Demonic and Other Tales: The Short Fiction of Garon Cockrell

Ronan, my boyfriend, bought me this for my birthday, because Garon works on one of his favourite podcasts, and he thought I might like the idea of a collection of short stories which all tied in to a longer narrative.

Demonic and Other Tales: The Short Fiction of Garon Cockrell

13075069.jpgDon’t miss this terrific collection of horrifying tales by Garon Cockrell, founder of popculturebeast.com. Included in this edition are “Demonic,” “Eggs,” “Home Alone,” “What’s Your Pleasure?,” “The Strange Tale of Griffin Shard,” “Looking Glass,” “Interrogation,” “Manny,” “Prelude,” and “Haven.”

“DEMONIC is a veritable cornucopia of ghoulish delights! A real treat.”
— Brandon Ford, author of CRYSTAL BAY and PAY PHONE

“Raw-boned horror with veins of humor, splashes of surreal visions, and pathos… Bloodily gruesome entertainment. DEMONIC’s the one for fans of extreme story-telling who like a wicked twist in the tail.”
— Simon Clark, author of VAMPYRRHIC, THE MIDNIGHT MAN, THIS RAGE OF ECHOES, BLOOD CRAZY, STRANGER, GHOST MONSTER, BUTTERFLY, HUMPTY’S BONES, and many other novels

I appreciate Ronan’s thought in picking a collection of short stories he thought I might like, but this was, actually, a terrible collection. There was so much to dislike about it, I find it hard to know where to begin.

Firstly: the title. For some inexplicable reason, the book is called ‘Demonic and other tales: the short fiction of Garon Cockrell’. So the author’s name is in the title of the book. I have yet to figure out why this is, and it’s made it difficult to know how to title this blog post, or write it in my lists, etc. We got off to a bad start, this book of short stories and I.

I also had serious issues with the quality of this book. The typesetting was poor, with frequent rendering errors. This was especially prominent with em and en dashes, which often didn’t display at all. But on top of that, the starndard of writing was very poor, with frequent comma splices, fragments, and poorly constructed sentences. This distracted from the actual stories, which was frustrating again. And as well as that, the book was poorly proofread or copy edited. There were lots of examples of synonyms and typos going uncorrected – one I noticed frequently was peak used where peek should have been, but there were multiple others, including accept instead of except.

So in terms of how the book was put together, I was unhappy, which meant that I was then distracted from the plot itself (or itselves). This was always likely to make me more harsh on the book, but to be honest, I would have been quite harsh on this anyway. It’s marketed as a collection of horror stories, but it’s not so much a collection of horror as a collection of gore and slasher fiction. There’s no explanation for why some of the horrendous violence occurs in the short stories, just description of seeping blood and trailing entrails. There’s no joy in reading about descriptions of gore if there’s no fear or horror behind them. I could just read crime scene reports if that was my jam.

As well as that, the stories really failed to stand on their own. Lots of them focused on gore rather than horror, but there were a few which didn’t really tick boxes in either category. Eggs, specifically, was one which I thought was just incomprehensible.

The first short story in this collection is about a man on a killing spree, because of … jealousy? There’s no explanation for why he snapped like this, and what becomes clear later in the story is that he’s not even meant to be the main character, but rather one of his intended victims is. There’s no focus in these stories, and a scope which is either too wide or too narrow – I found it incredibly hard to get into any of the stories.

One of the reasons why Ronan thought I might like this collection was because the stories tie into a larger narrative arc. And, in fairness, some of them do seem to have a small connection to each other, in that some (not all) of them have connections to demons. But in a collection called ‘Demonic and other tales’, I would expect there to be a demonic connection between several of the stories. The connection here wasn’t worked through well enough, didn’t draw enough parallels, and to be honest, didn’t tie the stories together in a way which was at all satisfying.

My last complaint was that the cover of the book and the publisher, DoorQ.com (now defunct, shocker…), specifically flag queer stories in this collection. But there’s actually only one example of a queer couple to be seen. And they’re not human. I was really surprised at this, given the publisher, and that I know the author is LGBTQ. It felt a lot like tokenism, and I found it really disappointing and misleading that it was specifically flagged on the cover.

Overall, I was massively disappointed in this collection of short stories. It’s badly written, badly edited, badly presented, and generally not an enjoyable reading experience. The one and only good thing I have to say about it is that it was quick. And that might only have been because I was trying not to prolong the pain of reading it.

