Monday 2 March 2020

Review Round-up, for World Book Day

Regular readers will know I take my reading seriously (check out my Westies posts - now up to number eleven! - rounding up what I've read in a particular year), I take book collecting seriously (my sleazy paperback library is something teenaged me would have been proud of) and I'm a real advocate for people losing themselves in a book.
So do yourself a favour - as it's World Book Day on Thursday go out and pick up a book.  You don't have to spend a lot of money on a glossy hardback, go to the library (if you have any left near you, he wrote sarcastically) or buy a paperback, or download an ebook, or go into a second hand or charity shop and pick up something for 20p.

Tastes vary but here are some suggestions, based on books by friends I've read over the past couple of years and liked enough to blog about.

Closer Still, by Richard Farren Barber

“Closer Still is about childhood friends and childhood enemies. It is a story about how the two are often not as far apart as one might believe. It is my thoughts on the strength of children to navigate an environment in which they are often powerless. It is about love and betrayal. The casual pain inflicted by friends. It is the visceral cry of youth against the injustice of life.”

I thoroughly enjoyed Barber’s previous novella Perfect Darkness, Perfect Silence and this is equally as good, if poles apart.  A perfectly paced ghost story that turns up its horror - both real and supernatural - as it goes, this benefits greatly from having Rachel as the narrator (unreliable at times), with Barber capturing her voice exceptionally well.  School life feels real and raw with the sense of being alone in a crowded classroom or playground, the demeanour of the teachers which can be threatening or benign but never fully on your side, the smell of the rooms and corridors, the terror of being trapped in a toilet block.  Exceptionally well written, with a great sense for location and atmosphere, this is a perfectly realised ghost story.
* * *

A Summer To Remember, by Sue Moorcroft
(full review - and Q&A - here)

WANTED! A caretaker for Roundhouse Row holiday cottages.

WHERE? Nelson’s Bar is the perfect little village. Nestled away on the Norfolk coast we can offer you no signal, no Wi-Fi and – most importantly – no problems!

WHO? The ideal candidate will be looking for an escape from their cheating scumbag ex-fiancé, a diversion from their entitled cousin, and a break from their traitorous friends.

WHAT YOU’LL GET! Accommodation in a chocolate-box cottage, plus a summer filled with blue skies and beachside walks. Oh, and a reunion with the man of your dreams.

PLEASE NOTE: We take no responsibility for any of the above scumbags, passengers and/or traitors walking back into your life…


I'm a huge fan of Sue's and have reviewed all her books but, for me, this just pips the others as the best of the lot.
* * *

Hell Ship, by Benedict J. Jones

1944, The Malacca Straights; Blood slicks the deck of a Japanese ship as a terrible ritual is enacting to aid the failing Imperial Forces against the Allies. The ritual rends the very fabric of our world giving access to another realm beyond the ken of man.

Nine survivors from the torpedoed Empire Carew are left adrift in a lifeboat but after weeks in the water they find haven on an abandoned ship they find floating in a strange fog – The Shinjuku Maru.

Nine souls are heading straight for hell.

The Shinjuku Maru has been there before…

Scary, thrilling, often amusing (especially in the interplay between some of the characters) but above all relentless, this has a great pace and a superb sense of location, which is well realised and maintained.  If you’re looking for a grim and gruesome horror novella, this is ideal.
* * *

Naming The Bones, by Laura Mauro

First there was darkness…

Alessa Spiteri survives a bombing incident on the London Underground only to discover that the horror she experienced there is only the beginning of the nightmare.

As she struggles to rebuild her life, she finds herself haunted by grotesque, shadowy creatures – monsters Alessa believes are hallucinations, born of her traumatised mind until she meets Casey, also the survivor of an Underground bombing, who tells her she can see the monsters too.

Together, the women plan their fightback against the creatures, a course of action which takes Alessa back into the tunnels beneath the city.
Back into the darkness. 

Hugely enjoyable, the claustrophobic atmosphere of the tube - and, indeed, Central London - is well used and becomes genuinely oppressive as the story reaches its conclusion.  Original, full of tension and very scary.
* * *

The Summer Of Impossible Things, by Rowan Coleman

If you could change the past, would you?

Thirty years ago, something terrible happened to Luna’s mother. Something she’s only prepared to reveal after her death.

Now Luna and her sister have a chance to go back to their mother’s birthplace and settle her affairs. But in Brooklyn they find more questions than answers, until something impossible – magical – happens to Luna, and she meets her mother as a young woman back in the summer of 1977.

At first Luna’s thinks she’s going crazy, but if she can truly travel back in time, she can change things. But in doing anything – everything – to save her mother’s life, will she have to sacrifice her own?

A wonderful novel, full of love and friendship and vitality, this doesn’t shy away from the darker elements of life though there is always hope and it’s told with an assured style that drags the reader through at breakneck pace. Beautifully constructed, fantastic in every aspect and moving, I loved this.
* * *

Dead Leaves, by Andrew David Barker
(full review here)

To Scott, Paul and Mark, horror films are everything.

The year is 1983, the boom of the video revolution, and Scott Bradley is seventeen, unemployed and on the dole. Drifting through life, he and his friends love nothing more than to sit around drinking, talking about girls, and watching horror movies.

But things are about to change.

As the ‘video nasty’ media storm descends, their desire to find a copy of the ultimate horror film – The Evil Dead – is going to lead them to the most significant days of their young lives. As the law tightens and their way of life comes under threat from all quarters, they come to learn what truly matters to them – and what doesn’t.

A heartfelt story of friendship, loyalty and youthful rebellion, Dead Leaves is a darkly funny and brutally honest depiction of aimless life in a Midland town, and perfectly captures the impact those first few years of video had on a generation.

I love coming-of-age tales, I love the 80s and I love horror - this was absolutely the perfect book for me and I thought it was a superb read, a paen to the teenage years of horror fans wherever they might have grown up, a This Is England for the Fango crowd.

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