Book Review: Dracul by Dacre Stoker and J. D. Barker

Name: Dracul
Author:  
Dacre Stoker and J. D. Barker
Number of Pages:
608 (Paperback)
Published:
October 17th 2019 by Black Swan
Genre:  Horror, Gothic

Goodreads

Dracul reveals not only the true origins of Dracula himself, but also of his creator, Bram Stoker . . . and of the elusive, enigmatic woman who connects them.
It is 1868, and a 22-year-old Bram Stoker has locked himself inside an abbey’s tower to face off against a vile and ungodly beast. He is armed with mirrors and crucifixes and holy water and a gun – and is kept company by a bottle of plum brandy. His fervent prayer is that he will survive this one night – a night that will prove to be the longest of his life.
Desperate to leave a record of what he has witnessed, the young man scribbles out the events that brought him to this point – and tells an extraordinary tale of childhood illness, a mysterious nanny, and stories once thought to be fables now proven true.
Inspired by the notes DRACULA’s creator left behind, Dracul is a riveting, heart-stoppingly scary novel of Gothic suspense . . .

My Rating:

My Thoughts:

The tale begins with Bram Stoker locked in a tower room adorned with all manner of defences against darkness. Holy water, mirrors, several crucifixes and white roses. It’s a nightmarish situation and Bram is under threat from something outside, determined to gain access despite Bram’s safeguards. The narrative then switches to Stoker’s childhood as he journals about incidents from his youth. How did all this come about? Who is after Bram and why?

Bram’s journaling recounts the mysterious illness that blighted his life until age 7. His family were convinced he would die, yet he rallied, possibly aided by Nanna Ellen, an enigmatic carer who apparently cures Bram where all other medical intervention has failed, but her help also seems to have a visible effect on her seen through her disappearances, and her changes in appearance as she visibly ages, only to appear again looking fresh-faced and young.
Ellen obviously has a secret, and I don’t think I’ll say more other than experiencing Bram and his sister Matilda discover what’s going on with her – the state of her room, her disappearances, the difficulty Matilda has in capturing her in a portrait – was brilliant. Her eventual departure from the family is surrounded in an enduring mystery that never quite leaves Bram and Matilda.

I like Matilda, and her enduring sibling relationship with Bram. During his childhood illness, his weakened state and the belief that he would not live, Matilda is a constant, telling him stories and gossip and encouraging all manner of mischief, going out into the night and listening to what others think shouldn’t concern her.

The story features unsent letters from Matilda to Ellen, journal entries from both Bram and Thornley Stoker, and notes written by Vambéry. I like this method of story telling, giving the whole picture from a variety of viewpoints and watching it all piece together gradually.

The vampire himself is teased out until the latter stages, although his presence is certainly felt well before he appears and when he does it definitely proves worth the wait.
Our group to take on this menace and his undead are the Stoker siblings and the wonderfully mysterious Arminius Vambéry, a man Thornley Stoker meets through the Hellfire club. He knows the truth about the nature of Ellen and her like, having seen such things before.

There are some really eerie and creepy moments, scenes of horror and scenes of family life played out in all innocence as some unknown adversary takes an interest in the Stoker household. Dark basements, a hospital mortuary, abandoned churchyards and unconsecrated ground, derelict towers, a room adorned with crosses and mirrors, and the secretive and mysterious realm of the Hellfire Club all add to the wonderfully Gothic air of this novel.

The way the past and the present are eventually tied together had me turning the pages long after night had drawn in, which certainly added something to the atmosphere. I couldn’t put it down and would certainly recommend it to anyone looking for a taste of the Gothic. Magic, murder, mystery and intrigue, they’re all within the pages of Dracul.

 

Book Review: The Colour of Magic (Discworld #1) by Terry Pratchett

Name:  The Colour of Magic (Discworld #1)
Author:  
Terry Pratchett
Number of Pages:
288 (ebook)
Published:
December 26th 2008 by Transworld Publishers
Genre:  Fantasy

Goodreads

The Color of Magic is Terry Pratchett’s maiden voyage through the now-legendary land of Discworld. This is where it all begins — with the tourist Twoflower and his wizard guide, Rincewind.
On a world supported on the back of a giant turtle (sex unknown), a gleeful, explosive, wickedly eccentric expedition sets out. There’s an avaricious but inept wizard, a naive tourist whose luggage moves on hundreds of dear little legs, dragons who only exist if you believe in them, and of course THE EDGE of the planet…

My Rating:

My Thoughts:

My first journey into the Discworld. After much debate I started at the beginning, and I was pleased I did. What better way to be introduced to this strange and fascinating world than in the company of the Disc’s first tourist and a pretty incapable wizard?