One Star
*

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Charmcaster – Sebastien de Castell

I received a copy of this book from the publisher on NetGalley.

I’ve made no secret of the fact that I’ve thoroughly enjoyed the first two books in de Castell’s Spellslinger series, gushing about how much I loved Spellslinger and the followup, Shadowblack. So when I saw that the third was available on NetGalley, I had it requested before I even had time to say ‘oooooh!’.

Charmcaster (Spellslinger #3) – Sebastien de Castell

36302416.jpgThe third book in the page-turning SPELLSLINGER fantasy series.

‘I was getting almost as good at running away from enemies as I was at making them in the first place. Turns out, I wasn’t running nearly fast enough.’

Kellen has begun to master his spellslinging and the Argosi tricks for staying alive, and he and Reichis have found a career that suits them both: taking down mercenary mages who make people’s lives miserable. But Ferius is concerned that Kellen is courting disaster . . .

Perfect for fans of The Dark Tower, Firefly, Guardians of the Galaxy, Terry Pratchett, Ben Aaronovitch and Jim Butcher.

I really loved the first two books in this series, and Charmcaster is a worthy installation. With extra development about Kellen’s life in the six months or so since the last book, as well as some history on Ferius Parfax, his mentor, and an unwinding story that hints at even greater things to come in the next three books.

This book is full of the snark, wit, and terrible incompetent main character that I loved in the first two books. Reichis is his usual thieving, chittering, violent self, and Kellen is incompetent but still loveable. Ferius is bewildering and cool, and the reintroduction of a few characters we’ve seen before added depth and nuance to the story.

Kellen and his crew have travelled to a new country this time, Gitabria, a nation of traders and inventors, and unsurprisingly they run into a whole heap of trouble once more. Thieving, spellslinging, card painting, and banter all make reappearances, and I loved every word of it.

I can’t wait for the fourth book in the series, Soulbinder, and I’m going to have to check out de Castell’s adult series, Greatcoats, to tide me over in the mean time.

Also to add, the cover artist has knocked it out of the park again. Charmcaster’s cover puts Reichis to the fore, and the internal illustrations are also spectacular. Big thumbs up to Hot Key books’ art team!

Five Stars
*****

 

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Killer T – Robert Muchamore

I’ve read a lot of Robert Muchamore’s Cherub books and always enjoyed them. His realistic teens in spy situations have been flawed and human, make mistakes, but always have you rooting for them to succeed in the end – especially against Mr Large, that dick. Although Muchamore has written other non-Cherub books, this is the first that I have read. Focusing on a near-future where gene editing technology has become rife, it promised to be an interesting and engrossing book.

I received a copy of this book on NetGalley from the publisher.

Killer T – Robert Muchamore

39227537.jpgOur world is about to change in ways we can barely imagine. KILLER T is a novel about growing up in that world.

Harry and Charlie are teenagers whose lives are shaped by a society that’s shifting around them. He is a lonely Brit in his first term at a Las Vegas high school. She is an unlikely friend, who gets accused of mixing a batch of explosives that blew up a football player.

The two of them are drawn together at a time when gene editing technology is starting to explode. With a lab in the garage anyone can beat cancer, enhance their brain to pass exams, or tweak a few genes for that year-round tan and perfect beach body. But in the wrong hands, cheap gene editing is the most deadly weapon in history. Killer T is a synthetic virus with a ninety per-cent mortality rate, and the terrorists who created it want a billion dollars before they’ll release a vaccine.

Terrifying. Romantic. Huge in scope. A story for our times.

