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.

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

The Book of Dust: Volume One La Belle Sauvage- Philip Pullman Review

Words belong in contexts, not pegged out like biological specimens. ‘

I think you all know by now, whether it is from my blog, twitter or you got stuck talking to me at a party, His Dark Materials is one of my favourite series of all time. I did a full series review, a reread that took me only a week to do and I have not shut up about the new series on BBC/HBO. This book continues Lyra’s journey as well as my own.

Malcolm Polstead lives in Oxford with his daemon, Asta, and his boat, La Belle Sauvage. With his natural curiosity, it seemed only natural he would become a spy. Malcom sees secrets everywhere he goes, strange men meeting in his parent’s inn, mentions of Lord Asriel and his crimes, the mysterious Magesterium and then, an intercepted message about Dust. Then a baby called Lyra is delivered to the care of the local priory and suddenly things have gotten a lot more dangerous.

This book utterly blew me away. I know I’m slightly biased when I say this but this is a perfectly laid out world that is well built and easy to step into. I listened to this on audio with the fabulous Michael Sheen narrating the book and I would highly recommend reading the book this way.

As I already mentioned it is a seamless transition back into the world of daemons, the Magesterium and alternative Oxford. We get to see nothing pretty much of Jordan College but a more mundane, everyday version of this Oxford and it is a pleasure to experience. People are working, children attend school, people are going to the pub in the evening and it all felt so real, aided by the fantastic voices from Sheen.

Old characters return such as Asriel, Coulter, Coram and obviously Lyra but I truly fell in love with our new cast. Malcolm is a sweet bean that needs to be protected at all costs. He is a child close to the age that Lyra is during Northern Lights and I think Pullman does that well, characters that learn with the readers. His development is honestly one of the best written arc’s I’ve read this year. Alice also gets a standout mention from me because I wish that when I was her age I had that sass and attitude. She also has some wonderful character development but she is a treat for anyone who wished they had more spine when they were a child.

We get the usual villains of the Magesterium but there is an antagonist in this story that is genuinely horrifying. He doesn’t really become a threat until at least halfway through the story but when he arrives he is like that bad feeling you get that just won’t go away. You know at any moment he could just appear and cause so much horror.

Pullman paces this story in a very similar way to The Amber Spyglass in a way that it never ceases to keep the reader moving along with events and crises. Unlike the first 2 books in His Dark Materials we get no slow moments in a particular place to gather our thoughts. This book is not waiting for you, you have to figure it out and keep up or you will get left behind.

One of the great advantages of the audio version is how well Sheen can change the plot pacing with his voice alone. Like there were moments where I was STRESSING hard for my poor baby Malcolm and Asta and just wanted it over. It’s so good since you will actually forget it was one narrator and not many.

I intend to follow up with The Secret Commonwealth since I bought it so recently but with some other projects and stuff it may have to wait until January. Also I am watching the TV show and I do love it so far. (Bonus easter eggs in it for people who read this). Are you watching it without having read the books or after reading them? Do let me know!

★★★★★/5

Sequels I Need to Read this Year

I think the thing that we readers can all mostly agree that we forget to do or leave slip a lot are sequels to books we have read. Sequels can be either the most daunting or the most exciting thing to read. I have been both people, where I ran to the book shop the night after I finished a book (looking at you Miss Peregrines Home for Peculiar Children and Red Rising) or have not touched the next book despite loving the first.

I managed to narrow the list down to the following but trust me it is larger;

  • The Phoenix Empress by K. Arsenault Rivera: The sequel to one of my favourite books of 2018, The Tiger’s Daughter, I ordered this 2 days after publication. The last book in the trilogy has since been published and I haven’t even read this. I devoured The Tiger’s Daughter in 3 sittings and have yet to read this. I’m not sure if it’s fear of the next step for these characters or I’ll be disappointed in the outcome.
  • The Invasion by Peadar Ó’Guilín: I have no doubt I will love this since I loved the first book so very much but this boils down to more of a time issue than a fear of what awaits me. Don’t get me wrong, I am scared, but not for the quality of the writing or story but of the fact these Sidhe are literally coming back. I have owned this since a big snow storm we had last year and will definitely read before the year ends.
  • The Gloaming by Kirsty Logan: I hope to review the first book in this world, The Gracekeepers, hopefully someday on this blog but I want to get to this first. This is the sequel to a literary fantasy that has a very atmospheric setting, selkies, mermaids and water based people who look after the dead and I’m fairly sure it’s also a prequel. This is perfect for November reading so this is high on the list.
  • Storm of Locusts by Rebecca Roanhorse: I read the first book in this Hugo nominated series in January and holy shit did I become obsessed. Native American culture, monster hunting gals who take no shit and a Mad Max style world that has the old God’s coming back? Fuck. Yes. The book ends on a mild cliffhanger but I honestly was intending to read this before World Con but Roanhorse had to cancel last minute which changed by priorities a bit. This is a fast paced world so hopefully I can book end the year with this.
  • The Testaments by Margaret Atwood: I feel like this book needs no introduction considering the win it gained but I have kept this next to my bed since I collected my pre order and I have not picked it up once. I’m hoping to get to it this year since it is a a sequel of a definitive classic and an author I do love but who knows, I am saying that for all of these.