Twoflower arrives in Ankh-Morpork, full of enthusiasm and optimism for all the discoveries he’s about to make, with talk of strange things, such as in-sewer-ants, and a magical box that takes pictures. And there’s the other magical box, but more on the Luggage later…
Through various circumstances he meets Rincewind, the wizard who only really knows one spell, and that one has such power that he’s never used it and doesn’t really know what it will do, and off on their adventures they go…

The book contains four parts, which read like four short stories, all delivering some new place or inhabitant of this marvellous world. In the first there’s general chaos which ends in flames, and that pretty much sets the tone for the adventures these two protagonists enjoy (or maybe endure is a better word) together. They go from one peril to another, Rincewind despairing and worrying, Twoflower endlessly fascinated and excited by it all.
And the Luggage is never far behind. How can a magical chest become a central comic feature in a book? Well, it’s made from sapient pearwood – it’s almost alive! Scurrying on hundreds of little legs after it’s owner Twoflower like a faithful canine companion, the Luggage leaps into danger and quite often saves the travellers. I loved each appearance by the Luggage.

I ended up enjoying The Colour of Magic more than I expected. I wondered at one point whether it was a little too fantastical for me, and there’s a lot contained in quite a small book, but by the end I was engrossed in the antics of Rincewind and Twoflower and the precarious situation they found themselves in. There’s a bit of a cliff-hanger ending so when I choose to visit the Discworld again I’ll probably choose The Light Fantastic, just to see how it all resolves.

Book Review: The Other People by C. J. Tudor

Name:  The Other People
Author:  
C. J. Tudor
Number of Pages:
416 (Hardback)
Published:
January 23rd 2020 by Michael Joseph
Genre:  Thriller, Mystery

Goodreads

She sleeps, a pale girl in a white room . . .
Driving home one night, stuck behind a rusty old car, Gabe sees a little girl’s face appear in the rear window.
She mouths one word: ‘Daddy.’
It’s his five-year-old daughter, Izzy.
He never sees her again.
Three years later, Gabe spends his days and nights travelling up and down the motorway, searching for the car that took his daughter, refusing to give up hope, even though most people believe that Izzy is dead.
Fran and her daughter, Alice, also put in a lot of miles on the motorway. Not searching. But running. Trying to keep one step ahead of the people who want to hurt them.
Because Fran knows the truth. She knows what really happened to Gabe’s daughter. She knows who is responsible. And she knows what they will do if they ever catch up with her and Alice . . .

My Rating:

My Thoughts:

Gabe has lost his family. They’re apparently dead, but in the case of his daughter Izzy, Gabe is convinced she has been taken and may still be alive so devotes his existence to trawling motorways in search of the car he believes her saw her in.
Fran and Alice also travel the motorways, running from something. There’s an air of strangeness almost from the very beginning with young Alice and her fear of mirrors and what happens when she looks in the mirror.
Katie works at one of the services that Gabe frequents.
These characters cross paths eventually and seemingly unconnected threads are gradually drawn together…

The opening hints at something strange straight away, an unknown girl, alone, sleeping, surrounded by medical equipment. There’s something eerie about it. Who is she and what has happened to her? I enjoyed the way this narrative ran throughout, suggesting something slightly out of the ordinary alongside the thriller unfolding.

All these lives and more are drawn together in an intriguing tale of grief, revenge, justice and the price to be paid for past events, and the lengths people are willing to go to when faced with great wrongs done to them and their family.
It’s fraught with tension and suspense and watching it unfold, twist after revelation after twist meant I didn’t want to put the book down. I can’t remember the last time I read something as quickly as I did The Other People. It’s a thriller with a slightly creepy, mysterious air. Something perfect embodied by the enigmatic Samaritan. As his name suggests he’s there to help Gabe. Or is he? There’s so much going on in this book and it kept me guessing throughout. I don’t want to say too much more and risk spoiling this for anyone!

