Slade House

Title: Slade House

Author: David Mitchell

Genres: Fantasy | Horror | Paranormal

Length: 233 pages

Source: Purchased

Format: Paperback

Rating: 4.5/5

Premise:

In an alley, there is a tiny iron door that only shows itself on certain times and is only visible to certain people.
If you happen to be one of them, be careful. Slade House has two inhabitants who will want you to stay forever.

Review:

Ok this review is going to be different because I simply have to gush over this amazing cover:

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Not only is it absolutely gorgeous but it also conveys the feeling of the book splendidly.

And inside… Inside you are able to glimpse something that is one of the many secrets of the book in a chilling design:

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Also gorgeous!

Alright, enough gushing, on to the proper review.

Slade House is a difficult one to review. There are some books where you just can’t say much without spoiling the experience because the unveiling of the mysteries at the pace that the author presents them is what gives it such power, and this is one of them.

What I can tell you however is that it is a deliciously magical novel. For me, it was absolutely riveting, fast-paced and most of the time I was completely enthralled by the narrative. And every time I thought I knew what was happening, doh! Nope, the author got me.

I had heard good things about David Mitchell and this was my first experience with him. I can definitely say I would love to read more by him.

There were a couple of things I did not understand and if you have read the book I would love for you to let me know:

If it is said that Gordon did not call the handyman then that means he never left the orison that first time, right? Not like anyone else did. So how did he write the report describing the little door then?

It is said that one of the twins creates the orison and we don’t see much of that one during the interaction with their guest. I got the feeling that that twin does all the work keeping it up and whatnot. However, in some cases both Norah and Jonah appear, especially in the first one with Nathan. So how exactly does it work?

I was confused as to why they had to wait 9 more years after Freya. Does the door only open on that specific day at the end of October?

Norah kept arguing with her brother but I never got what alternative she was proposing. If they left, their bodies would age and rot, so what could they do?

Also, I was not a fan of the open ending and it makes me wonder if there will be a sequel, though it doesn’t look that way.

Other than that, this was an amazing read, highly recommended if you are looking for a magical tale with a chilling touch.
A solid 9 out of 10.

Read from Mar 3rd to Mar 4th, 2017

GR Review

The Picture of Dorian Gray

Title: The Picture of Dorian Gray

Author: Oscar Wilde

Genres: Horror | Magical Realism

Length: 165 pages

Source: Purchased

Format: Paperback

Rating: 3.5/5

Premise:

After meeting Lord Henry Wooton, young Dorian Gray engages in a self-destructive lifestyle.
If only his picture, an unparalleled work of art, could take the consequences instead of his youthful body…

Review:

The Picture of Dorian Gray is quite a work of art. From that first chapter I was enraptured, and I found the way our main character and his picture were introduced quite ingenious.
The main characters were quite entrancing, particularly Sir Henry Wooton.

However, at times I found it too philosophic, particularly after halfway or so. Sir Henry’s lines that I had previously enjoyed became overbearing, and the long flowery descriptions about perfumes, jewels, music and christian artefacts caused my attention to wander, making the book’s meagre 165 pages stretch on and on.

Also, I found characters repeatedly telling Sir Henry that he did not really believe what he was saying annoying after a point, and I found myself thinking that there was much talk of sins being committed but not much was shown in that sense. Though I appreciate the level of subtlety throughout the story, I believe further descriptions along those lines would have helped me form a better image of the de-evolution of Dorian Gray.

There is so much more to The Picture of Dorian Gray than a magical painting. Even though the ending was predictable I still think it is worth reading and contemplating. And it is quite amazing how contemporary this theme is, in a society which obsesses over youth and beauty more and more.

Read from Feb 22nd to Feb 26th, 2016

GR Review

The Catcher in the Rye

Title: The Catcher in the Rye

Author: J.D. Salinger

Genres: Realistic Fiction

Length: 230 pages

Source: Purchased

Format: Paperback

Rating: 3.5/5

Premise:

Holden Caulfield takes us through what happens when he gets kicked out of his fourth school.

Review:

This is a difficult one for me to review. For one, I can definitely see why it is a classic. Holden stays with you, even if he gets on your nerves. He is most certainly the embodiment of teenage angst and there is just so much you can discuss reading this.
However, I did find the novel dull and the repetitive nature of the main character’s voice got to me.

This has got to be one of the best show-not-tell examples I have seen of a character. His anxious nature shone through every sentence and at times it was quite intense to see how the world around Holden affects him. He acts like he has all the answers but he really is a very confused and lost boy.

While we follow Holden trying to avoid facing his parents after the fourth expulsion the fact is nothing much happens; and if his very particular voice was a breath of fresh air in the beginning it didn’t take long for it to become overwhelming. I cannot say I looked forward to picking up the book when I was not reading it.

