Reading

Happy 20 Years of Potter!

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In which we get nostalgic for the Boy who Lived by talking about the way he changed my life. 

I got married in April. That’s not the important part. Due to my husband’s job, we couldn’t get the time for a formal honeymoon. Instead, we only had a weekend. We spent that at the Warner Brother’s Harry Potter Studios London because we’re just amazing like that.

We did things like chilling in the great hall and riding the Hogwarts Express and flying on broomsticks, and heading into the forbidden forest, and bowing to Buckbeak, and drinking butterbeer and flying in a Ford Anglia and strutting down Diagon Ally and buying wands, and walking the Great Hall, and finding the sorting hat in Dumbledor’s office and a whole bunch of other ridiculously awesome stuff*.

On the way back, once we had taken as much magic as we could with our narrow time slot, we were discussing Harry Potter. It played such a significant part of both our childhood’s. We grew in a generation founded on the magic of Harry Potter – a book series which arguably redefined the reading world and made reading ‘cool’ again. Now it was even a significant part of our wedding by being our surrogate honeymoon.

Husband was like many avid fans who basically started the series when it arrived on the scene in 1997. Most of my avid HP fan friends are the same; they were reading the series from the publication of book one. I, sadly, was a little late to the show.

Actually, I was late to reading in general, because my brain-hole liked to confuse me. Anyone with dyslexia** can attest to how frustrating reading as an activity can be when words jump about and letters reorganise themselves. I remember years of Primary school feeling inadequate because I just couldn’t work around the way words danced and changed all the time.  It wasn’t until Secondary School that it was even discovered I had an issue, and one kind teacher*** helped me to navigate the condition enough to at least be able to read accurately^.

In any case, one of the first books I managed to get through was Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire^^. I had read a few much shorter books before hand, but nothing in the fantasy genre. Actually, the only reason I ventured into HP was that my sister had it on a plane ride back from Cyprus, and my Gameboy Colour died en route. So, we shared the book, each reading a chapter. When we landed, my siblings lost interest, and I spent the next three days locked away finishing it.

I devoured it. The moment I got back to school, I found Philosopher’s Stone in the school library and spent every spare moment in there reading it. They also had Prisoner of Azkaban so I read that next. I came down with mumps and swindled my parents into cheering me up with Chamber of Secrets. 

It’s funny. I know where I was and how each book came into my life, I think because Harry Potter was such a revolutionary, eye-opening story for me. After HP, I hunted down anything remotely related to magic and fantasy, and it started me on a path of reading which has never diminished, only grown. It made me create my own stories, inspiring a love of writing which became the foundation of my degree and the means by which I made my living.

I have established life-long friendships because of Harry Potter fandom.

On my second date with (now) Husband, we spoke avidly about his dislike for the Harry Potter films in comparison to the books. We spoke about our respective houses^^^ and the fact he once wrote self-insert fanfiction around the wizarding world. I can’t help but feel a significant part of our initial bonding was based on a mutual love of the Harry Potter books. And I know many other couples out there with the same story. Heck, people have Harry Potter themed weddings nowadays.

How many friendships and marriages owe thanks even just in part to this phenomenon?How many ‘reluctant readers’*^, would never have developed a love of reading if this series had never come to light? How many creative pursuits would never have been realised? It’s incalculable.

Yet, even now the world continues, in new movies and plays and even theme parks. The story of one boy’s quest to rid the world of an evil dictator continues to inspire children 20-years since it’s first publication on this day in 1997.

And all because of one woman; a woman who, at the time, was struggling with the weight of everyday life, living in relative poverty, trying to support a young child. One brave woman who had an idea about a boy with a lightning scar. It must have been impossible to even imagine the incredible journey that single boy would take to become the household name he is today. It makes me so proud when I think of her, and so grateful for her giving the world a story so powerful it revolutionised reading and helped define a generation.

Who knew that one day, there wouldn’t be a child in our world who wouldn’t know his name.

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Footnotes of Fun

*The feature image is me heading into Platform 9 and 3/4 with a bit of zingity pow in my step. Husband would not jump in his photo…. Husband is the lllaaammmmeeee.

