Thursday, April 30, 2020

April Reading Wrap Up and O.W.L.S Readathon

What a strange time we live in. The COVID19 lockdown for South Africa started on 26 March.  Being confined at home with all the reading time in the world didn't sound all that bad. All the reading time we could ever want. Wasn't this what we always wished for?

Turns out being in the middle of a pandemic isn't all that conducive to reading. For the first two weeks I couldn't even pick up a book. Dealing with the anxiety, stress and guilt of the situation just sapped all my energy both physically and mentally. Normal went out the window and all I could do most days was nap.

Thankfully participating in the O.W.L.s Magical Readathon during April seems to have reignited my reading. Turns out having some definite reading prompts to complete is a great motivator. Checking them off the list was just so satisfying and just the distraction I needed.

I managed to complete all 12 of the O.W.L prompts.
Ancient Runes: Heart on the cover or in the title -  Every Heart A Doorway
Arithmancy: Read something outside your favorite genre - Immortal Hulk Vol 3
Astronomy: Night Classes: read majority of this book when it's dark outside - Immortal Hulk Vol 4
Care of Magical Creatures: Creature with a beak on the cover - Misspent Youth
Charms Lumos Maxima: White Cover -  The Cabin at the End of the World
Defense Against the Dark Arts: Book set at the sea/coast - The Skinner
Divinitation: Assign Numbers to your TBR. Use a random number generator to pick your read - Red Moon
Herbology: Title starts with an M - Micro
History of Magic: Book featuring witches/wizards  - Carpe Jugulum
Muggle Studies: Contemporary - Funny, You don't look autistic
Potions: Book under 150 pages - Spider-Men
Transfiguration: Book/series that includes shapeshifting - If It Bleeds


It seems my brain is slowly adjusting to the new normal and April turned out to be my best reading month ever. In the end I read 11 novels, 1 novella, 1 novella collection and 19 graphic novels for a grand total of 7840 pages.

While I'm able to read for fun, I'm still struggling to get back into reviewer mode. I only managed to do a full review for Stephen King's If It Bleeds. Hopefully with time that will sort itself out as well.

Some brief thoughts on the novels and novellas I read during April:

Red Moon by Kim Stanley Robinson: A good enough read, but very politics heavy and slow. Unlike what the title would suggest, half the book takes place on the Earth and there is constant ping pong between the Earth and the Moon. Not quite what I hoped it to be. 6/10 

Fevre Dream by George R.R. Martin: Interesting take on the vampire mythos set on steamboats in the Mississippi. A bit slow at times and nothing truly innovative. 6.5/10

The Skinner by Neal Asher: Just as brilliant as the first time around. Fascinating biosphere, loads of action and snarky drones with that distinctive Asher flair. 8/10

Micro by Micheal Crichton and Richard Preston: Honey, I shrunk the Kids with a thriller makeover. A fun, popcorn read which takes some huge liberties with the science. 6/10

The Cabin at the end of the World by Paul Trembley: Good psychological thriller with some surprising twist and turns. Not at all what I expected, in a good way. 6.5/10

Carpe Jugulum by Terry Pratchett: My third re-read and still as fun as ever. Vampires face off against the Witches and it doesn't end well for them. A fun, comfort read. 7/10

Ghostland an American History in Haunted Places by Colin Dickey: An interesting exploration why certain places are reported to be haunted. 6/10

Funny, You Don't Look Autistic by Micheal McCrelary: A funny, informative look at the life of someone on the autism spectrum. 6/10

Misspent Youth by Peter F. Hamilton: Experimental rejuvenation therapy gives a man a second chance at youth. Sadly it also seems to turn him into a nymphomaniac which detracts hugely from the few interesting concepts at play. Not one of Hamilton's best works. 5.5/10

The Lady from the Black Lagoon by Mallory O'Meara: Part memoir and part history lesson, it shines a light on the forgotten work of Milicent Patrick and exposes the rampant sexism and prejudice still at play in the entertainment industry. 7/10

Every Heart a Doorway by Seanan McGuire: A wonderful novella exploring the lives of those that have to cope with living in the mundane world after visiting fantastical worlds. Great concept and captivating characters. 7/10


Friday, April 24, 2020

Review: If It Bleeds by Stephen King

Title: If It Bleeds
Author: Stephen King
Pages: 448
ISBN: 9781982137977
Publisher: Scribner
Published: 21 April 2020
Genre: Horror | Novellas
Source: Library


Buy it from:
The Book Depository

From #1 New York Times bestselling author, legendary storyteller, and master of short fiction Stephen King comes an extraordinary collection of four new and compelling novellas--Mr. Harrigan's Phone, The Life of Chuck, Rat, and the title story If It Bleeds--each pulling you into intriguing and frightening places.

Stephen King’s latest collection of four novellas, If It Bleeds, offers up some dark delights to satisfy and terrify both Constant Readers and those new to his work. In classic Stephen King fashion the tales plunge right to the heart of the human condition exploring our deepest fears and innermost desires in a way only King can.

