Sunday Shorts: 3 Mini Reviews (08.12.19)

Good evening all and welcome back to Sunday Shorts! I’ve decided to try and run this section of the blog bi weekly and see how I get on. This week I have another novella, short story and a graphic novel for you all. And before you ask, yes. Neil Gaiman is in this one too.

In the wake of his infant daughter’s tragic death, Steve Brannigan is struggling to keep himself together. Estranged from his wife, who refuses to be inside the house where the unthinkable happened, and unable to work, he seeks solace in an endless parade of old sitcoms and a bottle of bourbon.
Until one night he hears a sound from his daughter’s old room, a room now stripped bare of anything that identified it as hers…except for her security blanket, affectionately known as Blanky.
Blanky, old and frayed, with its antiquated patchwork of badly sewn rabbits with black button eyes, who appear to be staring at the viewer…Blanky, purchased from a strange old man at an antique stall selling “BABY CLOSE” at a discount.
The presence of Blanky in his dead daughter’s room heralds nothing short of an unspeakable nightmare that threatens to take away what little light remains in Steve’s shattered world.
Because his daughter loved Blanky so much, he buried her with it.
  • Title: Blanky
  • Author: Kealan Patrick Burke
  • Genre: Contemporary horror

    After reading Sour Candy for the last round of Sunday Shorts I thought this would be the best follow up to reading Kealan Patrick Burke. Unfortunately this was a bit meh for me and it was a slog to finish. One aspect of the book is the discussion of grief and particularly the death of an infant. I do think that was handled very well but the story itself was not as good as I expected and the plot lacked in places. I still intend to read more of Burke’s work but this one was not for me.

★★★/5

In this standalone short story by N. K. Jemisin, author of The Fifth Season, the winner of this year’s Hugo Award for Best Novel, New York City is about to go through a few changes. Like all great metropolises before it, when a city gets big enough, old enough, it must be born; but there are ancient enemies who cannot tolerate new life. Thus New York will live or die by the efforts of a reluctant midwife…and how well he can learn to sing the city’s mighty song
  • Title: The City Born Great
  • Author: N.K Jemisin
  • Genre: Science Fiction/Fantasy

    This was a nice story and a bit of a different work than what I’m used to from Jemisin. This is set in a modern day as opposed to a further future that we saw in her Broken Earth trilogy for example and it is wonderful. For such a short work there is a great discussion of homelessness ,racism and police brutality towards black men. This is the shorter work that has beget Jemisin’s new novel due out in 2020, The City We Became and I can’t wait to see how she continues it.

★★★★/5

THE SANDMAN: THE DREAM HUNTERS is a comics adaptation of Gaiman’s original prose novella by the same name illustrated by Yoshitako Amano. This graphic novel was illustrated by the legendary P. Craig Russell. A humble young monk and a magical, shape-changing fox find themselves romantically drawn together. As their love blooms, the fox learns of a devilish plot by a group of demons and a Japanese emperor to steal the monk’s life. With the aid of Morpheus, the fox must use all of her cunning and creative thinking to foil this evil scheme and save the man that she loves.
  • Title: The Sandman: The Dream Hunters
  • Authors: Neil Gaiman, P.Craig Russell
  • Genre: Graphic novel, fantasy, horror

    This is an obvious fact by now that The Sandman is my favourite series of all times in terms of comics and this one is the latest I have read in order to have the entire universe read and covered this year. This story, will hurt you. I cried like I did when I read The Kindly Ones and this story isn’t even about Dream. This story focuses on the characters that Morpheus just happens to find in his realm and as usual, what his duties really entail which we all know is making tough decisions.

★★★★★/5

That’s it this week for Sunday Shorts! Maybe next time I may have a few more works since I plan on introducing single issue comics to this too and I have a MASSIVE comics TBR at the moment. Tell me some of the shorter things you have read recently! I’d love to hear what I could read next.

Something Wicked this Way Comes- Ray Bradbury Review

‘Because, sometimes good has weapons and evil none. Sometimes tricks fail. Sometimes people can’t be picked off, led to dead falls. No divide and conquer tonight.’

This is a long overdue read for me. I’ve been dying to get back to my reading of the works of Ray Bradbury. I’ve been slowly getting into his work and I was highly impressed with this particular book. This was also the first book in a while that I just randomly picked up and read on the basis it was interesting. I also was on a long bus journey.