**Shout out to my fellow awesome peeps who battled their own brains to be able to read – we may be slower than most, but studies prove slow readers actually take in and remember stories better than their speedy reading counterparts. *is dancing*.

***Dear Mrs Kramer, I shall forever hold your memory with unwavering gratitude for a) understanding my problem b) taking the extra time and energy to help me understand the problem c) for instilling in me the ability to enjoy reading. Wherever you are Mrs K, I love you (yes love, no shame) and you are the reason this blog exists today. Without you, books and writing would never have become such a core part of who I am. Best. Teacher. Ever.

^Ma spellding is still the suxxx.

^^Fun fact: the first time I read Harry Potter, I did so completely out of order, because I wasn’t aware series were a thing. I read 4,1,3,2 respectively. Before book 7 arrived on the scene I did read 1-6 again in order. I recommend that. Everything makes much more sense and book three isn’t super spoiled because you know Siris is a good guy because you’ve already read 4.

^^^Ravenclaw (*avid cheering*) and Griffindor. Our children will be wise and brave.

*^No shame. I was one for most of my young childhood.

The Bargain

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So, due to the library closure post being priority last week, I didn’t get around to mentioning that Chris returned from his latest ventures upon the ocean blue*. I met him at the train station, and so I was able to prepare him for the influx of books I had purchased during our long separation**. Partly because I wanted to ensure he knew I hadn’t been spending money frivolously*** for four months, when I know we’re saving for future expenditures. Mostly, though, I wanted to alert him to the shelf crisis. In his absence^ I have managed to fill all the available space on my bookshelves, and am having to get creative with stacking. Even this is now pushing the capacity of the shelves.

This is where Chris and I differ slightly in our solutions. For me this simply means buy another shelf to house more books. Then you buy more books to fill the shelves, and then more shelves for the books and on ad infinitum^^ until we just live in a library, which, as far as I am concerned, is the dream. Chris’ less wonderful answer is for me to get rid of books^^^. My exact answer was: “No. Shelves or divorce?”

In any case, the subject came up again a few times over the five days he was around. My sister was also around for a visit during the week, so we were focused mainly on enjoying the hours I wasn’t at work. Hol and I hadn’t been in person together for a while, since she lives in Switzerland with my parents, and the closest we can get barring expensive air travel is Skype. Recently, I put her onto reading a web-comic I became obsessed with*^ and in an attempt to support the artist and enjoy the story offline, I purchased the published volume from Amazon.

Only to discover I had accidentally acquired an Italian version^*. Le sigh.

It’s not so bad right. Return the Italian version, and purchase another in English when the amount is refunded. Except, when I searched Amazon for a replacement I could read without Rosetta Stone, I found only soft-back editions were available in English. Usually, I prefer paper-backs, but this book is in itself a piece of art, and I’m not sure if the paper-back comes with all the extras. While it did occur to me to undertake learning Italian to navigate around the problem, and keep my beautiful hardback copy, it was suggested to me this might be unnecessary… and the stupidest reason to pay for second language lessons ever*^*.

When I showed the book to Chris, wearing my sad face, he pointed out I should wait for the return to come through before buying another one. I think this is because he worried I would actually keep the Italian version anyway, therefore adding to the too many books issue. He might have been right. I mean, that way I get a hardback edition and a paper-back edition, and I could maybe find a better excuse to learn Italian some point in the future. Besides, graphic novels are much thinner than conventional novel paperbacks, so they wouldn’t take up sooo much room.

I think it was at this point, or at least soon afterwards, that my to-read shelf came up for discussion. One of my lower shelves on the second bookcase is used to store books I have purchased and not yet read. Apparently, this is a space-consuming and inefficient means of book-reading, at least with so many**^. I guess he has a point, not a good one, but a point. I know readers who buy by need; they finish one book and then buy the next one. My trouble is I have a tendancy to read everywhere and anytime- at work, in the bath, on the bus, while waiting for appointments, when I should be sleeping, more than once when holding deep conversation, when I’m eating dinner. Really anywhere that allows a free hand so I can hold the book^^*. And when you read that way, you may suddenly require a new book at inopportune times, when the books shops are closed*^*^ or far away, and ordering from Amazon will still take a day for delivery. I stock my shelf in preparation; I suppose all I’m really guilty of is over-preparedness. Le sigh.

