Friday, 16 December 2016

Book Review - Dark Matter - Michelle Paver



'How odd, that light should prevent one from seeing.'


Dark matter follows Jack, a class conscious, poor, 28 year old man joining an Artic expedition in the late 1930s. Due to continuous unfortunate circumstances, Jack is left alone at the camp for weeks at end, with only the huskys for company, during this time he suffers and intense haunting of unknown origin.

As you know I am always on the search for a good horror novel. I don't know why but I never seem to really find horror/ghost stories in book shops, most likely because I don't know who or what to look for, so when I stumbled upon Dark Matter I jumped at the chance for a good scare.

The book is written in journal format from Jack's point of view, and this is conveyed very well. He comes across as an unreliable narrator, holding things back from his journals till later on in the story due to his own embarrasment - and I think that is realistic, when I was younger and kept a diary it was the most boring read as anything interesting would be left out due to fear someone would find what I had written and humiliate me...

I think everyone's favourite character in the book will be Isaak the husky. Jack for some insane reason doesn't like dogs when he first starts the expedition, he doesn't like them and feels embarrassed for those who fawn over them. However, over time and increasing isolation Jack forms a bond with the dogs, he sees what intelligent creatures they really are, and learns that he needs this bond, especially with Isaak as times get increasingly dark.

The story behind the haunting itself was interesting, but vague. I understand that Jack himself was stuck in the Arctic so didn't have all the resources to find out what happened to cause the events he suffers, and the story mostly come to him in dream/imaginary form, which was fine, but lacked the details I would have really liked.

I wouldn't say the story itself really scared me. I read the book late one night and didn't feel I needed to stop at any point due to fear, infact I wanted to keep going, to see how far this haunting would go, how dark it would get. However, I would say that after I had finished the book, that is when I started to get creeped out. Laying in the dark, unable to really see anything but black, much like Jack in his cabin, my imagination did start to get the better of me; its winter here too, so the coldness of my toes mixed with the darkness did create an atmosphere that was eerily similar (though a thousand times less arduous) than that of Jack's.

Overall I think I would give this a 3/5. I enjoyed the book, and I thought it was well written - I will be looking for more Michelle Paver works in the future, but I would have enjoyed it if there were more subtle thrills throughout the story, if there was an eerie prescence even when it was supposedly calm. I suppose becuase I really want a good scare book I am being particularly picky - this book was good, and I can see it scaring a lot of people, but I still wanted more.

Have you read Dark Matter? If so, let me know what you thought in the comments below!

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Friday, 9 December 2016

Book Review - Pretty Monsters - Kelly Link



'Except you can't judge a book by its cover. Whether or not this story has a happy ending depends, of course, on who is reading it.'


Pretty Monsters is a collection of short stories by Kelly Link. It was the first of her books that I have read, and I have since bought and read through Get in Trouble. I've never really read through short stories before; I assumed they would have little substance compared to a 'proper novel' because of their size, but actually I love these, and the length of them made them perfect to read on a commute to or from work.

I'm not going to review each story individualy, but instead the collection.

Kelly Link's stories are all a bit weird, and in this collection also a little creepy - right up my street. As suggested by the title, each story has some sort of monster interwoven in it, all stories seem to be based in a world where monsters are common place. There are wizards, grave robbers and woodland monsters.

I think my favourite story in the collection was The Constable of Abal, which is about Ozma and her mother who can see the ghosts of dead people. I'm not sure why it was my favourite, as it is with most things that you enjoy, you just do.

Kelly Link is great for building characters, and there are a lot of them in this collection, each with their own motivations and emotions and I think that is one of her strongest parts of writing. Each story feels thoroughly different from the one before, even if there are all creepy and strange, they're all a different kind of creepy and strange.

I would think that this is aimed more towards the YA group that a mature group, not that if you're older than YA you wouln't enjoy them, however a lot of the charcters in the books are YA themselves and we see the world from their view, and are really relatable in that way.

I didn't love every story in the book, I think I even nearly gave up when trying to read the second story - though I started it again mid way through and enjoyed it a lot more that time, perhaps I was in a particularly bad mood the first time... but there are a few that really stick out in my memory as enojying and thats why I think the collection as a whole is worth a read.

I think if you enojy books that are slightly quirky, that have a dark undertone and where the endings are not set out for you, they're usually open to some interpretation, then you would enjoy this book. It doesn't have full on scares, thats not what its about, but it makes you think, it makes you imagine this creepy world (or worlds) that she has created. I really enjoyed it and will be looking for more of her work in the future - 4/5


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Thursday, 1 December 2016

Book Review - Daughters of The Dragon - William Andrews


'You must have the courage of the seed, Anna. Without it, you will stay buried.'

Daughters of the Dragon is a historical fiction based on the comfort women of Korea during the Second World War. If I am completely honest with you, which I like to be, I had never heard of comfort women before. These were women taken by the Japanese army against their will and raped and tortured for the relief of their soldiers. What is possibly worse than these crimes themselves is the fact that Japan still won't apologise, or even recognise what they did to these women.

So obviously it isn't a pleasant subject matter, and if rape and torture are triggers for you, then steer clear, however, if not, I really do recommend it. William Andrews spoke to some of the few surviving comfort women to get their true accounts, so, though embellished, a lot of the story is true.

Daughters of the Dragon starts with Anna, an American girl who visits Korea to find out about her birth mother, following the death of her own. This takes her to Seoul, to the orphanage she was born in. From here she learns that her mother died in childbirth, and despondent  from this news, her and her father leave to travel back to their hotel. On their way back however, Anna is stopped by an old Korean lady who hands her a wrapped gift, 'visit me on the address within' she tells her in perfect English. Confused, Anna opens the gift on the bus, inside she discovers an ornate comb with a two headed, five toed Dragon. Intrigued to know why this woman gave her the comb, she visits her and discovers her amazing story.

I felt like Anna was an unnecessary part of the story. I know he did this as a small dedication to his daughter who herself is from Korea, but I don't think it actually added to the story, and I feel like a grandmother wouldn't go into such details as Ja-Hee did on a first encounter with a granddaughter. If it was perhaps written in the style of a memoir, or perhaps Ja-Hee was recounting her tale to a journalist of someone of the like, it would have made more sense. Ja-Hee is the protagonist of this story, Anna is an added extra. Going along with this, I feel like we meet Anna at the start, and want to go with her on her quest to find out about her mother, and though she finds out an amazing story about her grandmother, towards the end time seems to rush, jumping ten years at a time, and in this time we find out very little about Anna's mother, and then she is dead, that is it. There is no room for emotion for her, and again this makes Anna's part in the story somewhat obsolete. 

However, these are probably the only negatives about this book. Ja-hee's story is completely intriguing. I read this in around two days, most of that time staying up late at night to finish it. I wanted to know what happened to Ja-Hee during her time as a comfort woman, I was rooting for her to survive. Its compelling and I would be surprised at anyone who doesn't get deeply involved in it. 

Overall I would give this book a 4 out of 5, I really do recommend. If you've read it, let me know what you thought in the comments below!
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