Saturday, 28 September 2013

Night Shift

Title: Night Shift
Author: Stephen King
Pages: 488 (paperback)
Published: January 10th 2008 (first published 1978)
Published by: Hodder

From the depths of darkness, where hideous rats defend their empire, to dizzying heights where a beautiful girl hangs by a hair above a hellish fate, this chilling collection of twenty short stories will plunge readers into the subterranean labyrinth of the most spine-tingling, eerie imagination of our time.

Stephen King: the master of making the everyday slightly terrifying.

This collection of 21 short stories range from the scary, through the creepy and unsettling to stories that are just enjoyable. While not all of them are amazing, none of the stories are bad. There are even a couple of stories which serve as precursors to other King books - 'Salem's Lot and The Stand are both given prequels, and 'Salem's Lot gets a little follow-up too. Which in all honesty was a little annoying as I haven't actually read 'Salem's Lot yet and it gives quite a lot away, so maybe avoid One For the Road if you find yourself in the same position as me.

As I said, most of these stories were very enjoyable, but there were a few of particular note in my mind.

I Am The Doorway is a rather creepy little tale, and one which you don't fully understand until the later pages. A mystery involving a man's hands and him finding himself in unexpected places at unexpected times, this is a short for sweet story.

The Mangler is a great example of something completely mundane - a machine for drying and folding sheets - being made scary. A series of horrific accidents leads a police inspector to suspect something quite horrible about this machine. The main questions is whether his solution will help the situation, or make things even worse...

Battleground isn't particularly creepy or anything, but more that it's rather entertaining and for the time probably something of a unique idea.

The Lawnmower Man is probably the story that has stuck with me most. It was creepy to read, but now I think about it every time someone mentions a lawnmower...which happens more than you might think.

The Children of the Corn is the story behind the horror film, and reading this has made me want to watch the film.

A truly enjoyable read made up of a whole range of story types.

Friday, 20 September 2013


Title: Seraphina
Series: Seraphina #1
Author: Rachel Hartman
Pages: 369 (paperback)
Published: January 3rd 2013
Published by: Corgi Childrens

Four decades of peace have done little to ease the mistrust between humans and dragons in the kingdom of Goredd. Folding themselves into human shape, dragons attend court as ambassadors, and lend their rational, mathematical minds to universities as scholars and teachers. As the treaty's anniversary draws near, however, tensions are high.

Seraphina Dombegh has reason to fear both sides. An unusually gifted musician, she joins the court just as a member of the royal family is murdered—in suspiciously draconian fashion. Seraphina is drawn into the investigation, partnering with the captain of the Queen's Guard, the dangerously perceptive Prince Lucian Kiggs. While they begin to uncover hints of a sinister plot to destroy the peace, Seraphina struggles to protect her own secret, the secret behind her musical gift, one so terrible that its discovery could mean her very life.

In her exquisitely written fantasy debut, Rachel Hartman creates a rich, complex, and utterly original world. Seraphina's tortuous journey to self-acceptance is one readers will remember long after they've turned the final page.

So, the book club I go to decides what we're going to read from month to month democratically. People suggest books and then we vote on which to read. This book was suggested a few months ago, and while it didn't win it intrigued me enough to go out and buy anyway. Unfortunately, the stack of books I have waiting to be read means I've only just got round to it, and I really really wish I'd read it sooner, because this book is amazing.

Like, actually.

But I'm having a lot of trouble putting into words what actually made it so great. So. Summarise!

Seraphina herself is a great leading lady, and she's surrounded by a whole range of characters who are (pretty much all) just as likeable, quirky in their own ways.

The world is intricately thought out, similar enough to not be completely alien but with enough differences to underline the presence of dragons. And it's not just the major things (though religion is probably the major one - dragons aside): even though it's a medieval setting, there are cultural differences when it comes to clothing and music.

The dragons themselves: how their mind works in both dragon and human form and that there's a difference is something I've not come across before. It goes beyond little things like 'not wanting to eat raw meat' to how they perceive the world and the sudden overwhelming presence of emotions when they're human.

The romantic relationship side of the story was a little predictable, but I don't mind a little predictability from time to time. It's nice to not have to worry about what the outcome's going to be, and just enjoy the getting there. And counter to this, the dragon-hunt storyline had enough mystery going on that I extra didn't mind. And, all the better, that ended in a way in which I did not see coming at all.

