Mongrels, Stephen Graham Jones, Review

 

Now, clear your mind. Breathe deep. Exhale. If I was to say to you I’ve got this great book here, it’s a coming of age story but there’s a twist. It’s about… Werewolves! What would be your first thought? To what conclusion would your brain jump? YA? I knew it! However, Mongrels is not a young adult book, it’s a finely crafted story told from a teenage werewolf. He lives with his aunt and uncle and they travel the length and breadth of the United States never staying in place too long. I’d heard Mongrels was good and it is, it’s one of those that, although not flawless, is difficult not to enjoy.img_1677

As mentioned, the story follows the lives of three Werewolves, Libby, Darren and the unnamed teenage narrator. They travel and never settle too long and at night, Libby and Darren turn and get up to all kinds of lycanthropy based shenanigans. The Narrator has yet to get his flat tongue and isn’t, technically, a fully-fledged werewolf yet. The chapters change occasionally between current times, with the narrator ageing incrementally, and in the past to when he was younger so we can see events that have shaped his personality. Jones hasn’t just presented us with a situation and expects us to get on with it, he’s fleshed out this hidden sub-culture. Libby and Darren both dispel Werewolf knowledge to the Narrator, we learn what’s Hollywood bullshit and what Werewolves like and dislike. What kills them, why they should always wear jeans and why they avoid French Fried. It feels as if the Narrator is relaying secret knowledge that we, the reader, shouldn’t be privy to. When reading, you may feel that some sections are mundane, like the old trope, is this the most interesting part of your protagonist’s life? If not, why aren’t you showing us that? Then you’ll remember “oh yeah… They’re Werewolves.” Every day is the most interesting day. That’s part of Jones’ talent as a writer, he makes you believe the surface level normality of the pack.

I can normally judge a book by how quickly I get through it. How I want to read it, how I don’t want to put it down. If I find myself day-dreaming about garden gnomes or scaring my cat with cucumbers, then that’s a good indication that I’m just not into it. At no point throughout Mongrels did my mind wander. It’s a wholly satisfying read and the horror that comes with the subject matter is told in such a matter of fact way, that you think back to it when you close your eyes that night. If you read it, let me know when you get to the bit about the tights. That shit is just plain nasty. Anyway, would recommend Mongrels, give it a read then enjoy a basket of live baby rabbits to mull it over.

 

Ben

Huge Book Haul #noselfcontrol

This month has been a particularly stellar month in terms of acquiring new books. The Christmas financial hangover has finally worn off, we had a birthday which resulted in the inevitable book shaped gifts being received and we had a trip to York in which we showed little restrained in Waterstones. so here is a list of everything we got this month, it is so big we broke it down into categories.

The Hardbacks

  1. Yaa  Gyasi, Homegoing
  2. China Mieville, The last days of new Paris
  3. Kate Hamer, The Doll Funeral
  4. Stephen King, Needful Things

Short Story Collections

5. Margaret Atwood, Stone Mattress

6. Angela Carter, The Bloody Chamber

7.Stephen Graham Jones, After the people lights have gone off

Birthday Gifts

8. Cynan Jones, Evreything (lol)

9.Andrew Taylor, Ashes of london

10.  Bill Bryson, The Road to Little Dribbling

11. Peter May, Coffin Road

PaperBacks

12.John Langan, The Fisherman

13. David Means, Hystopia

14. Jay McInerney, The Last of the savages

15. Douglas Coupland, Generation X

16. Alice Thompson, Pharos

17. Stephen Graham Jones, Mongrels

18.Murakami, Norwegian Wood

19. Nico Lee, A good lie ain’t easy * This was sent to us by the author in exchange for an Honest Review *

20. Chuck Palahnuik, Survivor 

and Two Poetry Books

21. Callum Mclaughlin, Seeking Solace (Callum is a fellow blogger, he has been a great support since we started the blog, he’s always ready with a good recommendation and has eerily similar reading tastes to us, check him out here: https://callummclaughlin.wordpress.com/ )

22.Sylvia Plath, Ariel ( I already have the standard Ariel, but this edition as just too damn beautiful too ignore! It’s also the first of four in the collection by Faber)

so thats this month (so far anyway!). We are now sufferring with trying to decide what to read next! Any Suggestions with were to start would be very welcome and keep an eye out for the reviews to come!

 

Grace & Ben

 

 

Sleeping Giants, Sylvain Neuvel, A review.

 

I went into Sleeping Giants with borderline excitement. I stumbled across it whilst looking for something to read and there it sat in my basket for many months before I purchased it. It arrived and I almost immediately started reading it. I read page after page and I found myself… unenthused. If I am well and truly invested in a novel I can’t put it down. I will sit and smash through it one or two sessions. Sleeping Giants, I struggled with, for reasons I aim to make apparent.