On an October night, the week before Halloween, the carnival arrives. Welcome to Cooger and Dark’s Pandemonium Shadow Show! A place of outlandish people, rides and a charismatic ring master who seems to know the darkest desire of anyones heart. For in the town of Green Town, there are two boys who answer the call to the carnival. For Will Holloway and Jim Nightshade, the carnival will show them many wonders and what the price is for the wishes within their hearts.

Now I thought Stephen King was the master of small town dramas, adolescent stories and the idea of the evil that killed the neighborhood. It is very clear where he learned this from. This book is wonderfully crafted and truly does manage to explore the horrors of adulthood while examining the wants of every young teen to be older and able to do as they wish.

We don’t generally see much of Green Town. We generally spend a good chunk of the book running through the town trying to keep up with Jim and Will as they run in every and any direction. The world within the carnival is hard not to be emmersed in, between the sound of calliope music, the churn and clunk of the carousel, the smell of sweat as people perform for so many. And under it all, like any circus or carnival, there is a sense of unease that something about this is not quite right.

There is such an anxiety woven into each character and is presented in a way that you can’t not feel it with the characters. Will is worried that he will lose Jim, somehow along the way as he grows up. Jim is scared and desperate to explore the activities and fancies experienced by adults alone, dying to rush towards his inevitable manhood. Will’s father Charles, his pining for his own youth and for Will’s approval. This all coupled with the villanous Mr Dark, the Illustrated Man lurking around every corner leaves for some very genuinely uneasy moments .

There is a constant sense of both dread and melancholy around this town when the carnival first shows up and it really doesn’t let up until the final pages. There is an underlying feeling that something is about to go very wrong and noone but us the readers know and we cannot warn the 2 boys.

The structure of the plot is very much balanced between both sides, the ‘good’ side of the town (Will and his father), the ‘bad’ who have arrived in town (Mr. Dark mainly) and there is to a certain point an unknowing to who will triumph in the end since anything could tip the scales (Jim and his temptation to go to the carnival, the lightning rod salesman etc). That to me was probably one of the best hooks within the plot to keep the reader engaged.

Bradbury’s writing is breathtaking in places and this comes as no shock to me. The way he can conduct a mood like he does relies totally on his descriptive writing. There are many sentences that have stuck with me but this one really has;

“So in sum, what are we? We are the creatures that know and know too much. That leaves us with such a burden again we have a choice, to laugh or cry. No other animal does either. We do, depending on the season and the need.”

I don’t have much else to say about this outside of what has already been said but just that I am so glad I finally read this. It definitely lives up to the hype and is well worth reading since it is not too long and isn’t one of Bradbury’s more fantastical works so its a good place to start.

★★★★★/5

Blog Tour: The Devil's Apprentice (The Great Devil War 1) by Kenneth B. Andersen

Good evening all and welcome to The Write Reads blog tour for The Devils Apprentice by Kenneth B. Andersen!

Philip is a good boy, a really good boy, who accidentally gets sent to Hell to become the Devil’s heir. The Devil, Lucifer, is dying and desperately in need of a successor, but there’s been a mistake and Philip is the wrong boy. Philip is terrible at being bad, but Lucifer has no other choice than to begin the difficult task of training him in the ways of evil. Philip gets both friends and enemies in this odd, gloomy underworld—but who can he trust, when he discovers an evil-minded plot against the dark throne?

If there is one thing I love is good, old fashioned devil tale. As a figure of mythology and a commonly used figure of evil in popular culture, the devil’s greatest trick has been making us all so obsessed with him. I’m a massive fan of Neil Gaiman’s Lucifer from the Sandman comics, Angelheart is one of my favourite films and my dream is to have a cat named after him. Yep. A bit of a thing here.

So obviously this a is a far cry from the Lucifer comics and neither does it have Mickey Rourke but this book is wonderful. I really enjoyed the entire premise of the devil choosing a new successor but somehow choosing the wrong one. There is a sense of irony throughout the story such as Philip’s second name being a play on the word angel, the method of how he arrives in hell and a couple of other’s that are genuinely funny. It’s so hard to find good fantasy books with humor these days and this one is just that.

We obviously spend pretty much the entire book in Hell. It’s a Hell we know with condemned souls being tortured for all eternity but this is a Hell you also have never seen before. This is a far more mundane Hell. I mean that entirely as a compliment. There are teenage devils, devils that are part of a family unit, there’s festivals, people have jobs. It’s just a Hell that makes a lot more sense to any of us who work, go to school and lead everyday lives.

Philip is eternally wonderful and is a precious sweet lad who Lucifer intends to corrupt no matter what it takes. His gentle nature makes for a hilarious contrast with those who surround him. Lucifer especially in his weakened state reminded me of Rasputin from the Anastasia movie which I know shows my age but only made me enjoy it more. Any of the scenes between them both are highly entertaining and bring to mind the strangest jedi/padawan type relationship that I thought really improved the plot.

