather”.

Delivered in fast-paced, emotive and engaging verse, Let Them Eat Chaos is a stark warning of the dark future we face if we don’t change our ways.

Rating: 4 out of 5

Song: Not so much a song, but check out the album trailer here.

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This book is available on Amazon in e-book and paperback format.

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