The msleeping-giantsain gripe I had was with the way the story is told. A series of audio logs, news reports and interviews with characters is a genuinely refreshing way to tell a story, but it’s the scale of the tale that makes it hard to fathom. Sleeping Giants is about, funnily enough, a sleeping giant. Some buried, giant metal hand is found and many years later some suspicious man, we assume is dressed in a black suit with an American flag pin adorned upon it, starts assembling a crack team to recover the rest of the pieces. We never find out truly who he is only that A: he’s mysterious and B: a bit of a bastard, who slowly grows fond of his team, in a distant Father way who’s watching their son score the winning touchdown at prom kind of thing. Or however sport works. Basically, the second most interesting character remains an enigma which is frustrating in the bad way. The most interesting character, dare I say, is the robot itself. Its origins hinted upon but never confirmed, and its scale and purpose bewildering to the people of Earth. Which leads me back to the gripe. The method of storytelling. We are presented with an intergalactic, teleporting, almost indestructible killer space robot, and we only get to appreciate the global and potentially universal implications of such a discovery, from such a narrow and blinkered view point. It doesn’t allow you to fully appreciate the world that Neuvel is attempting to create. This is supposedly the first of a trilogy all set in the same universe and if the next two are written in the same format I cannot see how it’ll work. You get a good idea of the direction he’s taking it in, and if it continues with interviews and audio logs you’ll have the literary equivalent of a low budget sci-fi that couldn’t afford to show all the explosions and lasers and giant robot fights. You know, the good stuff.

That being said, Sleeping Giants did pick up in the last 100 pages or so. I did become invested in one character who got me with her no nonsense bad-ass attitude, and I can’t criticise Neuvel’s prose. Regardless, I just don’t know if I’m going to pick up the sequel. I love sci-fi and Philip K Dick makes up a staple of my reading diet but I need to feel the whole world. I can build up the image but I need the foundations or I’m just pissing about in sand. Would recommend if you have a better imagination than me or enjoy reading police transcripts.

 

Ben

The Butchers Hook – Janet Ellis – A Review

* This Review Contains Spoilers* I AM going to discuss the ending*

Once again I have been bitten by the cruel mistress that is over hype. Many were the praises for this book described as bloody, dark, weird and murderous. Exactly my cup of tea right? WRONG! whilst I began the books basically hoping for a Georgian American Psycho with boobies, what I actually got was a book that seemed to drag on forever and quite frankly, I doubt it would even make my grandma flinch.

We follow the tale of Anne Jaccob, a well to do teenager who is promised to a snobbish arsehole called onions, but little Anne instead fancies a bit of the butcher boy Fub, who of course is far too much of a peasant for her to have any kind of future with. Anne is your typical gothic weirdo, she spits on lengths of own hair and uses it to make a necklace, keeps a dead mouse under her bed and acts like a bitch to most people she encounters. She hasn’t had a great life, as this book likes to remind us her baby brother is dead, her father is void of any affection and is generally a dick to everyone, her mother has pushed out so many children that there isn’t much of her left and her childhood tutor gave her some very dubious lesson in human anatomy.  Unfortunately, Anne was not the kick – ass anti-hero I hoped she would be. In her defense, Anne’s use of her menstrual cycles as a weapon of mass awkwardness did make me chuckle but most of the time, there wasn’t that much to like about her. Her obsessions with Fub was a typical first love, dying to get my hand on him kind of romance with a bit of standardised weirdness thrown in, but again nothing new to see here folks!

Oh and the promise of murder? you are going to have to drag your arse through 250 pages of this 342 page novel before you get a whiff of any decent stabby bits.

Much like Anne rattling around her big fancy house, I was bored and on numerous occasions I nearly did not finish this book. Also (spoiler alert) the ending was terrible. when you do get to the murderey bit of the book the delightful Anne has killed more than one person and this includes a small child in order to try and protect her obsessive passionate, romance with Fub.  Anne painfully whines for him and essentially he dominates her world. But after a lovers tiff at the back door and finding a purse full of coins on her bed Stabby Annie put all 300 pages of fucking romantic angst to one side and wanders off down the streets of London to start a new life without a trace of Fub or his hanging meat in her mind. I mean really WTF?!  This ending enraged me.

To summarise, I didn’t enjoy this book but I know many people did. Once again I find myself looking for new reading opportunities, rocking in the corner and repeating the same mantra DON’T BELEIVE THE HYPE.