Mr. Harrigan’s Phone: A teenager discovers that the iPhone of a deceased friend offers an otherworldly connection between the living and the dead. A connection that offers justice in an unjust world, but at what cost?
“In the twenty-first century, I think our phones are how we are wedded to the world. If so, it’s probably a bad marriage.”
A bittersweet, touching tale of lasting friendship and the bonds it forges. I particularly enjoyed that the story is set in a time where the internet and cell phones were just starting to be used and the huge transformation they would bring could hardly be imagined. A time that reminded me far too much of my own teenage years. ⭐⭐⭐⭐

The Life of Chuck: Mysterious billboards start to appear as the world begins to crumble away. A weird, yet poignant story dealing with mortality in more ways than one - the certainty and anticipation of death and the loss of the multitudes we each contain. ⭐⭐⭐⭐

If It Bleeds: After a school tragedy Holly Gibney from the Finders Keepers detective agency goes in search of what might be another outsider, a monster feeding on the pain and anguish inflicted by such tragedies. What she uncovers puts her and those closest to her in mortal danger. It should come as no surprise that the titular story turned out to be the best story in the collection. While reading this I was completely lost to the world. King draws you in from the very start and holds you at the edge of your seat until the nail-biting conclusion. ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Rat: An aspiring author makes a Faustian bargain in order to tame those treacherous words preventing him from finishing his novel.
“...but when he looked at the screen, every word there seemed wrong. Every word seemed to have a better one hiding behind it, just out of sight.”
With this story King deftly encapsulates the hardships of creativity and the agonising act of creation. Just writing reviews I constantly struggle with those treacherous words, trying to find the just the right word or perfect phrase to convey my thoughts. Actual hours can be put into a single sentence and most often I fail. This story really hit very close to home and I can only imagine how much worse the struggle is for actual authors. ⭐⭐⭐⭐

Reality was deep, and it was far. It held many secrets and went on forever.

Stephen King’s writing is a treat. With the bare minimum of words he manages to breathe life into his characters and the worlds they inhabit in a way so few other writers manage to do. Keen-eyed readers will even be able to spot some subtle self-referential nods to his other works. Each time I encountered one it instantly put a smile on my face.

If It Bleeds is a great collection of novellas filled with dark delights and the comforting embrace of a masterful storyteller.. Let’s face it, in times like these we are all in dire need of some of Dr. King’s Cough & Cold Remedy... well, the fictional kind at least. Highly recommended!

The Rating: 8/10 (Great!)



Wednesday, April 8, 2020

Opening Lines: Afterland by Lauren Beukes

Some novels have the ability to draw you in from the start. A single line or paragraph can grab your attention in such a way that the novel just demands to be read. Opening Lines is a feature where I'll share some of the best opening lines that hooked me.

'Look at me,' Cole says. 'Hey.' Checking Miles's pupils, which are still huge. Shock and fear and the drugs working their way out of his system. Scrambling to remember her first-aid training. Check list as life-buoy. He's able to focus, to speak without slurring. He was groggy in the car, getting away. But soon he'll be capable of asking difficult questions she is not ready to answer. About the blood on her shirt, for example.


AFTERLAND by Lauren Beukes

In a future where most of the men are dead, Cole and her twelve-year-old son Miles are on the run from the most dangerous person she knows... her sister.

Miles is one of the lucky survivors of a global epidemic. But, in a world of women, that also makes him a hot commodity. The Department of Men wants to lock him away in quarantine, forever maybe.

A sinister cult of neon nuns wants to claim him for their own; the answer to their prayers. And boy traffickers are close on their heels, thanks to Billie, Cole's ruthless sister, who Cole thought she left for dead.

In a desperate chase across a radically changed America, Cole will do whatever it takes to get Miles to safety. Because she's all he's got

Friday, April 3, 2020

On My Radar: Afterland by Lauren Beukes

As weird as the world currently is there are still new books coming out, even if they might be limited to ebook releases for the time being. One of the titles I'm excited about is the latest novel from South African author Lauren Beukes. Like the current times the release dates are a bit complicated. There will be three different releases, each with a different date and different covers.

Afterland by Lauren Beukes

AFTERLAND by Lauren Beukes
South African release date: 6 April 2020 (ebook release with physical copies to follow)

In a future where most of the men are dead, Cole and her twelve-year-old son Miles are on the run from the most dangerous person she knows... her sister.

Miles is one of the lucky survivors of a global epidemic. But, in a world of women, that also makes him a hot commodity. The Department of Men wants to lock him away in quarantine, forever maybe.

A sinister cult of neon nuns wants to claim him for their own; the answer to their prayers. And boy traffickers are close on their heels, thanks to Billie, Cole's ruthless sister, who Cole thought she left for dead.

In a desperate chase across a radically changed America, Cole will do whatever it takes to get Miles to safety. Because she's all he's got.

US Cover for Afterland by Lauren Beukes
US Cover. Release date: 28 July 2020

UK Cover. Release date: 1 September 2020

***

I think the South African cover is my favourite. The neon colours just grabs your eye in a way the other covers just can't manage. Which cover do you prefer?

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