There were some tiny pacing issues for me, but then again the ending of the story does work to explain this but in places I did feel the plot could be a little inconsistent. The overall story is very readable and I found it so easy to get wrapped up in the whole world of the book and the every day (or should I say night) we get to see of Hell. I would like to have spent more time with Grumblebeard but that might just be me as a person.

I would like to thank Dave from The Write Reads for offering me a place on this fantastic blog tour and providing me with a copy of the book in exchange for an honest review. I highly recommend this book for any fans of what I’ve discussed above and anyone who is in need of a fun fantasy with an fun twist on a typical story.

★★★★/5

Blog Tour: Unprotected by Sophie Jonas Hill

Good evening dear readers and welcome to stop on the ever fabulous Random Things Tours blog tour for Unprotected by Sophie Jonas Hill!

She’s fighting to save everyone else, but will she have anything left to save
herself?
Witty, sharp and sarcastic tattoo artist Lydia’s life is imploding. Her long-term relationship has broken down after several miscarriages and she’s hiding from her hurt in loss and rage. After a big night out she wakes beside a much younger man who brings complications she could really do without.
As her grief about her lost babies and failed relationships spirals out of control, she obsesses about rescuing a wayward teenage girl she watches from her window and gets more involved than she should with her charming but unstable young lover.
Unprotected is a raw and punchy story of love, family and accepting yourself
for who you really are.

This kind of book is not usually my cup of tea but I still wanted to give it a try and unfortunately, I was correct that this was not to my tastes. BUT that does not mean I didn’t admire the writing of this book and the raw story woven with it.

The book is written almost in a stream of consciousness, patterned with Lydia’s thoughts and memories throughout the course of the story. Lydia is at a very low point in her life that I think we can all empathise with. The very honest discussion of miscarriages and how it affects both mothers to be and their relationships is an aspect I thought was particularly important. Too long the suffering of women has been ignored and hidden due to ‘shame’ and social norms that are nothing but harmful and old fashioned.

The plot can be difficult to follow in places due to Lydia’s point of view being affected by several factors. At one stage at the start of the novel she is taking MD at a fetish club and its very easy to lose track of what is happening. However it works very well for this book since Lydia as a character is intended to be a flawed, broken character on the very edge of discovering the self she truly is.

Something that I really took from the book was a story Lydia tells is that of a ballet class of when she was young and how she ended up playing a mushroom instead of a fairy in the big performance. All in all I could feel that sense of awkwardness and being the biggest misfit among girls my age come rushing back when I was that age. One quote stuck with me:

That’s what it’s like, when you’re a mushroom girl. You have to be grateful for the role life has handed you, because it is a pivotal role.

This is something I struggled with when I was younger, that you should be grateful and not complain about what you have been given in life. Fuck that. There is no need to ever settle for unhappiness, and Lydia does exactly this. She breaks out from her mould and embraces a side of herself that in doing things that may be harmful or excessive, she figures out her own pace and embraces her traumatic past to rescue herself.

A bold tale of rescue that even though it takes confronting the darkest corner of yourself to embrace what you truly are. Like I said, these kind of books are way outside my comfort zone but I felt deeply for Lydia and moments of the book have really stuck with me.

★★★.5/5

About the author:

Sophie has had what might be politely described as a varied career, which has seen her be a black-smith, silver-smith, jewellery designer, pattern-cutter and wedding dress designer, home help, teacher, extreme knitter, burlesque performer, artist and various combinations of the above. Her one abiding passion alongside drawing has always been writing, from her early work in year four producing hand bound novellas mostly written in crayon, to the inevitable fantasy epic which pushed 500 pages and, thank goodness, has never seen the light of day.
She began focusing on her writing after the birth of her first child, and has been working on it ever since, losing hands down to the publishing industry’s gatekeepers and Gorgons, until she met fellow traveller Amanda Saint, who as the name suggests, was something of a shining light on the path.
She is currently studying an MA in illustration and discovering how much she hates academic writing, and what a wise move it was to give someone else the task of designing the cover for her first book with Retreat West, Unprotected. She lives in Kent with her long suffering husband, two children and a very handsome cat.

Thank you very much to both Anne and Retreat West for sending me a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review! Unprotected comes out today, November 28th.

Neverwhere-Neil Gaiman Review

‘ I mean, maybe I am crazy. I mean, maybe. But if this is all there is, then I don’t want to be sane.’

