Friday, 8 November 2013

Hyperbole and a Half

Title: Hyperbole and a Half
Author: Allie Brosh
Pages: 369 (paperback)
Published: October 29th 2013
Published by: Touchstone

In a four-color, illustrated collection of stories and essays, Allie Brosh’s debut Hyperbole and a Half chronicles the many “learning experiences” Brosh has endured as a result of her own character flaws, and the horrible experiences that other people have had to endure because she was such a terrible child. Possibly the worst child. For example, one time she ate an entire cake just to spite her mother.

Brosh’s website receives millions of unique visitors a month and hundreds of thousands of visitors a day. This amalgamation of new material and reader favorites from Brosh's blog includes stories about her rambunctious childhood; the highs and mostly lows of owning a smart, neurotic dog and a mentally challenged one; and moving, honest, and darkly comic essays tackling her struggles with depression and anxiety, among other anecdotes from Brosh's life. Artful, poignant, and uproarious, Brosh’s self-reflections have already captured the hearts of countless readers and her book is one that fans and newcomers alike will treasure.

So just take a moment to scroll down this page a little bit. On the left, you'll find a list of blogs I read. Most of them belong to authors I love, but there is one that stands out as truly different. It's called Hyperbole and a Half and it is truly and honestly the most hilarious blog I have ever read. And quite possibly on the entire internet in general. Go and have a look at it. There are a plethora of posts to read. Spaghatta Nadle and its follow-ups are particular favourites of mine. Why? I have no idea. They just are.

This is the book of the blog, by the rib-achingly funny Allie Brosh, chronicling some of the many mis-adventures of her life, a tutorial for dogs and an amusing/heartbreaking account of her experience with depression. This full title is in fact Hyperbole and a Half: Unfortunate Situations, Flawed Coping Mechanisms, Mayhem, and Other Things That Happened, which sums up everything it contains pretty well.

Some of the stories in this book are new, and some have been taken from the blog. I thoroughly enjoyed all of them and look forward to many re-reads in the future. Even the one's I read before often had me laughing out load. Actually laughing out loud. Not like when you're like 'lol' and it maybe made you smirk a little bit.

Read this book. And the blog. Because they're amazing, and pretty much speak for themselves on this front. Seriously, what are you still doing here? Go!

Friday, 1 November 2013

Days of Blood and Starlight

Title: Days of Blood and Starlight
Series: Daughter of Smoke and Bone #2
Author: Laini Taylor
Pages: 528 (paperback)
Published: August 15th 2013
Published by: Hodder Paperbacks

Once upon a time, an angel and a devil fell in love and dared to imagine a world free of bloodshed and war.

This is not that world.

Art student and monster's apprentice Karou finally has the answers she has always sought. She knows who she is—and what she is. But with this knowledge comes another truth she would give anything to undo: She loved the enemy and he betrayed her, and a world suffered for it.

In this stunning sequel to the highly acclaimed Daughter of Smoke & Bone, Karou must decide how far she'll go to avenge her people. Filled with heartbreak and beauty, secrets and impossible choices, Days of Blood & Starlight finds Karou and Akiva on opposing sides as an age-old war stirs back to life.

While Karou and her allies build a monstrous army in a land of dust and starlight, Akiva wages a different sort of battle: a battle for redemption. For hope.

But can any hope be salvaged from the ashes of their broken dream?

Karou has rediscovered her lost life, but it has cast a terrible shadow over the life she was living. Now, she finds herself stuck between worlds, and without either of the families she had grown to love and rely on. Feeling guilty for the part she played in the downfall of her people, she allies herself with a man she despises and takes on the role of her old mentor in an attempt to help them make things right. But how long can she live with the things she's doing, and how long will her new-found 'friends' allow her to live?

I absolutely adored The Daughter of Smoke and Bone. The story and characters were gripping and engaging, with a truly original idea at its centre. And this carries over well - the story and the magic behind it are both ones I've never come across before, and with Karou's new role in this book you get to see more of both. And the characters are just as wonderful as last time, but with more viewpoints and greater depth.