When I was pouting about my Italian book, Chris pointed out I had a whole shelf of unread books to get through before I needed to worry about another one coming in. “That’s different,” I said, “I was looking forward to reading through it, because I was in the mood for that book.”

C: “But you read it online?”

Me: “Your point?”

C: “Um…. that you already read it, and you can read it again any time you want.”

Me: “Your point?”

C: “Is that you can read it without the book.”

Me: “But I want to read the book version.”

C: “It’s the same!”

Me: “But I want to feel the pages, and look at the pretty art up close. Not on a screen.”

C: “… You have a problem.”

Me: “I went to the original site, but the shipping to the UK is almost as much as the book…. Can I have £50 so I can buy it from the main site?”^*^*

C: “-_-… You have a whole to-read shelf, all those books. Maybe if you finish them, I’ll buy you the bootlegging cats book.”

You would think after nearly two years together, Chris would know better than to make nonchalant comments about buying me books. Particularly expensive ones from the US. I turned, my smile Cheshire cat like, pondering the power Chris had just given me, and how to play the outcome right.

“So, if I finish all the books on my to-read shelf, you will buy me the book from the main site?”

C: “Yes, but that won’t happen, coz you’ll buy more.”

Me: “But what if I don’t buy more? What if I finish the to-read shelf without buying any more books to add to it.”

C: “Then I’ll buy you the book.”

Me: “Why? What’s the catch? What are you up to? This is not serious. You’re not serious. Are you?”

C: “Yep. But you can’t buy anymore books until you finish all those.”

Me: “Okay, but I want the second volume too. And the art-book and the playing cards when they come out.” *^^*

C: “Fine. But every book. And if you buy books, they count. The shelf has to be empty.”

Me: “O_o….. 8) Gauntlet picked up”.

My sister witnessed this agreement, so Chris, not that he would, can’t wiggle free when I complete the task,

However, when I counted up the stack, I realised Chris has a good amount of time to save up for my expensive prize. That’s just the books I own; if you add the library books I currently have waiting to be read, it could be a substantial amount of time before I see any returns on my investment. Plus, I have pre-ordered sequels due to arrive on their publication dates, and some of the stack are the first installments to series, which I may want to continue immediately.  No wonder Chris was so sure. I think he knows at some point for some reason I’m going to end up adding to that pile, especially with a Waterstone’s gift card now burning a hole in my pocket. He might be right, I do have a problem. I’m like a smoker trying to quit.

There are benefits to this challenge however; the to-read pile is getting to the point where I’m not even sure what’s on it anymore. There are some books which I’ve had for years, and just never got around to reading because newer more exciting releases took precidence. Many are from the 4 for 99p deals at a local charity shop which I used to splurge on during my poor days; I only got them to make up the number needed for the deal^**^. There are all sorts of genres and styles to choose from, and a verity of publication dates, some as recent as a week ago, others classics. There’s enough to satisfy whatever mood I’m in. Theoretically anyway.

I don’t really have an excuse(*).

So, here we go. Bargain struck, challenge accepted, conditions laid down. No more buying books I haven’t read until I finish the ones I have.

*gulp*.

This bargain was actually struck on the 15th March 2016, but I elected to post it now so the library closure post could take precedence (and so I had some editing time). I’m actually already two books down. I’ll keep you updated on my progress, you know, if I don’t fail miserably by next week. *gulp again*. 

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*Come to think of it, I’m not sure I actually mentioned he left again. I’m not certain I even alluded to his departure, which took place back in November. Two weeks after his return, because the Navy loves me like that. Anyway, he came back earlier this month and is now based a lot closer, at least for a little while. Unless the Navy decides it loves me again, and shows its great admiration for me by sending Chris on an important mission in the middle of Timbuktu, to, you know, keep an eye on the salt trade or something.