There’s no doubt that this book was compelling. I started reading it one evening and stayed up far past my bedtime, turning pages incessantly, desperate to find out what happened next. I eventually had to give up as my eyes started to close by themselves, and spent the next day at work itching to get back to reading. Charlie, the female lead, is a great character. The world seems stacked against her, and you can see how easily she gets sucked into a life of scrappy criminality, because there didn’t really seem to be any other options open to her. But Harry was less likeable, and therefore less enjoyable to read about.
The book is broad in scope, told in six parts, with time skips between six months and three years between sections, meaning the time between the first pages of the book and the final pages is more than a decade. It was quite disconcerting to have such a choppy interaction with the two main characters, and I felt like it negatively affected the reader’s connection with them. Relationships were developed and broken off-page, and therefore my support for those relationships was lacking.
While the story was very interesting, the broad scope and development of gene editing technology meant that time skips were necessary, but that led to a lack of actual human connection with the characters. As well as that, with Harry being a pretty unlikeable character from midway through the book, I never really warmed to him enough to let his entitled, jerkish reaction to mid-plot events slide, or forgive him for it in the end.
The last thing which really bothered me was the use of language in the book. The words handicapped and retarded were scattered through the book without any acknowledgement that they’re outdated and no longer acceptable in modern usage. For a book which was meant to be set in the near future, with a secondary character with disabilities, I was really surprised at this, and found it quite jarring.
Overall, this lacked the charm of Cherub for me, but was certainly a demonstration of Muchamore’s ability to write a plot that sucks you in and refuses to let go.

Three Stars
***

 

Killer T will be published in September 2018 by Hot Key Books

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The Monstrous Child – Francesca Simon

I downloaded this from BorrowBox on a whim. It keeps coming up in my recommended books, so I decided to give it a go. The story of Hel, Norse Goddess of the Underworld, it had a really strong narrative voice, but not enough plot to support that.

The Monstrous Child – Francesca Simon

29361002.jpgA stunning, operatic, epic drama, like no other. Meet Hel, an ordinary teenager – and goddess of the Underworld. Why is life so unfair? Hel tries to make the best of it, creating gleaming halls in her dark kingdom and welcoming the dead who she is forced to host for eternity. Until eternity itself is threatened.

Francesca’s first and wonderful foray into teen.

Because I downloaded this on a whim, I didn’t really know anything about it when I started listening. I was firstly surprised by how short it is. At only four hours, it’s probably an extended novella rather than a novel, but I think it falls into that hard to classify in between area. Goodreads has it down as 304 pages for the hardcover edition, but I find that hard to believe.

The audiobook narrator for this, Eleanor Tomlinson, is fantastic. Francesca Simon has written a really strong, distinctive, and interesting voice for the main character, Hel, and Tomlinson does a fantastic job of bringing her to life. The first hour of the book was hugely enjoyable, as Hel describes her family, her snake brother, giantess mother, wolf brother, god father, and upbringing. I was excited for a snarky, witty foray into Norse mythology as Hel built her empire and protected eternity.

But I did not get that at all. Those first few chapters are the best part of the book, because you’re getting to know Hel as a person. But once the plot, what little of it there is, actually starts to unfold, I lost interest completely. Hel isn’t compelling enough to carry teh story based on her own reactions and actions, but there’s also not enough going on around her to keep my interest up.

It felt a little like the author wanted to create a really interesting, compelling main character, and spent ages crafting her so that her voice came through really strongly, but then forgot that the book also has to have a narrative thrust, a driving force of plot. It’s sadly lacking here.

So while I liked Hel, I very much did not like the book, and won’t be reading any more of Simon’s offerings. Perhaps others would like the sweeping look at the life (or afterlife) of the goddess of death in Norse mythology, and her interactions with her subjects, fellow gods, and Scottish giantess who guards the bridge from the mortal world. But it was definitely not for me.

Two Stars
**

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The Lost and the Found – Cat Clarke

I don’t recall when or why I got this book, but it’s been sitting on my kindle for more than a year now. So when I was in an airport, and had nothing else to do, I decided to read this story of a missing girl returned, and the impact of it on her family as a whole.

The Lost and the Found – Cat Clarke

36156478From a Zoella Book Club 2017 author 

SHE WAS LOST…

When six-year-old Laurel Logan was abducted, the only witness was her younger sister, Faith. Faith’s childhood was dominated by Laurel’s disappearance – from her parents’ broken marriage and the constant media attention to dealing with so-called friends who only ever wanted to talk about her sister.

NOW SHE IS FOUND…

Thirteen years later, a young woman is found in the garden of the Logans’ old house, disorientated and clutching the teddy bear Laurel was last seen with. Laurel is home at last, safe and sound. Faith always dreamed of getting her sister back, without ever truly believing it would happen. But a disturbing series of events leaves Faith increasingly isolated and paranoid, and before long she begins to wonder if everything that’s lost can be found again…

This book was … fine, I guess. It had some interesting points, and there was certainly a lot of great character development in there. It had some lovely relationships between children and step-parents, and discussion of functional relationships with both parents after the breakdown of a marriage. It also had some decent character development for Faith as she realised what a selfish knob she was being half the time. But I had a lot of issues with this book. Mainly with the big twist at the end.