Rather than just following Karou, this time we also follow Akiva (her angel ex-lover), Zuzana (her human best friend) and...a chimaera whose name I cannot remember off the top of my head. But through these, Taylor allows us to develop a much fuller sense of the world she has created. We get to see more of the chimaera in their natural environment, and learn more of the different species and their strengths and weaknesses. Through Akiva, we see more of the angel world - and the storyline which this opens up for the next book is one which I am thoroughly looking forward to. Though in all honesty, I am indeed looking forward to seeing all the resolutions.

While I really like Karou and think she's a great leading lady, Zuzana is one of my favourite characters. She was more secondary in the first book, but she comes to the fore more this time around and I love her voice. I would totally be friends with her! If she'd let me. She's pretty hard-core and awesome. She gets a few of her own chapters towards the start of the book, and they always entertained me. And her appearances in the chapters told from others' POV are often just as entertaining.

The descriptions of the land of Chimaera and angels are truly wonderful in places. As I've probably said before, I'm not a particularly visual person, but I could definitely picture some of the places as they were described, even if I didn't really manage this quite so well with the descriptions of chimaera this time around. But they are vastly different than in the first book - necessitated by the change of circumstances - and probably less easily put together in my mind at least.

But for all this, I didn't find the story as captivating. I think with the mystery gone of who Karou is, some of the tension which kept me reading in the first book was missing. And there was nothing taking its place. I sat and read Daughter of Smoke and Bone without really noticing, but this one didn't grip me in the same way.

There are lots of great developments by the characters, and slightly heart-breaking ending, and a whole glot of potential opened up. I am very much looking forward to Dreams of Gods and Monsters.

Friday, 18 October 2013

'Salem's Lot

Title: 'Salem's Lot
Author: Stephen King
Pages: 751 (paperback) (and I have a few words to say about this later)
Published: November 1st 2011 (first published 1975)
Published by: Hodder and Stoughton

"Turn off the television—in fact, why don't you turn off all the lights except for the one over your favourite chair?—and we'll talk about vampires here in the dim. I think I can make you believe in them." Stephen King, from the Introduction. 

'Salem's Lot is a small New England town with the usual quota of gossips, drinkers, weirdos and respectable folk. Of course there are tales of strange happenings—but not more than in any other town its size.

Ben Mears, a moderately successful writer, returns to the Lot to write a novel based on his early years, and to exorcise the terrors that have haunted him since childhood. The event he witnessed in the house now rented by a new resident. A newcomer with a strange allure. A man who causes Ben some unease as things start to happen: a child disappears, a dog is brutally killed—nothing unusual, except the list starts to grow.

Soon surprise will turn to bewilderment, bewilderment to confusion and finally to terror . . .

Ben Mears spent a few years in Jerusalem's Lot when he was growing up, living with his aunt. He had a traumatic experience which haunts him to this day. Take also that his wife recently died in a motorcycle accident, and he decides to come back The Lot for some cathartic writing. Unfortunately, he finds himself caught up in all kinds of trouble which even he - as a successful author - never could have imagined. Because the house which is the source of his nightmares is occupied again, and strange things are happening to the residents of 'Salem's Lot.

I started this book a couple weeks ago, and finished it off as part of Dewey's 24-hour read-a-thon last weekend. It took me a while to really get into it, and sitting and reading for an extended period of time was exactly the impetus I needed to finish it off. By no means is it a bad book: there's suspense and intrigue and vampires (proper ones; no sparkly vampires here!). But I think the problem is the same for a lot of Stephen Kings' books.

His complex stories are amazing. I really like that you don't just see what's going on for the heroes, but random little snippets from around the town too. It makes the story fuller, gives you a better sense of just what's going on. He doesn't just do it here, but in Needful Things and The Stand (and probably more that I haven't read/can't think of right now). But with all the setting up it does mean that the story takes a while to actually get going, and the names of all those people are pretty difficult to keep track of. For me at least. I usually have to rely on what's going on before I know which person they are rather than the name being mentioned and knowing what's already gone on for them. Of course, as I've already said this does overall provide a richer background, but it doesn't have its disadvantages as well.