**Although, if he didn’t predict this occurrence in one way or another I’m not sure he knows me too well. How else am I to fill the void in my soul during his deployments? And the shelves and stuff?

***I mean as much as spending excess income on books can be ‘frivolous’, which in my opinion is never. And I know relationships require sacrifices…. just not books.

^ ie. His voice in my ear banishing the book-buying-fairy who sits on my shoulder and convinces me that ‘just one more won’t hurt. You’ll like this one. All the cool kids are reading it.’

^^Full disclosure: I could not for the life of me remember this term, and when I turned to Google for help it basically spat at me. Not actual saliva, you understand, just really unhelpful answers. It tried to refer me to the New York Metropolitan Museum of Art when I typed in what I thought was a close rendition of the Latin phrase. In the end I had to text Chris for the answer, because he knows this stuff. Chris is the new Google. Tell your friends.

^^^ -_- Feel free to jeer at the screen fellow bibliophiles. Hoarding is not good for anyone… unless you hoard books, then you’re that cool person who lives, eats and sleeps in a library.

*^ If you enjoy booze smuggling, prohibition era cats you should check it out too.

^*Usually I find nice surprises when I buy books online. When I bought a copy of Leviathan a few years back, I was delighted to discover I had been sent a rare cover edition. Another time, I purchased a used copy listed as ‘not bad’ (for 1p!) to be sent a copy which looked new, and once I even managed to buy a book in store to get home and discover the edition was signed by the author. My luck has been dwindling lately, though; I got a battered copy of a book which I don’t think is in print anymore, and now a beautiful graphic novel turns up in a language I can’t understand. Oh , crudele destino , perché mi hai abbandonato ?

*^* I disagree. Here are some stupid reasons to pay for second language lessons 1)You want to insult a man in his own tongue. 2)You are moving to a country, but they speak your first language, but you want to seem cultured and intelligent. 3)To easily by-pass street sellers and door-to-door salesmen by convincingly telling them you don’t speak their language. 4) Per leggere questa frase senza utilizzare l’applicazione di un certo popolare motore di ricerca si traducono , come ho fatto io di scriverlo . Zuppa, chiavi , lampada , turbine , e gomma da masticare . Queste sono solo parole a caso che saranno in italiano , confondendo la mia non italiano di lingua ipotetica pubblico . Questo probabilmente non ha nemmeno senso in italiano . Eppure , forse lo fa . Mai andare a dare in su , senza mai andare a deluderti , mai andare a correre e si deserto. (Sorry to any Italian speakers made to endure that for the sake of this joke).

**^At some point during his deployment Chris was apparently crowned ‘Grand General of Rules for Buying Books’ and has thus placed his doctrine on my otherwise un-criticized habits. Apparently, buying books just because they come as part of the ‘buy one get one half price’ deal is unnecessary, and buying books ‘because the cover was cool/pretty/interesting’ is unreasonable. I don’t get it either.

^^*Without bending the spine; it’s possible people, you just have to believe, and be as anal about protecting the binding as I am.

*^*^Now, this is the moment where the traitorous heathens start banging on about the wondrous convenience of a kindle. No. Just no. I will never convert to those cold, artless, non-book-smelling, eye melting contraptions. Books should not be able to go online, and should not be made of plastic; books should have the heavenly smell of dusty pages, have pages you can turn delicately with a flip, and become art when stacked upon shelves with their brethren. I will never give up the beauty of true books, never!!!!

^*^*I was joking. Chris does not expect me to ask permission or for money to buy things, but I often consult with him when I make large, unnecessary payments…. just not books.

*^^* At this point I was just seeing how far I could push it.

^**^ Which I now realise is  pretty lame, considering the extra expence was probably pennies, and I was in a Charity Shop.   It occurs to me I should now proceed to spend some of the money I save during this challenge on a donation to said charity to thank them for keeping me in books when I was low on income, and considered them a luxury item. Yeah, I’m going to do that.