So that is my list of dreaded sequels that I hope to read this year, mind you I will probably prioritise a few of them over others. Do you have a sequel you are avoiding? Join me in my procrastination! Seriously, I’m lonely over here.

His Dark Materials-Philip Pullman: Overall Series Review

‘What is worth having is worth working for. But you have a friend who has already taken the first steps, and who could help you.’

Good evening all! My apologies for my absence and delay in getting back to you all. In case any of you don’t follow me on Twitter you might not know that I went to Octocon the weekend just gone. I’ll have a post about it later this week. Now to the review, this is actually a full series reread but I feel the burning need to discuss the books.

In case you somehow haven’t heard of it His Dark Materials follows Lyra Belacqua who lives in Jordan College, Oxford in a world very similar to our own. In Lyra’s world people have animal companions known as daemons who are a manifestation of their true selves.When Lyra spies on a meeting between Lord Asriel and the professors of Jordan College discussing something called Dust she discovers that her world is not the only one and that something sinister is affecting the children of Oxford.

So what triggered this entire series reread was the trailer for the new series from BBC and HBO. Holy shit. This looks good. So I binge read the entire thing. I honestly think I enjoyed it more as a complete work instead of 3 separate novels. I do however have star ratings for all 3 books:

  • The Northern Lights- ★★★★/5
  • The Subtle Knife- ★★★.5/5
  • The Amber Spyglass- ★★★★★/5

The world that Pullman has created within this series is some of the best I have ever read. Lyra’s world is very similar to ours with the exception of daemons. Her world also has a church body that domineers society that is called the Magesterium. This is a very clear representation of the Christian church, specifically the Catholic Church. As the series progresses we then get to travel to other parallel worlds, one of which is our own world but nothing is quite as rich as the world Lyra lives in.

In Lyra’s world alone there are daemons, witches and armoured polar bears who have their own structured societies, angels as well as physics, travelling via zeppelins and instruments such as the alethiomiter (a truth telling device that looks like a watch that Lyra has a talent reading). The world itself is very similar to the Victorian England but it’s so wonderful. We do see other worlds, especially in the last book but Lyra’s is my favourite.

Lyra is a wonderful main character, she is sassy and a gifted liar which leads her into many dangerous situations and yet saves her in many more. Lyra and her daemon Pantalaimon are the main points of view but we do get to see the story from other POV’s. One of those is Will Parry who we meet in the second book, The Subtle Knife. Will is from our world and cares for his mum who suffers from an undiagnosed mental illness before he meets Lyra in another world esaping from his through a rip in reality. Will is definitely my favourite next to Lyra. Where Lyra is good with words and manipulation, Will is more of a physical character. He will stand out to people and speak up when he feels he is being attacked and can make himself as unimportant when he needs to to just blend into the background. Will and Lyra are a great pair on the page but I don’t necessarily agree with how their arc ended in the final book.

We have to talk about the villains. The Magesterium are the ultimate villains of the plot but Mrs Coulter is the first true foe we meet. She is first introduced to Lyra at the beginning of book one and adopts her. We then learn how dangerous she is and her ties with the church very early on but she is a character that will always have you second guessing. Her daemon is a golden monkey who is just as sinister as her. I loved every second she was on the page and her arc is genuinely one of the best developed of the story.