On a deeper level, this books is an interesting look at racial hatred and how easily it can be incited even after peace is all that many people have known. We, unfortunately, see this all too often even now and while this is taken to extremes (compared to nowadays) I'm sure it isn't too different from what some denominations - be they religious, racial, sexual orientation or a whole host of other things - have experienced in the past.

A hugely enjoyable book with depth and lightness each in their own place. Very much looking forward to the next book in this series.

Wednesday, 18 September 2013

Dewey's Read-A-Thon October 2013

So, it's that time of year again! Dewey's 24-hour read-a-thon is a biannual event where - surprise surprise - the aim is to sit and read for 24 hours straight. A lot harder than it might sound.

This time, it's on the 12th October with different start times according to where you are in the world. There are cheerleaders encouraging you to keep going as well as competitions and prizes throughout the 24 hours, and it was through this that I won my copy of This is How You Lose Her by Junot Diaz. It's lots of fun seeing all the cool competitions bloggers come up with, and a great way of finding new book blogs.

I always have a lot of fun, and what better excuse to sit and do nothing but read for a whole day? It's also a great way to blitz through some of those books I've had lying around for a few months, although I learned the hard way in my first read-a-thon that one great big book is not the way to go. A few smaller books are a lot better, as you actually feel like you are making progress!

So why not go sign up?

Saturday, 7 September 2013


Title: Goddess
Series: Starcrossed #3
Author: Josephine Angelini
Pages: 464 (ebook)
Published: May 23rd 2013
Published by: Macmillan Children's Books

After accidentally unleashing the gods from their captivity on Olympus, Helen must find a way to re-imprison them without starting a devastating war. But the gods are angry, and their thirst for blood already has a body count.

To make matters worse, the Oracle reveals that a diabolical Tyrant is lurking among them, which drives a wedge between the once-solid group of friends. As the gods use the Scions against one another, Lucas’s life hangs in the balance. Still unsure whether she loves him or Orion, Helen is forced to make a terrifying decision, for war is coming to her shores.

In Josephine Angelini’s compelling conclusion to the masterfully woven Starcrossed trilogy, a goddess must rise above it all to change a destiny that’s been written in the stars. With worlds built just as fast as they crumble, love and war collide in an all-out battle that will leave no question unanswered and no heart untouched.

After being thrust into the centre of a feud she didn't know existed, Helen has inadvertently caused disaster to come about. And now she must fight for not only her own survival, but for the survival of all she holds dear. Her friends, her family, and the mortals of the world are all relying on her.

Helen did become a bit ridiculously all-powerful, but luckily fighting is most definitely not the centre of this story, so it wasn't particularly annoying. And it is of course this fact that perpetuates most of the story - if that hadn't come about, in fact, there wouldn't really have been a story at all.

There was a lot more fighting going on in this book, and I'd like to say that you got to see the Scions using more of their abilities this time around, but it just wasn't really the case. It was more that you knew the fighting was going on, but you were always somewhere else at the time, or it was just them displaying their superior fighting skills against each other and being pretty well matched. You do get some pretty good God-ability showing off, but again a fair portion of this is reported (literally - as news stories) rather than being seen in the story itself. So this aspect was a little disappointing - why have you characters able to do all these cool things if they hardly actually do them?

I don't know much about the story of Helen and Paris, but I wasn't particularly a fan of the changes that were made - though not significant, I don't think. On the other hand, imagining them as other couples through history was nice, even if we only got to see one of these in detail. I would have liked to see more past lives be they well known or not. There were nice parallels drawn between the original Greek stories of Troy for the other characters - everyone had their place. You'd been told enough to see them and to somewhat predict what might be coming when allegiances are drawn, but I was so caught up in the story it didn't really occur to me to do this It was more of a recognition after the fact on my part, but for those properly paying attention there may be fewer surprises than there were for me.

And of course there are all these secrets. They've been sitting there, brewing for all of the last book and most of this one. And you're waiting for them to be revealed. And you know it's coming and it's so tense and you just want to know how it's all going to come out and how everyone's going to react, and why they were hidden. And most importantly - will they find out in time?

This is a wonderful ending to an amazing series, and one which I ended up enjoying a lot more than I was expecting to. Everything is finished up satisfactorily, though there are hints that there may be more to come and not everything will stay as it is forever.