(*) But if you think of one, please feel free to comment below or email me and let me know. Because I really want one.

The Curious Journeys of Library Books

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My reading year has begun in earnest, which is the best start to any year if you ask me. Things didn’t kick off so well at the start of 2015, when I didn’t get through a single volume of anything throughout January, and ended up reading a string of disappointing YA books in February, which descended me into a slump until July. This year we’re a week in and I’m already a ways into my third book. I’m pleased.

I picked up the second book from the library. As usual I went in to drop a few rentals off without much intention of taking anything else out, but caught sight of what appeared to be a fun little book (and was) hanging out in the non-fiction section. I’ve been on a bit of a non-fiction kick, and even though I have plenty at home, I couldn’t pass it up. So, I swiped my card, took my ticket and set off home.

The book itself had an intriguing tag-line, which is why I was compelled to lift it from the shelving.

How a Small Piece of Stationery Turned into a Great Big Adventure’ 

I like these quirky adventure books, much akin to the Dave Gorman comedy books, in which ordinary people take on unique  self-designated adventures. It’s amazing how such simple ideas translate into fascinating stories which connect people.

And that got me thinking about books as adventure tools. I don’t mean in the you-can-go-anywhere-in-your-imagination way, which is true but not an unexplored concept. My thoughts took me somewhere a little more literal.

Last September I took a rather unexpected trip to Dubai. I ordered a travel book from the library, and though I read it, I decided it was a safe idea to take the tome with me for future reference. So, I renewed it a few days before travel and packed it with luggage. It landed with me at DXB, along with one copy of Rebecca by Daphne Du Maurier , also taken from the library, and the third volume of a fantasy trilogy which I owned. Three books had taken a 3396.08 mile trip with me to this new exotic land, one of which was actually a guide about that exotic land.

While abroad I actually contemplated this; I wondered if this was the first time the book had made this journey from London to Dubai, or whether perhaps someone else had used it as a personal tour guide the way I intended. Of course, lacking the ability to gain that information, speculate was all I could really do. Though, it was fascinating to think about. For the benefit of anyone else in the same position, I actually wrote an attachment on the date sticker in the front alerting future borrowers to the epic transcontinental flight this particular copy had taken.

Then I kind of forgot. After the holiday, I unpacked the book, returned it to the library and went about returning to normal life. I borrowed books and returned them, but mostly I left the travel section alone, Dubai became a fond memory as did the tomes I had taken with me.

Until this month when I saw that tag-line, and I started thinking about how small items in our possession can become significant parts of our stories. I tend to take a book wherever I go, and I have a great memory for keeping track of what I was reading where and when, particularly at interesting and significant moments of my life.

For instance, the day I met my current partner, I was reading a The Shock of the Fall, and I remember because I actually thought how much of a contrast it was to be reading about the challenges of mental health problems when I met what turned out to be the love of my life. In the Summer of 2013 when a break-up left me a little off kilter, I recall wanting to read dark things. I was visiting my sister, who offered me Uncle Montague’s Tales of Terror upon my departure, and I read it all on the train journey back home.

Some people see book shelves as a display case, mine is a treasure trove of life events, and wonderful little memories, as I’m sure it is for most bibliophiles. My books have become an irreplaceable part of my story as much as their content have become part of my mind. However, the majority of my books were bought new, and their journey began with me; library books hold a completely different history. They shuffle in and out of my life with the whims of my reading habits, and, depending on their popularity, the lives of many other readers as well.

The book I took out last week, for example, had six previous date stamps ranging between 2007-2009. I suppose it’s possible more people have taken it out since then, but given the now exclusive electronic lending system, simply haven’t stamped the date. Without access to the library database I can only know when someone borrowed the book, not who, and without meeting the borrower in question I can’t know why. But wouldn’t that be awesome? Wouldn’t that be such a fantastic way of connecting with people? Did they read the book, or did it sit on the coffee table for three weeks? Did they like it? Did they go to the library for the express reason of taking that book out, or was it an unexpected find?

