WWW Wednesdays: What Am I Reading? (8)

WWW Wednesdays: What Am I Reading? (8)

WWW Wednesdays is a weekly meme that is hosted by Taking on a World of Words. The “rules” are simple – answer the 3 questions below:


1. What are you currently reading?

I feel like I haven’t done much reading in the last month because I’ve been moving to my student house, so the only steady book I’ve been reading is Middlemarch by George Eliot.

2. What did you recently finish reading?

I read War of the Worlds by H.G. Wells, Wise Children by Angela Carter and Moll Flanders by Daniel Defoe, in preparation for my next year at university. This month, I also had 2 new books sent to me to read: Shakespeare and the Psalms Mystery by Jem Bloomfield and Weave A Murderous Web by Anne-Rothman Hicks. I also read The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon – a short Stephen King novel in the midst of moving stresses.

3. What do you think you’ll read next?

As usual, I have no idea, but I hope I pick up some more books in a genre I’ll really enjoy, like horrors or thrillers.


– Judith

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Read and Review: The Phantom of the Opera

Read and Review: The Phantom of the Opera
  • Title: The Phantom of the Opera / Le Fantôme de l’Opéra
  • Author: Gaston Leroux
  • Published: 1910

My Photo [The Phantom of the Opera]

The Phantom of the Opera*, a story perhaps best known through the stage adaptation, was originally a Gothic horror novel. ‘The Phantom of the Opera’ is the name given to a man living secretly below the Paris Opera House. One is not entirely sure if he is man or ghost – or something much worse. He becomes captivated by the sound of Christine Daaé’s beautiful singing, develops an obsessive love for her, and kidnaps her, leading to a series of horrific events.

*I mentioned The Phantom of the Opera about a year ago on my blog, and now I’ve finally read it!

I liked reading this book; it was genuinely thrilling and had some truly scary moments, which I hadn’t anticipated because of how tame the kidnapping plot in the 2004 film adaptation is. There is palpable danger and tension throughout, due to the Phantom’s cruel and malignant hold over the Opera House.

My favourite character is – and probably always will be – Raoul simply because I liked him in the film adaptation.

In the novel however, what I enjoyed was the development of his and Christine’s romance from childhood sweethearts to adults in love. I shared in his frustration and upset that Christine was already ‘pledged’ away to the ‘Phantom’ and there was not much he could do to rescue her from this. Raoul’s helplessness as the heroic figure was especially emphasised in the torture scenes, where he and Christine are separated and suffering separately in different ways. This was a nice subversion of the “damsel in distress” convention.

Whilst on the subject of torture, I liked how Leroux unashamedly introduced taboo subjects such as death, torture, violence, and suicide because this added to the Gothic and horrific tone of the book.

Yet for me, where The Phantom of the Opera fell slightly in my esteem was its use of both a prologue and an epilogue.

I didn’t read the prologue, so as to leave the plot as mysterious as possible for myself (which worked well!). On skim-reading it in preparation for this review however, my issue with the prologue is the same as the epilogue; it ties up questions about the ‘Phantom’ instantly – who he really is, what he really is, and where he came from.

I much preferred seeing the ‘Phantom’ as a liminal figure who could be both man or ghost – once his presence is rationalised and his true self revealed, I felt this removed some of the horror*.

**It’s rather like seeing a magic trick performed behind the scenes, then watching the same trick being performed; something has been lost.

Furthermore, because of the prologue and epilogue, the book is written as if a true account by Leroux and thus there are a few passages of letter-reading and the inclusion of administrative documents, which is not the most dynamic way of introducing new information.

All in all, I much enjoyed reading The Phantom of the Opera, and it was nice to finally read the story on which many musicals and films have been based.

***

Thanks for reading!

If you enjoyed this review, please click ‘Like’ and don’t forget to ‘Follow’ for more book reviews.

– Judith

WWW Wednesdays: What Am I Reading? (7)

WWW Wednesdays: What Am I Reading? (7)

WWW Wednesdays is a weekly meme that is hosted by Taking on a World of Words. The “rules” are simple – answer the 3 questions below:


1. What are you currently reading?

I have 3 novels on the go currently; Wise Children by Angela Carter, Middlemarch by George Eliot, and Dreamcatcher by Stephen King.