The Other People is a great thriller with a slightly fantastical element that I very much enjoyed.
This was my first C. J. Tudor novel and at the end there’s a short intro to her next novel. That brief glimpse has definitely caught my interest, and I also think I’ll try to find time for one of Tudor’s previous novels.

Book Review: The Poison Song (The Winnowing Flame #3) by Jen Williams

Name:  The Poison Song (The Winnowing Flame #3)
Author:  
Jen Williams
Number of Pages:
576 (Paperback)
Published:
May 16th 2019 by Headline
Genre:  Fantasy

Goodreads

From Jen Williams, three-time British Fantasy Award finalist, comes the electrifying conclusion to the Winnowing Flame trilogy. Exhilarating epic fantasy for fans of Robin Hobb.
Jump on board a war beast or two with Vintage, Noon and Tor and return to Sarn for the last installment of this epic series where the trio must gather their forces and make a final stand against the invading Jure’lia.

My Rating:

My Thoughts:

What an ending, what a trilogy! The Winnowing Flame trilogy concludes in The Poison Song, the epic final chapter in the saga of Sarn and the ongoing fight against the monstrous Jure’lia. The threat these invaders pose has been faced but not extinguished forever, and so the band of heroes and their war-beasts must pull together one final time to try and save their world from a terrible fate.

The Poison Song is populated with so many great characters, both human and war-beast, and they’re all unique and memorable. There were memories of the past, of the way these characters first met, and you realise how far they’ve come.
I love Vintage. A scholar at heart and utterly fearless and newly bonded with Helcate, one of the war-beasts. Vintage is never one to run from a battle or leave those she loves. I could read a whole trilogy just featuring Vintage and her adventures.
I enjoyed learning of Noon and her past, the extent of her power and the devastating consequences of using it. The revelations about the fell-witches and the origins of the winnowfire they can wield to such devastating effect was fascinating and takes the book in another new direction. There are many as yet undiscovered threads developed throughout the story.
And then there’s Tyranny and Windfall, Aldasair, Bern and Agent Chenlo. So much going on. All the love and heartbreak and life that these characters experience and in the end must fight for made this a great read. Whether love, friendship or family, the bonds between these characters pulled together at first through chance or circumstance have really developed along the way.
And I can’t write this without mentioning at least some of the wonderful war-beasts once more. Helcate, Kirune, Sharrik, and of course Vostok, all play their part in the final battle. I love how each war-beast is such an individual character, and the way they’re all joined as a team but have a special bond with their rider.

And of course, there must be an enemy. We’ll get them out of the way next because the Jure’lia are skin-crawlingly hideous with their black oozing fluid, their intent to varnish the land until there’s nothing left alive, the burrowers and the Spider-mothers, urgh. A fearsome foe and hard to defeat as they’re a massive force all linked together. They work as one, having no understanding of what it is to be an individual.
Under the ruthless and methodical guidance of Hestillion, they have more organised approach to their ambush, and Hestillion will not stop until her plan is complete.

The final battle is long, fierce and thrilling to read as the viewpoints switch between various characters and locations. It’s fought in the sky as the war-beasts take on the threat from the Behemoths, on the ground, with Jure’lia monsters of all shape and description consuming all before them, and each chapter is fraught and tense as that awful feeling crosses your mind – ‘are all my favourite characters going to make it through this, or have they finally met a threat they cannot repel?!’

What more can I say about The Poison Song? It’s the perfect conclusion to a trilogy that I’ve enjoyed from the very beginning. The world, the characters, even the awful Jure’lia enemy, they’re all unforgettable and if you’re looking for a series that delivers love, heartbreak, humour, battle, friendship and everything else in between The Winnowing Flame might be one for you.