The plot does have its moments where it can stall within the story. As I said I enjoyed this a lot more this time as one full work of fantasy as opposed to 3 separate novels. Pullman does a fantastic job of weaving all these ongoing stories and characters across a multiverse. There is also some fantastic moments where the plot mirrors biblical stories such as Adam and Eve, the Fall from Heaven and many more but every now and then the plot would just halt and there would be a lot of travelling on a boat or zeppelin, or someone gathering materials. This is mostly in the first book and moments of the third but they don’t take away from the conclusion of the story or the more climactic moments.

The last book is the best of the trilogy in my opinion because we have the full cast of characters, the different worlds but also because the conclusion is perfect. Pullman has since continued the series with The Book of Dust. There are also shorter stories such as Lyras Oxford and Once Upon a Time in the North that further enrich the whole series. I do love hyper world building and supplementary books but I honestly think that the original trilogy is perfect on its own.

The TV adaptation begins on the 5th of November, I’ll definitely be watching even just for the casting alone. There is a film called The Golden Compass that is an adaptation of The Northern Lights. It’s not so terrible since the special effects are good but the conclusion of the film and the casting of Nicole Kidman as Mrs Coulter are not my cup of tea. Definitely watch it though for even an idea of the vast world.

As per usual I would like to recommend this to both young and older readers. Pullman had no audience in mind while writing it but it is generally marketed to young adults. The audio books are also a quick version of the books with a full cast, be warned a lot of story does get lost. Also a must read for fans of Pratchett, C.S Lewis, Ursula K Le Guin and Garth Nix.

Troll Bridge (2019)- Experiencing Discworld at World Con

‘HIT ME YOU BASTARD!’

Welcome back to the Disc! This is my first time discussing a movie on my blog and it seems fitting for me to literally bring you to the actual Discworld.

As many of you may know, I attended Worldcon in Dublin this year, had the best time and honestly I’ve been waiting to finally write this post. One of my main highlights of the entire week was the premiere of ‘Troll Bridge’, a film directed by Daniel Knight and Snowgum films that adapts the Discworld short story of the same name into a short film. I’m sorry what? How did I not know about this already? I fucking ran to the screening. I swear.

‘Troll Bridge'(based on the short story of the same name) follows Discworld hero, Cohen the Barbarian. He is now 87 and he is angry. Angry he hasn’t died in battle yet. Angry that he can’t pee like he used to. Angry that his horse can talk. Now as a final act of bravery as his father advised him when he was young, he’s heading to a bridge and he’s gonna kill it’s Troll.

Honestly, I was on the edge of crying watching this. Everything about this is wonderful and crafted so perfectly. The make up, the acting, the special effects. The trolls, oh my god the trolls! It’s honestly a flawless adaptation. The casting of Don Bridges as Cohen is wonderful, I never could put a voice to Cohen while reading ‘The Light Fantastic’ but now I can hear Bridges’ voice screaming in my head ‘HIT ME YOU BASTARD!’

‘Troll Bridge’ is an example of why book adaptations of beloved series need to be placed in the right hands. It not only comes down to production and acting but the rewriting of the story and putting it to a visual medium can’t be done right unless those making it give an honest shit about the material. Daniel Knight cares about this story very deeply. It’s very easy to see that this entire work is one big passion project. Snowgum films have spent over 9 years trying to make this the most ambitious short film ever made and they have indeed succeeded.

The film is currently travelling a festival circuit, screenings and any other information can be found here, including info about the delicious pre order (I may have pledged) for the Blu Ray. Please check them out, also please read Discworld books so more of these lovely films can be made. Terry Pratchett would be proud.

August Wrap Up

So… where did August go? Seriously does anyone know? August was a busy month for me. I had World Con, laryngitis and a job change all within 2 weeks! World Con didn’t slow my reading surprisingly but I didn’t read as much as I thought it would with my time off. I read 9 books in total, 3 of which were on my Kindle. It was a very mixed reading month, ratings and titles including:

I’ve linked reviews where I have them on the blog. It was a very mixed reading month, with ratings as low as 1.5 stars and as high as 5 stars. Standouts were The Call, This is How You Lose the Time War and Mort. Definitely disappointed in both The Cruel Prince and The Lost Sisters (which was infuriating). I read a good third of books on my Kindle for ease of travelling around Dublin and while I was sick. I also want to increase how much non fiction I read in September because I used to read so much more.

Thank you for checking in on my reading progress! I don’t do TBR’s since I am such a mood reader but I will always have books for the Discworld Project on my list and hopefully more comics, graphic novels and non fiction books next month. Talk soon guys!