I have had clues as to previous borrowers before, through items left between the pages. Everything from forgotten bookmarks to postcards, obviously used as a substitute. I’ve kept many of these items, in the same way Ariel collected human objects in Disney’s The Little Mermaid. Without conclusive context I can’t really know why people wrote these cards and their relationships to the recipients. I can only guess based on what is written and how. I can’t know if the letters were forgotten by mistake, or through neglect and lack of care. Sometimes, I wish books could actually talk, because I have a feeling they would have a more rounded knowledge base for such matters.

I remember reading The Passage back when I was entertaining the notion of reviewing books. In my review for that book I talked about the reader being like an item shifting through the character’s pockets, a really gripping idea which held the story together through several sub-plots and time zones. Library books do much the same thing. They pass between many world’s and many timelines, being a fly on the wall to snippets of many varied lives.

Is it possible to be reincarnated as a library book? Because I could see that being a perfectly fascinating way of experiencing existence for a while.

When I returned from Dubai, in the midst of contemplating the idea that it had actually traveled to its namesake country, I wrote a note in the book explaining so. Just right of my written return date, I wrote ‘This book actually traveled to Dubai’ and then the relevant dates of travel.

I did this under the impression that I couldn’t be the only person to have wondered about these things. So, at least someone taking the book to Dubai would know it had been before, and they would ponder under what circumstances it was taken and by who. It’s not much, but it’s something to perk an interest.

I wanted someone to know it had been a part of my life for an exciting snippet, and it would be so for them now as well.

Oh how a small item of interest can be part of your great adventure.

Neil Gaiman talks about the Library

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http://www.theguardian.com/books/2013/oct/15/neil-gaiman-future-libraries-reading-daydreaming?CMP=twt_gu

If you love libraries, you should read this. If you don’t know why you should love libraries, you should read this. You should learn and imprint these words in your heart and pass them on whenever you can. The world cannot be a place without libraries. There is no man that can put forth such a heartfelt argument as Sir Gaiman.

Read it. Share it.

Long Lankin – Lindsey Barraclough

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Barraclough is fun to say … try it? Other fun words include ‘spatula’, ‘bollard’, and ‘wisps’. Also, notice the creepy guy on the left, hiding behind the tree? *Shivers*

Beware of Long Lankin, that lives in the moss. . . .When Cora and her younger sister, Mimi, are sent to stay with their elderly aunt in the isolated village of Byers Guerdon, they receive a less than warm welcome. Auntie Ida is eccentric and rigid, and the girls are desperate to go back to London. But what they don’t know is that their aunt’s life was devastated the last time two young sisters were at Guerdon Hall, and she is determined to protect her nieces from an evil that has lain hidden for years. Along with Roger and Peter, two village boys, Cora must uncover the horrifying truth that has held Bryers Guerdon in its dark grip for centuries — before it’s too late for little Mimi. Riveting and intensely atmospheric, this stunning debut will hold readers in its spell long after the last page is turned.

A long time ago, someone decided to write a creepy, English ballad about a bloodthirsty killer. As you do. The story of said song is pretty basic, but still a chilling reciting of the tale of a man sneaking into a house and murdering two innocent inhabitants. In 2011, someone by the name of Lindsey Barraclough, decided this would make a great novel… or rather, decided to write a semi-sequal, and actually it’s pretty good, taking the same simple yet eerie narrative. The plot takes place post-ballad, but the events of its inspiration are fairly recent, having happened within the last sixty years, of world war Britain, which serves as the perfect bleak and accommodating backdrop. Everything circles around three first person perspectives, frequently switching from one to another, creating a cycle of varying understandings. The strength and flow of each individual account differ; the most convincing being Cora, who I would consider the protagonist, and the least interesting being Ida’s p.o.v, which is occationally included just to add a layer of sympathy. I think the story would have been just as effective without this perspective, but even she has some interesting moments.