2. What did you recently finish reading?

Last month, I was in a reading slump and hadn’t read much at all. This month has been the exact opposite!

I’ve read:

  • [re-read] Sharp Objects by Gillian Flynn
  • A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess
  • Airborn by Kenneth Oppel
  • Doctor Sleep by Stephen King
  • Painted by Kirsten McKenzie
  • Skybreaker by Kenneth Oppel
  • Sons and Lovers by D.H. Lawrence
  • Swallows and Amazons by Arthur Ransome
  • The Phantom of the Opera by Gaston Leroux
  • The Teacher by Katerina Diamond
  • The War of the Worlds by H.G. Wells
  • Thinner by Richard Bachman / Stephen King

When I get going, I think my reading average is roughly 3 books a week!

I’m working on writing and posting book reviews for most of these books; the benefit of reading a lot not only means I can cross more books off my Goodreads list but I can generate more blog content!

3. What do you think you’ll read next?

I have no idea! I’ve been reading quite an eclectic mix of books at the minute, so I could pick up absolutely anything.


– Judith

#RBRT Read and Review: PAINTED by KIRSTEN MCKENZIE @Kiwimrsmac #BookReview #Horror

#RBRT Read and Review: PAINTED by KIRSTEN MCKENZIE @Kiwimrsmac #BookReview #Horror
  • Title: Painted
  • Author: Kirsten McKenzie
  • Published: 2017
  • Started: Monday 24th July 2017
  • Finished: Saturday 29th July 2017

Image via TheWomanInBlackWikia.

Painted is a paranormal horror and thriller.

‘If art can capture a soul, what happens when one of those souls escapes?

My Photo [Painted]

When art appraiser Anita Cassatt is sent to catalog the extensive collection of reclusive artist Leo Kubin, it isn’t only the chilly atmosphere of the secluded house making her shiver, it’s the silent audience of portraits clustered on every wall watching her, including those of the unfinished portrait on the artist’s easel. A portrait with an eerie familiarity.’ (Amazon)

Painted is the first book I’ve reviewed for Rosie’s Book Review Team since May – this seems like an age ago – and it was a brilliant book for getting back into RBRT reviews.

It was well-written, and I was engaged in the story throughout.

McKenzie’s creation of build-up and tension was subtle but well-done, creating a consistent tone of uneasiness, which made the climax of the book even more exciting.

There are strong parallels to Susan Hill’s horror novel The Woman In Black*, so much so that I imagined the house in a similar way to Eel Marsh House. This comparison is a good thing however, because I enjoyed both the novel and its film adaptation a lot.

*A lonely protagonist moves into an isolated house in order to complete work commissioned by their employer, but gradual ghostly occurrences unnerve them.

However, unlike The Woman In Black, the protagonist doesn’t remain completely isolated in the house; introduction of her co-workers adds new characters and allows McKenzie to develop a good cat-and-mouse style of horror, in addition to the paranormal activity.

My criticisms are small.

I think Painted occasionally relies too heavily on informing the reader of what the protagonist hasn’t seen. This is an understandable technique – its horror film equivalent would be zooming or panning to reveal a detail within the frame the audience can see clearly but the protagonist hasn’t. If Painted were a horror film (which I wish it was), I’ve no doubt this would be incredibly effective. However, translating this into written prose often within the story doesn’t have quite the same effect.

Furthermore, I would have preferred a more malignant ghostly presence – the ghosts were a little sympathetically written for my liking! For example, in The Woman In Black, although the reader learns the sad back-story behind the woman in black’s haunting, the reader also sees her as a ruthless and malignant ghost, which adds to the horror of the book.

These are nit-picky problems because all in all I really enjoyed this book, and I will most likely try to grab a paperback version at some point, in addition to my free e-book copy!

If you’d like to read a well-written horror story that doesn’t rely on cheap scares but genuine thrills, I strongly recommend Painted.

Star Rating: 4/5 Stars

Painted is available to buy as a paperback or an e-book from Amazon UK or Amazon.com.

