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: Hearthstone Cottage by Frazer Lee

Good evening all and welcome to my stop on the fabulous Random Things Tours blog tour for Hearthstone Cottage by Frazer Lee.

‘Mike wanted to talk about the waking nightmare at the loch, of the child’s laughter had heard at night and the stag he felt in the room with him when they’d all gone to bed.’

Mike Carter and his girlfriend Helen,along with their friends Alex and Kay,
travel to a remote loch side cottage for a post-graduation holiday. . But their celebrations are short-lived when they hit and kill a stag on the road. Alex s sister Meggie awaits them in the cottage, adding to the tension when her dog, Oscar, goes missing. Mike becomes haunted by a disturbing presence in the cottage, and is hunted by threatening figures in the highland fog. Reeling from a shock revelation, Mike begins to lose his grip on his sanity. When
Mike becomes haunted by a disturbing presence in the cottage, the bonds
of friendship are tested as he must uncover the terrifying truth dwelling
within the walls of Hearthstone Cottage.

I have such a strange feeling after finishing this book. What I thought I was getting in to was nothing like what I actually read and that is something I don’t get to experience much in modern horror writing. Frazer Lee has written a trippy tale of isolation set in the Scottish countryside that really takes the reader off guard.

The setting is a refreshing change to ‘cabin in the woods’. Something I especially liked was how Lee took what is supposed to be the cozy safety of a cottage and turned it on its head. What we see instead is a nightmarish landscape we see through the eyes of Mike as he loses his grip on reality. Something that did impress me was the discussion of rural flight and how it affects smaller areas of Scotland.

We have a limited cast of characters that I do wish I could have gotten to know a bit better in places. Helen and Kay especially were 2 that I wish we had either a perspective or more time with them on the page interacting with Mike. Mike as a main character can be equally frustrating and refreshing in equal measure. I found him to be irritating at times but the ending of the story completes his arc quite well.

Mike also has a sense of realism to him in that I was as unsure of my future after college as he is. There are moments throughout the story where I was ready to shout at the page and tell Mike to basically cop himself on a bit. Then I thought back to how I acted in college and I’m reminded of some of the stupid things I said and did and suddenly, Mike is not as bad as I thought.

Storywise I got a perfect mix of Evil Dead, The Ritual and general Samhain feels from this book. There are some genuinely unsettling moments that do catch you off guard. Some of my favourite moments were when Mike was truly starting to lose his grip and there are things happening that are very hard to figure out and understand as he begins to disassociate from reality and his friends.

Hearthstone Cottage is a book I enjoyed for its discussion of post college life and the isolation that can come from graduating. Mike struggles with his possession of what is happening around him as the haunting grows gradually worse and maintaining the carefree world of his undergrad. A must read for fans of the Evil Dead and The Ritual.

★★★★/5

About the author:

Frazer Lee is a novelist, screen writer and filmmaker. His screenplay credits include the acclaimed horror/thriller feature Panic Button,and multi-award winning short films On
Edge, Red Lines, Simone and The Stay. Frazer’s screenwriting and story consultant engagements have included commissions for Movie Mogul, The Asylum, Mediente, eMotion,and Vanquish Alliance Entertainment.
His film and television directing credits include the multi award-winning shorts On Edge and Red Lines,and the promo campaign for the Discovery Channel series True Horror With Anthony Head. His new short film The Stay had its World Premiere at World Horror Con Atlanta USA 2015. Frazer was named one of the Top 12 UK directors in MySpace.com’s Movie Mash-up contest by a panel including representatives from 20th Century Fox, Vertigo Films and Film Four.
Frazer’s novel The Lamplighters was a Bram Stoker Award® Finalist for ‘Superior Achievement in a First Novel’. Frazer is Head of Creative Writing at Brunel University London and is an active member of the Horror Writers Association and International Thriller Writers. His guest speaking engagements have included The London Screenwriters Festival and The Guerilla Filmmakers Masterclass. Frazer Lee lives with his family in Buckinghamshire, England just across the cemetery from the actual Hammer House of Horror.

Thank you once again to Anne and Flame Tree Press for this fantastic opportunity and for sending me an advance copy of the book in exchange for an honest review!

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.

Locke and Key: Volumes 1&2 by Joe Hill and Gabriel Rodriguez Review

Joe Hill is one of my favourite authors of all time and his work in comics is no different to the wonderful writing of his novels. I was lucky enough to meet him at World Con this year and I felt it high time I read Locke and Key again.

Locke and Key takes place across 6 main volumes whole following the Locke family living in Keyhouse. After the sudden death of their father, the Locke family find themselves moving to the town of Lovecraft. What should be the fresh start they need is replaced with some mysterious keys, a monster in a well and a

Both the first and second volume of this series set up the town of Lovecraft and Keyhouse for us. Lovecraft is your typical small town with an undisclosed past that we are currently only given glimpses of through various characters. Keyhouse however is very present on the page with it’s many unraveling mysteries. First off the house has a well house, that’s your first red flag. Among other things there’s a door that with the right key you can become a ghost when you unlock it.

The keys are the true highlight alongside the 3 Locke children; Bode, Kinsey and Tyler. By the end of Volume 2:Head Games we know that names and functions of 5 keys, with the mention of another. I intend to review 2 volumes at a time with this series so I will expand on them all once I finish the series. As mentioned the real standout is the Locke family themselves. I do think that the keys are tied to young people somehow since there are flashbacks of the previous lives of the parents of the Locke children and their peers but I will have to wait and see.