There were a couple of seriously creepy moments in this book, but nothing that had me sleeping with the light on. It's more implied terror here. You know things are going on and can see the effects of it, but there is very little of that side of it that is actually documented in the story. And, in all honesty, I don't think King is ever going to top The Shining for scare factor. Although I do still have a couple to read before my final judgement is reach!

Ben Mears is a perfectly good leading man. He's intelligent and thinks things through, and isn't willing to take unnecessary risks. He likes to have everything laid out and clear in his mind before acting, even if situations do get away from him sometimes. His supporting crew are probably more interesting than him, though. Not so much Susan Norton, but Father Callahan, Matt Burke and Mark Petrie all made very good reading.

My final point is a dig at the publishers more than the story. If you buy the Hodder and Staughton version with the cover be warned that the page count is a bit deceiving in that the story finishes with about 150 pages to go. What follows are two short stories serving as prequel and sequel to 'Salem's Lot, and then a load of 'deleted scenes'. Quite interesting? Well, maybe, except that the two short stories are included in Night Shift which I read a matter of weeks ago. And from movies, I've learned that deleted scenes are usually deleted for a reason. I can only imagine the same holds true for books. There is no mention of these anywhere on the blurb, and I was very disappointed when I read the last paragraph and realised that was the end of the story, then confused about what the rest of the book was for, then disappointed again. You have been warned!

But as I said, I can't really mark the book down for that. So all in all, a very good read with generally good characters, if a little slow moving and maybe not quite as terrifying as it could have been.

Saturday, 12 October 2013

Read-A-Thon, October 2013

Today is the day! Dewey's 24-hour read-a-thon is here once again, and while it turns out that I have quite a busy day I will be sitting down and reading every chance I get for the next 24 hours!

I'm already half-way through 'Salem's Lot by Stephen King, so the first order of the day is to get that finished. After that, I have a few more books lined up, starting off with Days of Blood and Starlight, the follow-up to Daughter of Smoke and Bone which I adored.

So, in T-minus 11 minutes (and with my first ever apple pie in the oven!), the read-a-thon will commence.

Bring it on!


So 1 hour 45 minutes into the read-a-thon, I've finished 'Salem's Lot. Why so early? Because this book lies! It's actually 'Salem's Lot, followed by two short stories from Night Shift (which I read about two weeks ago), then a load of 'deleted scenes'. There's an extra about 150 pages after the story itself. I was so excited to see what was going to happen in these pages and then nothing. No warning anywhere on the blurb about all this extra stuff. So I'm a bit disillusioned now.

That aside, it was a good book. King has the same problem as always in that his complex stories are amazing, but take a while to get going. And it's great that you see little snippets from random people who live in the town, but all these names and people are quite hard to keep track of when you go back to them later on. Creepy in places, but in all honesty I don't think he's ever going to top The Shining for scare factor.

Now - on to Days of Blood and Starlight! Yay!


4 hours down, 20 to go! But life is getting in the way right now so reading will be more sporadic for the next couple of hours before going away completely *gasp*.

Days of Blood and Starlight has taken a bit of a beating though, and I'm 174 pages into it and very much enjoying it so far. It doesn't have the wow and mystery factors that Daughter of Smoke and Bone did, but I'm looking forward to reading more of it.


So...I'm back! I've made it for the final hurrah, and shall be trying to spend the next three hours or so reading. Wish me luck!


And that's it, all over for another 6 months. I've not got as much reading done as I would have liked, but I'm about two-thirds of the way through Days and very much looking forward to some resolutions. It's been very interesting to see more of the Seraphim/Chimaera world in this book, and there's been lots of Zuzana to keep me entertained. She may only be a secondary character, but she's quite possibly my favourite.

I'll be posting full reviews of both books in the coming weeks, so feel free to come back and see the full low-down!