Good evening and apologies for my absence! I have been work busy, a bit exhausted and had an impromptu weekend away which was well needed. This book, is shockingly, the only Neil Gaiman book I have never read. And I dragged reading this book out for an entire week.

Richard Mayhew’s life takes an unexpected turn after a small act of kindness. After saving the life of an injured young woman named Door, Richard is suddenly confronted with the fact that the London he knew is not the only London. There is a London with rat speakers, angels, vicious assasins and train stations that never existed. When Richard is left with very little choice to go to this London Below, he is left with one option. Survive.

The alternate London trope in fantasy is a favourite (a post on this someday) and noone does it better than Neil Gaiman. Neverwhere is the original alternate London story. London Below is a place that belongs to various baronies and duchies and is littered with people, streets, trains and other things that have just been forgotten. It is very interesting that the people of London Above don’t see or remember anyone of London Below. This initially being how Richard ends up in London Below. The relationship between those above and below is so close to the approach people have towards the homeless that I even began to question my own attitude towards this too. Very relevant today I think.

Gaiman can write characters that will both walk with you, comfort you and put you in great danger after you leave the book on the shelf. Richard Mayhew has some very similar traits to Shadow Moon but he does use his voice a lot more and speaks his mind quite often. His development and character arc is very much that of an unlikely hero but there are some questions about him that are never answered that really work in the novels favour.

Door is very interesting but I did much prefer Hunter and of course, the Marquis de Carabas. Hunter is a woman that is known, feared and respected by many of London Below and her past especially that associated with Serpentine is hinted at heavily. I’m hoping it is addressed in the eventual sequel. The Marquis is a man who is two steps ahead at all times an wears a very wonderful coat. An unlikely semi anti hero figure who deals in favours he is fun as he is captivating.

I can’t not mention Mr Croup and Mr Vandemar. They. Scare. Me. Neil Gaiman always manages to brew a character that freaks me out long after I have put the book down. Before it was the Other Mother, Mr World and Tiger. Now I can add this murderous pair.

This book is following a journey. The journey of Door trying to find out who murdered her family while also being that of Richard as he see’s the true nature of London Below. The plot is a constant walk with many stops along the way. Many places are literal translations of the locations within London Above that will delight and frighten many. How many times will you look at Black Friars now and wonder where the friars are?

There was no surprise that I loved this book and that I am always slightly biased toward Gaiman’s work. But I am not lying when I say this book is such a good starting point for reading his books and a great gateway into fantasy. Again, it is getting a sequel which Gaiman doesn’t do so if you do love it stay tuned.

★★★★★/5

Sunday Shorts: 3 Mini Reviews (24.11.19)

Welcome to a new segment on my blog! Short and Shorter is going to be a selection of 3 works of short fiction that I do small quick reviews of so I can discuss them with everyone. I’m going to be including graphic novels some times in here too but I will still continue to review them as standalone works.


At first glance, Phil Pendleton and his son Adam are just an ordinary father and son, no different from any other. They take walks in the park together, visit county fairs, museums, and zoos, and eat together overlooking the lake. Some might say the father is a little too accommodating given the lack of discipline when the child loses his temper in public. Some might say he spoils his son by allowing him to set his own bedtimes and eat candy whenever he wants. Some might say that such leniency is starting to take its toll on the father, given how his health has declined. What no one knows is that Phil is a prisoner, and that up until a few weeks ago and a chance encounter at a grocery store, he had never seen the child before in his life
  • Title: Sour Candy
  • Author: Kealan Patrick Burke
  • Genre: Contemporary Horror

    Mt first time reading Kealan Patrick Burke and wow. Just wow. This is a novella that explores the horrors of sudden parenthood. I read this one morning in bed when my boyfriend went to work and I was blown away by the writing. The sheer creepiness of the story and this child who pulls as full Midwich Cuckoo and shows up makes for a great read. There is also some mild body horror with visceral descriptions of sour candy.

    ★★★★★/5
The coat. It was elegant. It was beautiful. It was so close that he could have reached out and touched it.

And it was unquestionably his.
  • Title: How the Marquis got His Coat Back
  • Author: Neil Gaiman
  • Genre: Fantasy

    I read this directly after finishing Neverwhere. This was a nice way to slowly exit the world after completing the novel and avoid a book hangover. The Marquis de Carabas is my favourite character from the book so it was nice to know he was up to his old tricks. I do think it was a good follow up to Neverwhere but does suffer from the 1.5 book syndrome where it leaves you with more questions than answers. Still I would recommend reading directly after finishing Neverwhere.