***

Thanks for reading! This is another #RBRT review.  Thanks to Kirsten McKenzie for sending me a free e-book copy to read. You can find her website here: http://www.kirstenmckenzie.com/www.kirstenmckenzie.com

If you enjoyed this review, please click ‘Like’ and don’t forget to ‘Follow’ for more book reviews.

– Judith

Read and Review: Thinner

Read and Review: Thinner

Sass Warning: Low/Mild

  • Title: Thinner
  • Author: Richard Bachman / Stephen King
  • Published: 1984

Thinner is one of five novels penned by King under a pseudonym, to test whether his books would be as well received if they weren’t linked to the King “brand”. It is about Billy Halleck, who is cursed to become thinner and thinner, after accidentally hitting and killing the daughter of Tadzu Lempke, a ‘Gypsy’*, with his car. Halleck begins to lose weight at an alarming rate, and further macabre events follow.

*This slang term refers to Romani people who originated from India, and took to a travelling lifestyle. Europeans incorrectly assumed that, because of their physical and cultural differences, these people must have been from Egypt.

First things first, Lempke and his family are Romani. Thinner does not challenge any negative racial stereotypes – indeed using the word ‘Gypsy’ is indication enough – and in many places conforms to negative stereotypes.

For example, Lempke is physically disfigured, thus making him a scarier antagonist. His family also dabble in curses, magic and the supernatural and their travelling business is treated as suspicious and untrustworthy. Moreover, the narrative of Thinner seems to push Halleck’s biased view against the ‘Gypsy’ group, a view which I struggled to (and ultimately couldn’t) share. I can only hope this negative representation of a racial group stemmed from a place of innocent ignorance.

The issue of race in Thinner is not the element which dissatisfies me most, but I wanted to mention it so there were no discrepancies about using the word ‘Gypsy’.

When I started reading Thinner, my initial thought was that it was a quick-paced story, (it’s one of King’s shorter novels) with a creepy premise.

Because he wrote under a pseudonym, there are a few fun self-aware moments such as:

“You were starting to sound a little like a Stephen King novel for a while there, but it’s not like that.”

“it starts to sound a little like Stephen King again, wouldn’t you say?”

(Thinner, page 115)

However, once the curse had taken its toll upon Halleck, as well as manifesting upon a few other characters in different ways, I felt the plot began to slow down.

Rather than a novel about the gruesome deterioration of Halleck’s body or some horrific supernatural occurrences, Thinner became a novel purely about a manhunt from Lempke, with lots of phone calls, interviews, and the exchanging of documents (exciting stuff).

The final confrontation with Lempke and the ‘Gypsy’ camp was somewhat exciting, but short-lived.  Furthermore, the nature of the curse completely changes in the last few chapters, making the ending Thinner infuriatingly unsatisfactory.

Thinner is the Stephen King novel I enjoyed the least, which is a real shame because normally King provides solid character development, engrossing plots and genuine horrors – all three of which were lacking in this novel.**

**The Stephen King illusion had to shatter eventually.

I’ve had a quick scan of other readers’ reviews on Goodreads and it would seem my sentiments are echoed similarly there.

If you’d like to read a really good Stephen King novel, you should probably choose something else.

***

Thanks for reading!

If you enjoyed this sassy review, please click ‘Like’ and don’t forget to ‘Follow’ for more book reviews.

– Judith

Read and Review: The Tommyknockers / Desperation

Read and Review: The Tommyknockers / Desperation

A.K.A Judith reads a lot of Stephen King novels.

I read The Tommyknockers a few months ago and, initially, wasn’t going to write a book review of it. It was only until I read Desperation that I noticed some similarities between the two novels and I wanted to tackle both books in a dual review.

The plot of The Tommyknockers is as follows:

Bobbi Anderson, a writer living in the town of Haven, becomes obsessed with digging up something she’s found buried in the woods near her home. With the help of her friend, Jim Gardener, she uncovers an alien spaceship. Increasing exposure to the ship and the “Tommyknockers” begins to have malignant and detrimental effects on the residents of not just Bobbi, but the entire town.

Desperation is a story about several people who, while traveling along the desolated Highway 50 in Nevada, get abducted by Collie Entragian, the deputy of the mining town Desperation. It becomes clear to the captives that Entragian has been possessed by an evil being named Tak, who has control over the surrounding desert wildlife and must change hosts to keep itself alive.