Was it even meant to be a twist? I had it figured out from the day after Laurel came home. And reading the book with the foreknowledge that this would be the twist, I was left cold by some of the character development throughout it.

Now don’t get me wrong, I think there was some really great stuff in this book, and incisive commentary about the nature of press coverage for missing people, which was really well-handled throughout the book. The final pages were chilling and very effective. But overall what I thought I was getting was not what I actually got because of this twist.

Also, the cover, which is teddy bears, looks like popcorn on a small phone screen. It put me in mind of Holly Bourne’s It Only Happens In the Movies, which was probably not the effect the cover designer was going for …

See the similarities? I spent a large proportion of the book wondering when the popcorn would be relevant.

Overall, although I was disappointed in this specific book, I really liked the way that Cat Clarke writes. I have a couple of her other books on my kindle as well, and this certainly wasn’t enough to put me off them, but it wasn’t enough to make me rush out and buy the rest of her back catalogue either.

Three Stars
***

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March Roundup

It’s a quarter of the way through the year already. This is madness. Easter is already over! I’m not ready for us to be this far into the year – how is it going so fast?

I’ve been really busy the last few weeks, with three trips away, so I haven’t actually had much time to read at all. But we’re still trucking along, ticking the occasional book off the list. Here’s what I read in March:

Books

  1. King Lear – William Shakespeare
  2. Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them – JK Rowling
  3. Beside Myself – Anne Morgan
  4. Wonder – RJ Palacio
  5. Northern Lights (His Dark Materials #1) – Philip Pullman*
  6. What Fresh Hell – Lucy Vine
  7. The Astonishing Colour of After – Emily XR Pan
  8. Vox – Christina Dalcher
  9. Emma – Jane Austen
  10. Go, Set A Watchman – Harper Lee
  11. Love, Hate & Other Filters – Samira Ahmed
  12. Stardust: Radio 4 Dramatisation – Neil Gaiman
  13. Forever in Love (Montana Brides #2) – Leeanna Morgan
  14. They Both Die At The End – Adam Silvera
  15. The Lost and the Found – Cat Clarke
  16. Forever After (Montana Brides #3) – Leeanna Morgan
  17. The Fire Sermon (The Fire Sermon #1) – Francesca Haig
  18. Artemis Fowl (Artemis Fowl #1) – Eoin Colfer*
  19. Safe Haven (The Protectors #1) – Leeanna Morgan

 Short Stories

  1. Finding Cinderella – Colleen Hoover

Cover Art

Favourite Book This Month

I had two five star books this month, but they were both re-reads. So my gold star for March 2018 goes to Love, Hate & Other Filters. It was really interesting to read a story of a totally normal Muslim girl and her experience of Islamophobia in her everyday life. It’s not something I really knew anything about, and I appreciated that insight. Besides that, it was well-written, and had lots of interesting framing of the story as through the medium of film-making, the main character’s specific interest. It was really thoroughly enjoyable!

Least Favourite Book This Month

Go, Set A Watchman was a big disappointment, although it was an interesting insight into how books can develop. I expanded on that a little in my review also.

Favourite cover art

Definitely The Astonishing Colour of After wins it for me this month. I didn’t massively like the book itself, but the cover art is just beautiful.

37758969

 

 

Other…

Lower number of books read this month, leaving me on 69 for the year so far (teehee!). I’m happy with how it’s going, but unhappy with how blogging went this month. I was very busy, but I let it slide, and I could’ve made the time to post more. I’ll try harder in April!

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The Fire Sermon – Francesca Haig

It’s been a while since I read a straight dystopia book. I did read The Fandom, but that had an extra layer on top of the basic dystopian story line, so The Fire Sermon felt like a good choice to return to a genre I’ve read a lot of. The premise is pretty simple. Hundreds of years after some kind of nuclear catastrophe, every baby is born a twin. All twin pairs have one strong, perfectly healthy child (the Alpha) and one with some form of mutation – generally physical, but sometimes an Omega is born with the gift of the Sight. So far, so simple. Then from there it’s your standard oppressed/oppressors dialogue.