I did think it picked up towards the end and although the ending felt abrupt it was also kind of perfect and after an entire narrative where the main character keeps stating how depressing stuff is I needed it.

Overall I think The Catcher in the Rye is great food for thought but it is not for everyone and not for every mood.

Read from Dec 26th to Dec 29th, 2016

GR Review

The Game: The Valley (Das Tal, Season 1 #1)

Title: The Game: The Valley (Das Tal, Season 1 #1)

Author: Krystyna Kuhn

Genres: Contemporary | Mystery | Thriller

Length: 316 pages

Source: Purchased

Format: Paperback

Rating: 2/5

Premise:

Julia and her brother Robert are sent to an isolated college in Canada.
At first Julia believes the eerie feelings she gets will pass but soon she will understand far more sinister things are happening.

Review:

Well, this one was a major let down.
First of all, when I got this book I had no idea it was the first of a series. I really wanted to read a standalone.

Alas, when I first started reading The Game: The Valley I was faced with the same old YA formula: annoying teenage who throws tantrums and feels like the world is all about her and, well, boys – more specifically insta-love.
The one good thing was her brother Robert, whose rare perspectives I did enjoy reading but even that was an incredible disappointment as the author keeps hinting that there is something paranormal going on with him and then it doesn’t, he’s just really smart. I usually don’t mind the author leading me in a completely wrong direction if things are going to be wrapped up nicely but this was not the case. I finished the book wishing I had read a lot more about him, found out what exactly was going on in his preciously little head. That talk about the Valley being evil, for instance. What the heck was up with it? Was anything paranormal actually happening or is the guy just wacko?

I never got why Julia and Robert were so disconnected, not only because they were siblings and the only ones who knew each other at the college but also that they obviously shared some secret story together. To me, that means they should be extra close and protective of each other. Instead Julia struck me as such a bad sister and I was actually annoyed that I had to read about her so much. She always came across as so whiny, dramatic and selfish to me. Also, I could not see what the heck she was doing in a college for gifted teenagers, not to mention other characters.

Besides not being able to connect to the main character, another thing that irked me was that the narrative felt very disjointed. Although the writing was smart, in the way that chapters ending in cliffhangers makes the reader want to keep going, the events did not flow, I always felt like a connecting thread was missing. In the end when things came together it felt like info dumping.

Throughout the story there was this constant air of mystery about the college and the Valley where it is located, with hints to weird things that happened there, but nothing really leads anywhere and a lot of silly assumptions are made along the way.

Needless to say I will not be reading the sequels but I suppose fans of YA can enjoy this. I still do not recommend it, though.

Read from Sep 26th to Oct 1st, 2016

GR Review

City of Endless Night

Title: City of Endless Night

Author: Milo Hastings

Genres: Dystopia | Science Fiction | Speculative Fiction

Length: 256 pages

Source: Purchased

Format: Paperback

Rating: 4.5/5

Premise:

After the first world war, Germany evolves to an underground, impenetrable city that the world outside keeps trying to defeat. One young man does not understand why such a war as gone on for over a century and will do anything in his power to change it. Going on this adventure will allow him more insight on such a society than anyone thought possible.

Review:

I have to admit I struggled with the writing on this one. This is completely different from anything I have read. The book was written in 1919 and I found the prose difficult to understand at times (English is not my native language), quite contained and very matter of fact. Yet, I still felt engaged. The book has strong politic and socialist components but it leaves room for more humane assessing as well. There is a bit of romance and enough tension of all sorts to want to keep reading.

However, right from the beginning there were things that irked me, namely how everything came together for our main character. As the narrative initially developed, things seemed to fall into place much too easily for him. He enters this world by taking the place of a dead guy who looks just like him and who happens to have his own personal biography in his pocket, after having had a life experience that would allow him to succeed brilliantly at his new persona. And everyone just assumes his lack of memory is due to gas poisoning. I don’t understand, was no testing done at the hospital to see he had indeed not been poisoned by gas? What about his tanned complexion? And he had to have an accent, even if he learned German from the age of 7. The guy admitted his vocabulary was more technical than anything! And then the right people seem to come across his path so easily as well, just the ones he needs, and who just spill their true thoughts to such a stranger, even though no thoughts are really allowed there.
All these questions and others bothered me throughout the story.

But the fact is it is a very disturbing one. The Germany described here is nightmarish in its potential to become real at that time. This book is astoundingly futuristic, in a way that I could not help but think how it all must have inspired Hitler. I mean, I was never much of a fan of History, but it seemed like the guy tried to replicate much of what went on here. That is so terrifying.