    /5
THE SANDMAN: ENDLESS NIGHTS will be a delight to fans of Gaiman’s work and newcomers to the graphic novel. Whether haunting, bittersweet, erotic or nightmarish, the seven stories in this book – one for each of the Endless siblings – reveal strange secrets and surprising truths. Each story is illustrated by some of the greatest comic artists from around the world.
  • Title: The Sandman: Endless Nights
  • Authors: Neil Gaiman, Glen Fabry, Milo Manara, Miguelanxo Prado, Frank Quitely, P. Craig Russell, Bill Sienkiewicz and Barron Storey
  • Genre: Graphic novel, fantasy, horror

    I love the Sandman series very much. So much I have a Sandman tattoo. So this year I reread the entire main series and this is the first volume after the conclusion of the last volume. This is short stories that follow each of the Endless and is illustrated by 7 different artists. The stories were great but the art left me down in places. Especially Manara’s since his art has always made me feel a bit…. ick. But still overall, good read and great to go back to that world.

    /5

So that’s it! This was nice to rattle off some smaller reviews of shorter works. Do you like short reviews? Do you think this is a handy way to talk about recent reads? Please tell me below! That’s all for this week and until next time happy reading!

Ninth House- Leigh Bardugo Review

‘ ‘What have I been trying to tell you?’ Darlington said. ‘Nothing is ever just anything.’ And maybe he wanted her to be the kind of girl who dressed as Queen Mab, who loved words and had stars in her blood.’

Now I have made no secret in the past that I have not got on well with Leigh Bardugo’s books. Shadow and Bone irritated me and I have yet to even touch the remaining books in the Grisha trilogy. Granted, I have yet to read Six of Crows, but that was my experience with Bardugo so far. Thank god this book was what it was. Holy shit it’s perfect.

Alex Stern has gotten a second chance, she has been offered a place at Yale after a traumatic incident and a harder life. But there is a catch, Alex most join Lethe, the organisation tasked with monitoring the secret societies of Yale and keeping their rituals in check. When a girl from the inner city is found murdered on campus Alex is tasked with reporting on the homicide and what she discovers is something that could crumble Yale itself.

This book is obviously severely hyped this year and contains some very graphic content but it is honestly a refreshing work of dark fantasy. Bardugo is very much in her element here crafting this grim, disturbing view of New Haven and holding a mirror to the world of college education and the darker underbelly beneath it.

I have never had any interest in visiting Yale, not a single notion. Then as I did this review I discovered that Yale does in fact have 41 secret societies. And one of them in the book is completely real, with more maybe existing. I am literally shook, I know nothing about American colleges and their history and after reading this book I want to know more. I also know for a fact I am going to go down a rabbit hole of researching these societies.

We get a fantastic set of characters but most of all our anti heroic Galaxy Stern. (I too would probably shorten my name to Alex but that is a cool name.) Alex is so incredibly flawed and does things during the plot that even as you come to know her, you are still taken aback by it. I find characters like Alex intensely fascinating. I love anti heroes and morally grey characters so she was always going to be a treat to read. Her development, her very distressing past and her determination to prove herself at Yale all make her so great to read.

Darlington is also super interesting for the simple fact being we get so little time with him since most of the book is Alex’s POV but I loved having him on the page. He contrasts well with Alex and she definitely succeeds in taking this blue-blooded graduate down a peg or two. Darlington also has a cat and loves reading, I can always get behind a man like that. Also credit to Pammie. She is an introvert who makes soup. I love her.

Now we can’t avoid talking about the controversy of this book. I’m just gonna say that I love dark, adult books. I mostly read books that are written with adults in mind. Did this shock me in places? Yes. Am I going to stop reading Bardugo’s books in future? Hell no, this is way more my thing than anything she has written that is YA. Should you do some research beforehand just in case you are upset by any of the content? Maybe, just if you wanna be cautious. Honestly I don’t see why everyone is losing it, I think the author has been totally honest all along and there is no indication this is in any way suitable for younger readers. But that’s just me.

I really enjoyed the murder mystery style the story took in places but I think the plot came apart a little part at the end. The format it takes at the start with telling the story in reverse worked so well until where it caught up in the timeline. The plot is still fairly solid but this was the main issue I had.

My main favourites of this year have been controversial books and this one is no exception. I think that I have a taste that books like this appeal to, probably from my background in horror reading but honestly if you can handle the more shocking moments in this book I implore you to try it. If like me Bardugo’s YA stuff was not for you, then maybe this is your book too.

Mors vincit omnia.

★★★★/5