The Fire Sermon (The Fire Sermon #1) – Francesca Haig

25011831When Zach and I were born our parents must have counted and recounted: limbs, fingers, toes. The complete set. They would have been disbelieving – nobody dodged the split between Alpha and Omega.

Nobody.

Born as twins. Raised as enemies.

One strong Alpha twin and one mutated Omega; the only thing they share is the moment of their death.

The Omegas live in segregation, cast out by their families as soon as their mutation becomes clear. Forced to live apart, they are ruthlessly oppressed by their Alpha counterparts.

The Alphas are the elite. Once their weaker twin has been cast aside, they’re free to live in privilege and safety, their Omega twin far from their thoughts.

Cass and Zach are both perfect on the outside: no missing limbs, no visible Omega mutation. But Cass has a secret: one that Zach will stop at nothing to expose.

The potential to change the world lies in both their hands. One will have to defeat the other to see their vision of the future come to pass, but if they’re not careful both will die in the struggle for power.

There were some interesting concepts in this book. The aversion to technology as what caused the destruction of the world and the oppression of the lesser class of people was pretty standard, and fairly well done. It was interesting that Alphas and Omegas remain always linked – when one suffers an injury or illness, if sufficiently severe, the other will feel it too. And when one dies, the other dies. So the oppression of Omegas is constrained by the fact that they can only be ground down, not left to die, lest their Alpha twins die, too.

but overall, I wasn’t wild about this book. it just felt pretty forgettable. The main story took too long to get going, with a lot of background about Cass growing up and the background information necessary to build the world. I was left bored and checking the percentage remaining before the main plot points actually started running.

There was nothing specifically wrong with the fire sermon, and maybe if I hadn’t read so many dystopia I’d like it better. But it just feels very forgettable. There are two more books in the series, and the first installment ended well – with some resolution, but a larger plot arc still ongoing. However, it didn’t hook me enough to convince me that I must immediately pick up the sequel. If it shows up in the library I might give it a go, but for now, my journey ends here.

Three Stars
***

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Go, Set A Watchman – Harper Lee

I read To Kill A Mockingbird when I was a young teenager – my sister studied it in school and I recall stealing it from her room so that I could consume it. I must admit that I really didn’t understand it probably as much as I could’ve, but it’s remained a wonderful story of the deep south.

When GSAW was published, in 2015, I was interested in it, but not enough to buy it at launch. It actually turned out to be three years until I borrowed it from the library and listened to the audiobook, narrated by Reese Witherspoon.

Go, Set A Watchman – Harper Lee

24909858From Harper Lee comes a landmark new novel set two decades after her beloved Pulitzer Prize-winning masterpiece, To Kill a Mockingbird. Maycomb, Alabama. Twenty-six-year-old Jean Louise Finch–“Scout”–returns home from New York City to visit her aging father, Atticus. Set against the backdrop of the civil rights tensions and political turmoil that were transforming the South, Jean Louise’s homecoming turns bittersweet when she learns disturbing truths about her close-knit family, the town and the people dearest to her. Memories from her childhood flood back, and her values and assumptions are thrown into doubt. Featuring many of the iconic characters from To Kill a MockingbirdGo Set a Watchman perfectly captures a young woman, and a world, in a painful yet necessary transition out of the illusions of the past–a journey that can be guided only by one’s conscience. Written in the mid-1950s, Go Set a Watchman imparts a fuller, richer understanding and appreciation of Harper Lee. Here is an unforgettable novel of wisdom, humanity, passion, humor and effortless precision–a profoundly affecting work of art that is both wonderfully evocative of another era and relevant to our own times. It not only confirms the enduring brilliance of To Kill a Mockingbird, but also serves as its essential companion, adding depth, context and new meaning to an American classic.

The marketing for this book said that it was a sequel to TKAM. But it’s not, really. It’s more like a companion novel. We see Scout Finch, now a grown woman of 26, returning to her native Maycomb, Alabama, and the bittersweet nature of her return.

Go Set A Watchman was the original novel that Lee submitted for publication. When it was accepted, Lee worked with her editor, picking out the parts of the novel that worked best (Scout’s childhood) and moulding them into the well-loved classic that is so well-known. Many years later, the original manuscript was found again, and published as a sequel.