Although there were quite a few plot holes and I found the development of the story too easy for our main character, this is an amazing classic that everyone should definitely read at least once in their lifetime. Having just finished it, I am still chilled.

Read from Aug 28th to Sep 4th, 2016

GR Review

Cujo

Title: Cujo

Author: Stephen King

Genres: Horror | Thriller

Length: 304 pages

Source: Purchased

Format: Paperback

Rating: 3.5/5

Premise:

After chasing a rabbit, the usually friendly St Bernard, Cujo, begins acting oddly. He was bitten by a rabid bat but there is something much darker at place.

Review:

After finishing Cujo I am left with a bittersweet feeling. It was less than I had expected, I suppose.

King does a wonderful job setting up the characters and story, as usual, linking several pieces together to create a multi sided, intriguing picture, from the eldest character to the mailman to the more main characters.

I especially loved reading both Tad and Cujo’s thoughts and the alternating narrative points kept me interested. Each character had their own stuff to deal with. Donna was really the only one I could not connect with.

However, I had expected more from the story. Without getting too spoilery, we are told there is a certain evil at play, besides just plain rabies, which is nasty on its own. However, I felt this premise, which was really so important, was not nearly explored enough.

Also, there were too many coincidences to my taste. I realize that was the entire point, to make us wonder how a few well (or ill) timed coincidences can lead to such ghastly situations, but some just felt nonsensical to me, I believe people just wouldn’t act that way in such a situation. I can appreciate the thought, though.

The pacing also felt off but the last quarter or so of the book was unrelenting. The suspense was unbelievable and I can understand why some people would have nightmares reading that stuff.

Not everything was wrapped up nicely in the end but I did get enough closure and the ending was surprising enough.

I know King has a lot more to give so I was not utterly impressed. If it is true he wrote the entire book under the effect of cocaine and doesn’t even remember doing it I would say he did a pretty darn good job.

You can check out the buddy read topic here.

Read from Jul 3rd to Jul 12nd, 2016

GR Review

The Man from Primrose Lane: A Novel

Title: The Man from Primrose Lane: A Novel

Author: James Renner

Genres: Horror | Mystery | Speculative Fiction | Thriller

Length: 464 pages

Source: Purchased

Format: Paperback

Rating: 3.25/5

Premise:

The Man from Primose Lane dies in mysterious circumstances. Writer David Neff gets involved in the investigation and will find things about his life and the people around him that he never even imagined possible.

Review:

Well, there goes another book that could have been amazing but was for the most part ruined for me due to the huge spoiler in the blurb.

Yep, the major device is revealed in the synopsis and even the book cover, when it does not even begin to be approached until about 60% of the book. By the time I got there I was completely unsurprised and the entire thing was utterly anti-climatic. Even the characters involved never seemed truly surprised. I am ticked off. It should have been something special.

When I first started reading The Man from Primrose Lane: A Novel I found the book annoyingly descriptive. It didn’t help that the author kept hinting at the value of descriptiveness in a book, both through his main character and his wife.

The narrative is interspersed with accounts from different points in time and, while interesting, it did get quite confusing. The fact is I found my mind constantly slipping away from passages that just felt unnecessary and because too much was going on it all felt scattered and pointless. I kept rereading those passages where I drifted off because I hate skimming books but sure enough, they felt like a waste of time. Granted, most made sense later on, but it was much too long a wait for resolution, at least for me.

As the narrative evolved beyond the twist, I had seen most of the revelations a mile away. There was a particularly gross moment that made a difference but not in a good way.

Several things that just seemed thrown in there for the sake of justifying the plot twist; particularly about the future, names kept being dropped but I did not get a clear idea of what they were, some not at all, as well a couple of plot holes here and there, mostly about how characters dealt with situations, the reactions did not feel organic and I wondered why they didn’t wonder certain things.

The book redeemed itself towards the end, but that does not erase the fact that at times I found reading it a chore, and I felt it should have been more focused. I believe it could have been a very interesting crime investigation novel where the character deals with his inner demons. It didn’t need all the time travel mumbo-jumbo, especially when I didn’t even get how it was done and so much was glossed/skimmed over.

Most of all I felt there were too many things going on, too many characters – I kept forgetting who was who and did what – and I never really related to any of them. At some point I just gave up keeping track, which obviously hindered my enjoyment.

Still, the writing really was quite enjoyable at times. Some passages were very interesting. Even though I must admit this is most likely my issue, I just feel like the book didn’t know what it wanted to be and ended up all over the place, not really meaning much at all until the final stretch which, again, as thrilling as it was, was just not enough to compensate the lost feeling I had throughout the novel.
I can definitely see why some folks would adore this novel, people who are definitely more patient and have a better attention span than me and therefore I still recommend it.

Read from Jun 24th to Jul 2nd, 2016

GR Review