When I was first writing notes on The Tommyknockers, I jotted down the phrase “weird sci fi”.

This is a science-fiction novel, which isn’t really my “go to” genre and I’ve only ever read horrors and thrillers by King. I was initially unsure about the premise of an alien spaceship and an alien invasion – it seemed too cheesy for the usual levels of realism King conveys through his novels.

Speaking of science, a theme clearly underpinned in The Tommyknockers is the debate surrounding the use of nuclear power. Jim Gardener is firmly against nuclear power, whereas other minor characters are more easily swayed on the matter. I assume that at the time, nuclear power was a provoking topic of discussion. Thus, I think the illnesses, physical mutations and deteriorating mental capacity brought about by exposure to the Tommyknockers could be paralleled with the feared side effects of exposure to radiation.

However, despite my lack of zeal for science and science-fiction, I quickly began to overlook the inclusion of supernatural powers, alien life-forms and alien technology because it still had the essence of a King novel; the ability to generate suspense and well-executed thrills.

The idea of Haven’s hive mentality worked really well within the book because of King’s good characterisation. I felt like I knew most of the characters in the town, which then added to the eeriness created by the residents increasingly being taken over by the Tommyknockers – Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956) springs to mind.


In a similar way, Desperation is a story that contains multiple characters brought together through violent circumstances and learn of the possession Tak has over the land. There are some fun references to Tak as a Tommyknocker, or being described as It, while the characters are trying to work out what exactly Tak is. Subsequently, an assortment of the characters become pawns of Tak, communicating with him and following his orders as part of a de facto cult. This again, is a similar idea to the hive mentality of The Tommyknockers – an idea I still think is fascinating.

Despite this, I didn’t feel Tak’s possessions was executed as well, and I was almost disappointed that Collie Entragian wasn’t really the main antagonist (apologies for this minor spoiler) – just one of many. The premise of a scary killer posing as a policeman to pick innocent victims off a highway sounds brilliant for a horror, and I was sad this wasn’t the direction Desperation took.

Having said that, I really enjoyed the theme of religion King highlighted. My only other experience of religion in King’s writing is the warped pseudo-Christian beliefs expressed by Carrie’s mother in Carrie.

In Desperation, David – who is by far, the best and most fleshed out character in the book – is a young boy who has recently become a Christian, to the surprise of his parents. He is fascinated by the Bible, displays a remarkable faith in God and regularly prays. His time in Desperation becomes a test of his faith – increasingly so due to the horrors he witnesses and the near demonic presence of Tak. King handled the character of David and his religious beliefs with care and respect, as well as the opposing views of other characters, without condemnation of either side, which I admire.

Death – violent and cruel death – is another prevalent theme in both Desperation and The Tommyknockers; King certainly spares no expenses when it comes to the inclusion of gore – especially in Desperation. At some scenes, I screwed my face up in anguish!

Overall, I enjoyed both Stephen King novels – I think I preferred The Tommyknockers to Desperation, mainly because Desperation didn’t do what I thought it was going to.


Thanks for reading! Whilst this wasn’t a conventional book review, it was certainly cathartic for me to record my thoughts.

If you enjoyed this review, please click ‘Like’ and don’t forget to ‘Follow’ for more book reviews.

– Judith

WWW Wednesdays: What Am I Reading? (6)

WWW Wednesdays: What Am I Reading? (6)

WWW Wednesdays is a weekly meme that is hosted by Taking on a World of Words. The “rules” are simple – answer the 3 questions below:


1. What are you currently reading?

I’m not reading any novels at the minute!

2. What did you recently finish reading?

I recently finished Desperation by Stephen King; this one has taken me longer to get through – not because it’s not an enjoyable novel or a particularly long one, I’ve just been in a bit of a reading slump recently. I also read Humble Pie, Gordon Ramsay’s autobiography.

3. What do you think you’ll read next?

At this rate, as long as I read something I’ll be happy. I was recently gifted Swallows and Amazons, by Arthur Ransome, so that will be the next book I try and read.


I apologise for such a short WWW update; hopefully I get out of this reading slump soon!

– Judith