Go Set A Watchman, though, is… well, it’s not good. It’s missing most of the charm and warmth of TKAM. It’s lacking the empathy that you feel with the characters of Maycomb. Mockingbird deals with many of the same issues as Watchman, dealing with racism and entrenched attitudes in the deep South, but Watchman is much more heavy handed. It’s just… it’s much less of a book.

Because it wasn’t written as a sequel, it doesn’t have that examination of characters that you would maybe see as you investigate how characters have grown and developed from where you met them first. But because Watchman was written first, the evolution is actually visible when you compare them, but it’s backwards. Jem, Scout, and Atticus are so much more in Mockingbird than they are in Watchman.

Reading this book, it’s clear to see why Mockingbird was sculpted out of the bones of this story. It’s something much lesser than what it eventually became. Watchman is largely a demonstration of the power of a good editor, and what the vital role they play is. Disappointing alone, it should be read as an insight into the development of the story and how crucial the role the publisher plays was then, and still is now.

Two Stars
**

 

A Note: I was away last week at a wedding, and didn’t get a chance to write a Thursday post. Then yesterday I was away again at a conference, and again didn’t get a chance. Hence why I’m posting on a Wednesday. Normal posting will resume next week… probably.

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Reviewing the Unreviewed

As we’re approaching the end of March, and I’m still busy at work and with life, I’m realising that my twice-a-week posting schedule means that I don’t really get the time to fully review everything that I’ve read this year.

So I’m going to institute a new type of post.

Every now and then, when I feel like enough time has passed that I’m not going to write a full review post for the books from a particular month, I’ll give some one-line reviews and star ratings to the books I’ve read.

Although I track my reads on Goodreads, I often give star ratings and then forget why I gave them. I’m hoping that this new system will help me keep better track of why I did or didn’t like a book, and therefore help me with making decisions on whether or not to read other books by that author. For example, if I remembered how much I disliked the first Ann O’Loughlin book I read, I wouldn’t have read a second.

So this is the first of my new Reviewing the Unreviewed type post. Let me know what you think of it!

Long May She Reign – Rhiannon Thomas

30320053Unexpected queenliness. Finding who you may have been destined to be. Plots galore. Widespread murder. Thoroughly enjoyable.

Four Stars

Everyday Sexism – Laura Bates

My first non-fiction book of 2018! Several years old now, it’s lost some of its impact, but still stokes fires of rage inside me. This stuff is so pervasive. How do people ever believe that feminism isn’t necessary??

Four Stars

One Small Act of Kindness – Lucy Dillon

A sweet, romantic book with a mystery at its heart, it resolved itself in three pages flat, leaving me shocked and wanting more. WAS THE DOG OKAY??

Three Stars

A Million Worlds With You (Firebird #3) – Claudia Gray28960100

The third in a series with something of an eye-rolling ‘destined to be together’ romance, this was still well-thought out and played with fun tropes. I particularly liked the clone universe, as a deus ex machina to get all the alternate characters to talk to each other. A worthy finale.

Four Stars

The Edge – Dick Francis*

A re-read of an old favourite author, I love Dick Francis’s racing thrillers, but this is a forgettable one. Still great, but lacking some of the thrust of his best.

Three Stars

The Silent Sister – Diane Chamberlain

This book was a follower of the ‘throw darts at a board and write about what sticks’ method of choosing issues. Too much going on here, and ‘big’ reveals which were easy to work out.

Three Stars

Who Could That Be At This Hour? (All The Wrong Questions #1) – Lemony Snicket

Lacking the charm of ASOUE, I wasn’t drawn into this the way I have been with Snicket’s other books. Perhaps I’m too old, or too impatient, or the audiobook format didn’t work, but I didn’t warm to any of the characters and was left fed up by the end.

Two Stars

The Hypnotist’s Love Story – Liane Moriarty

Liane Moriarty’s first book, it’s lacking some of the humour and finesse of her later offerings, but is still quite enjoyable. It’s interesting to see how much you get into the head of the stalker, and empathise with her, and I thought this very well done.

Three Stars

28110865Leave Me – Gayle Forman

Gayle Forman’s first book for adults, I was interested to read this one. Generally very enjoyable, although different entirely to her YA books (which I have very love/hate relationships with), it finished up very quickly, and left me somewhat disappointed.