Character relations are very strong between all roles, but particularly the connections and interactions between the Cora and her sister, and Cora and her aunt. There’s a great representation of the galvanization over-familiarity, annoyance, loyalty and love that comes with being a family, always remaining subtle and realistic. Cora and her male counterpart, Roger, the cheeky rogue, get a complex pre-adolescent male-female dynamic, which isn’t as strong, but still interesting and well-developed. The characters are deep, and easy to sympathise with, which helps to create drama with the whole horror scenarios. Following Cora in her quest is a matter of yelling at the character begging her not to do that thing she’s about to do, in a similar way you might shout at a horror movie when the nubile girl is about to go into the dark-house (why do they never turn the lights on?).

The story doesn’t break any bounderies, or venture anywhere new in terms of horror. Barraclough sticks to a traditional beware the monster tale. The author has a talent for turning seemingly mundane moments into chilling scenes, and then back again seamlessly. These transitions are are subtle and skillfully paced. Barraclough is not afraid of build-up, and while this does give the eerie scenes more punch, sometimes the narrative gets boring. You’ll want to keep reading because of the characters, but there are moments when skimming wouldn’t do any harm. Information distribution isn’t great – I think the build-up went too far sometimes, belaying  any clues which might help construct tension, and then reeling off overwhelming amounts of exposition very quickly. This imbalance is irritating, because it makes strong plot points forgettable. One other weak point for me was the climax; by this point most of the terror inducing mystery has been given away, and so the story goes into overdrive, trying too hard to cast fear. Way too hard. Ridiculous cliche settings join unconvincing scenarios, and even a bit of an inconsistency, but it does get back on track fairly quickly afterwards.

The monster is terrifying, Genuinely, please-let-me-never-meet-this-thing-in-a-dark-alley-or-anywhere-else-for-that-matter scary. It’s brilliantly designed, in image and action, and conveyed with some spine-tingling description. He’s slow, cunning yet beastly, and has a well executed backdtory. Adapting the original ballad, Barraclough weaves real emotion into Lankin, even obscuring some of the more vague implications with rational explainations. The murder, the rational, even the ‘kinda-betrayal’ get some viable alteration. It’s also impressive how the ballad is interlaced into the narrative, and even acknowledged as part of the story.

This is the sort of horror story that everyone can enjoy; it’s chilling, but not wildly over-the-top (apart from that climax), and manages to treat younger characters, and thus younger audiences, with respect and tact. It’s not ground-breaking or unique, but it is reminiscent of the idea of the classic monster, while keeping true to themes of family and regret without being overt (apart from that climax). A great halloween read.

FEED – Mira Grant

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What do vegetarian zombies crave? …. Grrrraaaaiiiinnnnnsssss

The year was 2014. We had cured cancer. We had beaten the common cold. But in doing so we created something new, something terrible that no one could stop. The infection spread, virus blocks taking over bodies and minds with one, unstoppable command: FEED. Now, twenty years after the Rising, bloggers Georgia and Shaun Mason are on the trail of the biggest story of their lives – the dark conspiracy behind the infected. The truth will get out, even if it kills them.

The zombie apocalypse has been done in so many ways, so many times, but impressively, not like this. In the majority of zombie plagued fictions humanity is an ever thinning heard, in which a band of varied survivors haul up somewhere to beat the horde; in FEED, the first book in Mira Grant’s Newsflesh trilogy, the majority of humanity is actually winning, with civilisation having adapted to live alongside the infection. We’re talking quarantine zones, security up the wazoo, and a whole lot of bleach, all combining to create something worryingly plausible. In an ironic twist, the amalgamation of cures for various diseases is the cause of the virus reawakening the dead, making everyone essentially pre-infected. What a world we have to look forward to in 2039…

The world-building is fantastic, and the perfect backdrop to a horror, sorta-kinda political thriller, journey through the walking dead. As previously stated, the emphasis throughout the story isn’t so much on the zombies, but on how the remainder of the populace has dealt with them, and the changes their appearance has made on daily living. One notable alteration is the sudden raise of online journalism, equipped with it’s own plausible and detailed history since the ‘outbreak’. Grant has even gone as far as to litter her work with common references to real-life zombie cinematography.  I spotted four, but I’m not an all out fanatic. It is fun coming across them, and in no way distracts from the main story.