P.S Book has a nice cover.

 

Grace x

 

 

 

 

 

The Book Collector – Alice Thompson – A Review

Confession time… My knowledge of classic fairy tales is more that a little restricted, of course as a child I absorbed every reworked, watered down and sugared up Disney tale that was placed in front of me, However, the classic fairy tale section of my never ending “to be read” list has just not been reached. Also, the fairbook collector.jpegy tale retelling industry seems to have been drowned by the YA scene and to be honest I’d rather stick on a pair of magical red shoes and dance until I need someone to chop my feet off than force my way through YA. These reasons are probably why I have yet to fully sink my teeth into the Fairy Tale genre.

So when I was given Alice Thompsons, The Book Collector as a birthday gift I was keen to see if such a gothic fairy inspired novel would be understood by my Disney mutilated brain. Not only did I understand it, I adored it.

Set in a bountiful country estate pre-world war one, this story focuses on the seemingly perfect Edwardian marriage of Violet, who has recently given birth to her beautiful baby boy. The more we read the more we learn about the obsessive and horror filled life Violet found herself in. Murder, mutilation, asylums and betrayals are key players in this story. This is definitely a book for grown-ups.

In this books slim 160 pages, you find endless haunting and brutal motifs, which create a strong theme without beating you over the head or alienating a non-Grimm obsessed audience. The slightness of this book makes for a rapid and fast paced read which will leave you feeling creeped out and uncomfortable in the best way possible.

The only thing I will say is don’t expect to be surprised or shocked by the storyline, the are some revelations that will leave you twitching, but the beautiful narrative does not need to lean on dramatic twists.

my only wish for this book is that it was more fleshy, I would have loved it to be a little longer with more history to each of its vivid characters, but overall I found this story thrilling and haunting and I am looking forward to reading more fairy tale reworkings. Just not the YA Kind.

Gracie X

According to the Daily Mail, Laurence Simpson, A review .

book-cover

As some of you may be aware, the narrow-browed, hypocritical, fearmongering fascist rag otherwise known as the Daily Mail has recently been declared as a ‘fake news’ source by Wikipedia. I’m not going to be impartial, I despise the Daily Mail. It is the very embodiment of hypocrisy. A coin, one side a shouting, angry face screeching about immigrants and cancer and homosexuals. The other, a greasy, creepy man, pointing out the ‘curvaceous’ figure of the newest non-celebrity. Also, what is with the Daily Mail jumping at the NHS with claws at the ready whenever they get the chance? Criticising everything, they do and say. I mean, come on! The NHS needs our support, not to be berated by raging cock-wombles at every turn. I hate it with an almost unbridled passion and that is why I was so happy to stumble across Simpson’s According to the Daily Mail. So, due to recent events in the news print world, it seems all too relevant to write a review of this amusing yarn.

The novel follows Johnathan, a middle-age man, like most, hates the Daily Mail. He, by a series of events comes into a large amount of money. Then he sets out to destroy the Daily Mail, followed swiftly by all the other paper masquerading as ‘news’. What follows is a Benny Hill style caper that forces Johnathan and his cohorts to outwit the police and get away with the crime of the century!

It all sounds a bit twee but honestly it is an enjoyable read! Simpson’s distain for the Daily Mail is evident, and the story is basic in premise. But it didn’t have to be some thinly veiled metaphor about a forest and anthropomorphic creatures conspiring against an especially capricious vole. Simpson has managed to fill this amusing book with a clear, concise message that manages to entertain and at no point feels preachy. Yes, it’s clear that he doesn’t approve of the Daily Mail, but it never feels like he’s ramming “you buy the Mail you are bad” mentality down your throat. Throw in a handful of likeable characters, a satisfying plot arc and a fitting ending and you have a great book.

Let’s not lie to ourselves, According to the Daily Mail isn’t going to win the Pulitzer prize for literature. But, it is well written, funny and is accessible. Some books that try and convey a message hide it behind walls and walls of imagery and metaphor that their ideology can become diluted. Be this because the author wants to flex their writing muscles, or that they are afraid of the repercussions that may arise from making such a bold statement. Simpson is quite happy to walk up and slap down how he feels on the table and doesn’t care who he pisses off. That I admire.

So, if you want an entertaining romp, destroying the British tabloid, then give it a go. You will laugh and you will put it down with a smile on your face. However, if you’re not a fan of satire or you are a diehard Daily Mail fan, then perhaps give this a bit of a wide berth. Thumbs up from me, enjoy with a glass of red wine. Or at a EDL rally.

 

Ben

 

P.S. Sorry if I went on a bit at the start of this piece!