Dodge however is my favourite character so far. Dodge is the villian of the series so far. Introduced as a woman who lives in the wellhouse (I did warn you) who only talks to Bode, the youngest Locke child, then later is freed and changes both gender and identity and befriends Tyler, the eldest. Dodge has a few identities and changes gender with one of the keys to suit his/her agenda. Dodge also comes back to settle some kind of score with the previous generation of Lovecraft and I can’t wait to see what he/she has in store.

Hill and Rodriguez have a unique pairing that I have only seen once or twice in comics, where the art is made real by the writing and the writing is useless without the art. Hill is a fantastic novelist with a gift for pacing and the horrific but honestly this wouldn’t work without the unique way it is brought to life by Rodriguez and his unique style.

Thank you for reading, have you read Locke and Key? Have you read the whole series? Tell me below as I continue to unravel the mystery of Keyhouse.

  • Locke and Key Vol 1: Welcome to Lovecraft -★★★★/5
  • Locke and Key Vol 2: Head Games – ★★★★.5/5

My Favourite Stephen King Books

“Sometimes human places, create inhuman monsters.”

Last week I made a post on my Instagram about Stephen King for his 72nd birthday. All of a sudden I realised from looking at my collection that I never talk about him and yet he’s been one of my favourite authors. Everyone has their story for how they first started reading Stephen King. Mine is a bit sentimental since it was my Dad that originally got me reading King’s books and we still discuss them now. I was twelve and I bought a cheap copy of ‘Carrie’ in a local newsagent and I’ve never looked back.

I’ve read a good chunk of King’s work and collected just as much over the years (I won’t part with ANY of my King library) so my favourites are always in flux. Also this list could have been super long so this is the most concise I have. So here we go, the closest I’ll get to a concrete favourites list.

(Please note I would usually give The Dark Tower it’s own breathing room but the one book I have here is a literal work of art.)

  • ‘Carrie’: Where it all began, this is the story of Carrie White. Carrie White is a social misfit hated among her peers and abused by an over religious mother. Carrie discovers that she has telekinetic powers. An invite to Prom leads Carrie and the reader to discover her true potential. I really identified with Carrie at the age I was (minus the powers and the over zealous mother) when I read the book and honestly I still share no pity for her bullies. Also that Pop in the picture is utterly adorable.
  • ‘Pet Sematary’: The Creed family move from Chicago to the town of Ludlow in order for Louis Creed to get a job at the University of Maine. The house sits beside a road that is used heavily by large trucks. After the death of a pet in the family Louis learns of a piece of land that can reanimate the dead and begins to wonder what else it can do. This is different to the others since it holds the top spot for all time favourite. It regularly swaps with ‘The Shining’ but has held first place for a long time. Another rec from my Dad that still chills me to the bone.
  • ‘Misery’: Annie Wilkes is Paul Sheldon’s biggest fan. His biggest all time fan. Such a big fan that when she rescues him from a car crash she has to help him. Paul has just killed Misery Chastain, Annie’s favourite character. He will have to decide is Misery’s life worth his. King discussed in ‘On Writing’ how Annie Wilkes is the personifcation of his own addictions and struggles with substance abuse and that makes her even more frightening. This is one of those few books where the movie is it’s equal but there is definitely some incidents between Paul and Annie that never made it to screen. Thankfully. This is also one of the few King books with no supernatural influence within the story so it’s perfect for anyone who wants to read King but not anything too paranormal.
  • ‘Insomnia’: A recent widower, seventy year old Ralph Roberts finds himself waking up earlier and earlier each day. Eventually Ralph begins to notice small figures moving around in the night. This coupled with bizzare behaviour from one of his neighbours Ralph decides to investigate these strange happenings. This one is also set in Derry, Maine and is one of the only books I have read that takes place through the perspective of an elderly character. This book has unique discussions about getting older and just describes what it’s like to suffer with insomnia. Maybe give this one a miss if you haven’t read The Dark Tower.
  • ‘Doctor Sleep’: Danny Torrance is now a fully grown man. Never truly free from the legacy of the Overlook Hotel Danny works in a hospice trying to recover from his alcoholism and his past. Then Dan Meets Abra Stone, who shines brighter than them all. Abra has drawn some nasty people to her door and Dan is going to have to do all he can to fight them. This is obviously the sequel to The Shining and honestly it is a great sequel. I was wary about it at first but this is definitely a fantastic story. The movie also looks promising and I can’t wait to see Ewan McGregor as Dan.
  • ‘On Writing’: Part memoir, part how to guide, this is a book written by King for both writers and readers alike. A work of non fiction, we learn more about King’s life, his method, his advice and a list of reading recommendations. This needs no further explanation, you don’t need to have read his work before (spoilers there may be though) and it’s very easy to read if you are not into non fiction usually.
  • ‘The Drawing of the Three’: This is the second book in the Dark Tower series and takes place directly after the conclusion of ‘The Gunslinger’. In this installment we follow Roland Deschain as he crosses through the doors and enters our world to gather allies and knowledge about the Tower. Again I said it earlier but this series needs its own post. But this is honestly genius how it weaves between plot, characters and uses different tropes. The way it uses the portal fantasy is absolutely wonderful.

So there you have it! I plan to do more posts on King in the future so keep tuned. Anyone else love the books listed? Or maybe love a lesser known work? Tell me! I’d love to hear. Thanks for reading guys!