The book doesn’t really work as a political thriller, but the plot does contain a moderately well-formed conspiracy. It’s better to take it as a satire, emphasising the problems of contemporary journalism, and a hypothesis for the future of blogging and news media. It throws up some interesting ideas relating to its subject matter.  The storyline is a fantastic mix of action, well-crafted dialogue, humour, and the necessary amounts of tragedy related to most zombie work. In weaker moments, the plot does get a little predictable, but even so, the results are haunting and beautifully written. Also, this novel contains one of the most harrowing scenes I’ve ever read.

Told through the first-person perspective of Georgia Mason, internet journalist, bringing truth to the people no matter the cost, the story trails a group of ragtag bloggers following a political campaign. We have dare-devil Shaun, the plucky, charismatic brother of Georgia, and their fiction spinning, dreamy friend, Buffy. While they can be a tad stock, each has his or her own drives, and it’s easy to become attached to the characters and associate with what their perils. Again, saddest scene ever. My only real issue came with the forced villain, who resembles something of a crook from the marvel universe only a little downplayed. Character development on the hero’s side is established from the offset, and each individual character melds brilliantly into their world.

I’m not sure it’s a great introduction to the world of zombie fiction, but if you enjoy reading about, or even watching stories regarding the living dead, definitely give this a read. Its got all the great things about the genre, including disturbing scenes and grizzly transformations. I can’t wait to see how the trilogy pans out.

Stuff and Things and Words…

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The trouble with November is that it’s one of those tricky months that just happens; it sneaks around the corner when you’re not looking, and before you know what’s hit you it’s cornered you in a dark alley demanding your attention with an AK47. Or perhaps that’s just me. The days are short, the weather cold, and festive larks are creeping across the city, and I’m still trying to work my brain around the fact that Halloween has come and gone. I spent the evening indoors with a cup of peppermint tea and a couple of cheesy childhood Halloweeny films. My intention was to post something particular to the tradition, but after work I was just exhausted; I’ve been finding the retail business is demanding more and more of my energy, leaving hallow gaps of time when I just can’t get myself motivated enough to do the things I go to the mundane retail employment to enable. In short, Alice is, once again, not doing much writing. If I’m not careful that’ll be on my tombstone. “Here Lies Alice Radwell, … she never did much writing, at least that’s what it says on her blog.

Side-note; I actually want my tombstone to read either BRB (pertaining to my Buddhist beliefs) or Here lies the Proof that Wit Can  Never Defend Against Mortality. End of side-note.

I’m trying heart and soul to push past the lethargy; assigning myself deadlines, and writing periods in short, manageable bursts, and I’m eating well staving off heavy, surgery, and processed foods as a way to keep my body energised and working to schedule. As a subscriber to the fact that there is no excuse for not-writing, I’m pressing forward regardless of my mood, not allowing myself the common extenuations writers give for not partaking in their craft. This is very important; not-writing is a habit no writer can afford to fall into. I’ve been there before and I’m not going back. However, under these conditions my writing is suffering; I’m slower on the keyboard and more abundant with errors, and basic ones at that. But you’re probably not here to listen (or read about) me complain.

Next week I’m attending (can you say attending?) a live-chat with Gregory Maguire, the genius behind Wicked and Confessions of an Ugly Stepsister. I saw the show recently in London, and was blown away by the magnitude of it all; I wasn’t sure how they went about adapting the intricacies of such a large and complex novel for the stage, but the reworking is seamless, and contains such catchy musical numbers. If I get the opportunity I will ask Mr Maguire what he thought of the story changes, but ultimately the talk is about the fourth book in the Wicked series, Out Of Oz. Alongside this spectacular event, of which I am very excited, I’ve got a short-story to get written, and ‘super secret awesome mega project‘ to get started. As you may understand from the nature of that title, this cannot and will not be revealed for a few months. Don’t say this blog lacks mystery and excitement. I even made the colour and shape interesting for you. Scadoo!

Anyway, I’ve got a book to finish reading and a pillow to collapse onto. A pleasant eve to all.