Three Stars

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child (Harry Potter #8) – JK Rowling, Jack Thorne, John Tiffany

God, I was so disappointed in this. I knew the plot already, because I had seen the plays, but without the fantastic staging of the West End production, there’s nothing to defend the ridiculous fanfiction-esque storyline which rambles between points, and serves to reinforce my idea that the Potterverse and the Potter storyline should have stopped at Nineteen Years Later.

Two Stars

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Vox – Christina Dalcher

On International Women’s Day, I received an email about The Handmaid’s Tale for a new generation, giving me a quick synopsis of Vox by Christina Dalcher. I was intrigued, so I requested it immediately, and my request was granted a few days later, which was great!

I received a copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley. It’s not published until August of this year, but I suspect there’ll be a serious amount of buzz around it!

Vox – Christina Dalcher

37796866Perfect for fans of The Handmaid’s Tale, don’t miss the thrilling debut that everyone will be talking about this summer!

Silence can be deafening.

Jean McClellan spends her days in almost complete silence, limited to a daily quota of just one hundred words.

Now that the new government is in power, no woman is able to speak over this limit without punishment by electric shock.

But when the President’s brother suffers a stroke, Jean is temporarily given back her voice in order to work on the cure.

And she soon soon discovers that she is part of a much larger plan: to eliminate the voices of women entirely.

The cover art I’ve included in this post is for the American edition of Vox. The UK edition doesn’t have its final cover art yet, but I hope it’ll be something similarly striking – this cover is really stunning.
I really, thoroughly enjoyed Vox. It was a chilling, enthralling read of how quickly things can change and ideologies can take over, to create a horrendous post-dystopian world where women are practically silenced, and forced into domestic drudgery, then blamed for the difficulties that wiping out half of the workforce creates.
There was some really, really great stuff in the book about hypocrisy, indoctrination, how easy it is to get used to something horrendous just because it’s your new normal, and how damaging it is to children to be introduced to ideals, how quickly they’ll latch on to them.
I also appreciated how thoroughly researched the book was, with plenty of information about linguistic development and linguistic delays, and the sound scientific backing behind the book. There’s nothing worse than a book which is clearly poorly researched. Having done some googling about the author, she was in a previous life a linguistic researcher, which explains the rigour of the backing information in Vox.
I read the book with a horrendous sense of anger, and a desire to punch everyone close to me who was of the male persuasion. Thankfully, I read it in my office at work, so I was actually alone, meaning that I wasn’t doing any ill-advised punching.
My only complaints about the book were as follows:
1) I would’ve liked more background. The book seems to be set in the early 2020s, where information and language are a massive part of our lives. To have descended within a single 12 month period to a state where women are no longer permitted to speak more than 100 words, read, open their own post, or even communicate through sign language, seemed, to me, a little too much of a stretch. I know that things can deteriorate incredibly quickly, and we can end up living in an Orwellian nightmare before we even realise it, but I would have liked more background on how this happened so fast in the book.
Tied in with this, I would’ve liked more information about the daily operation of life in this restricted nightmare. Girls and boys are educated separately, but who’s educating the girls? If they’re seen as lesser, needing to know only basic arithmetic and homemaking skills, surely men wouldn’t be willing to teach them? And if it’s a woman teaching them, how is she meant to keep order in the classroom with only 100 words a day?
2) I would’ve also liked more information about how in the hell the US was operating like this as against the rest of the world. The book briefly mentions that the rest of the world has just shaken their heads and let the States get on with it. But I really don’t think that would ever happen? The US is too tied up in treaties and conventions and agreements to be allowed to sequester itself and implement such blatant abuses of human rights, right?
3) The blurb of the book suggests that the ultimate plan is to silence women entirely. There are plenty of examples of this, with women who break the rules, or lesbians or queer women, women who try to escape… but it’s not really explained or depicted in the book that this applies to more than just women. Queer men are also subject to the same restrictions, and as the book continues, it becomes apparent that the overall plan isn’t just about women.
There’s no doubt that this is an enthralling, gripping examination of attitudes towards women, with a thorough background in it, but it really loses focus towards the end of the book. The wide-ranging plans of the government become of much more consequence than the daily subjugation which was depicted in the early chapters of the book, and that loss of focus means that the ending isn’t as powerful as it might have been.
Nonetheless, a gripping and highly entertaining (and rage-inducing) book that I’m looking forward to being published in August.
Four Stars
****

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