 

Book Review: Stoker’s Wilde by Steven Hopstaken and Melissa Prusi

Name:  Stoker’s Wilde
Author:  
Steven Hopstaken and Melissa Prusi
Number of Pages:
384 (Paperback)
Published:
May 30th 2019 by Flame Tree Press
Genre:  Horror, Fantasy, Historical

Goodreads

Years before either becomes a literary legend, Bram Stoker and Oscar Wilde must overcome their disdain for one another to battle the Black Bishop, a mysterious madman wielding supernatural forces to bend the British Empire to his will. With the help of a European vampire expert, a spirited actress and an American businessman, our heroes fight werewolves, vampires and the chains of Victorian morality. The fight will take them through dark forests in Ireland, the upper-class London theater world and Stonehenge, where Bram and Oscar must stop a vampire cult from opening the gates of Hell.

My Rating:

My Thoughts:

Stoker’s Wilde unites Bram Stoker and Oscar Wilde in a thrilling quest to prevent London falling under the power of the enigmatic Black Bishop, an adversary intent on unleashing dark forces upon the world. Werewolves, vampires, and a rivalry and mutual dislike that could come between our two protagonists – heavy odds indeed. I think our duo will need some help…

The pair join forces with a vampire expert and the wonderful Henry Irving, an actor in residence at the Lyceum Theatre in London, who gives Bram a job as his theatre manager. Ellen Terry, an actress in the company, and Bram’s wife Florence also play their roles, and there’s also ill-fated Lucy. I loved these characters, especially Henry Irving.

The story unfolds by way of letters, journal entries and archive documents which makes for an immersive and varied reading experience – from a one page letter to several journal pages recounting incidents of derring-do. The journals and letters especially give unique voice to each of the main characters as we’re privy to their inner thoughts. The same incident may be recounted over a number of different sources, and watching it come together is intriguing.

I loved the voices of both Stoker and Wilde, who initially seem to have a mutual low opinion of each other, which only intensifies when Bram ends up marrying Florence.
For all the gothic horror, which is wonderful throughout the book, there are moments of genuine humour, usually centred round the way Bram and Oscar view each other despite events continually throwing them together as allies.

The story blends horror, humour and wit, with two wonderfully engaging protagonists and reluctant allies and a wide supporting cast of heroes and villains which make this a great read.
The conclusion I’ve drawn is that I’d love to go adventuring with Messrs Stoker and Wilde. Guess I’ll just have to wait for… Stoker’s Wilde West. Seriously. Go check out the premise for the next novel. The Wild West? Vampire gunslingers? And the return of the great duo of Stoker and Wilde. Sounds like one to watch out for.

 

Book Review: Hercule Poirot’s Christmas (Poirot #20) by Agatha Christie

Name:  Hercule Poirot’s Christmas (Poirot #20)
Author:  
Agatha Christie
Number of Pages:
272 (Kindle)
Published:
Published December 15th 2003 by William Morrow Paperbacks
Genre:  Mystery

Goodreads

In Hercule Poirot’s Christmas, the holidays are anything but merry when a family reunion is marred by murder — and the notoriously fastidious investigator is quickly on the case. The wealthy Simeon Lee has demanded that all four of his sons — one faithful, one prodigal, one impecunious, one sensitive — and their wives return home for Christmas. But a heartwarming family holiday is not exactly what he has in mind. He bedevils each of his sons with barbed insults and finally announces that he is cutting off their allowances and changing his will. Poirot is called in the aftermath of Simeon Lee’s announcement.

My Rating:


My Thoughts:

Time for another mystery with the great detective Hercule Poirot. I’ve read a few of the Poirot novels now, and picked this one up during the holiday season as it seemed the perfect choice.

Simeon Lee has invited his family home for Christmas. Sounds great, and yet the old man has apparently done it only to cause friction amongst his family, and the mention of a will and the prospect of alterations to said will almost guarantee he won’t feature in the tale for long.

Sure enough, he meets a swift end and there are plenty of suspects and truths to uncover. Lucky then that Poirot is on hand to offer assistance in the matter.

Hercule Poirot’s Christmas offers up a locked room murder mystery with a cast of characters harbouring secrets and resentments, and trying to work out whodunit was as usual part of the enjoyment reading this novel. One day I will actually come to the right conclusion, but so far it hasn’t happened. The red herrings and twists really kept me (wrongly) guessing.

I’m still enjoying discovering the Golden Age mysteries of Agatha Christie and am looking forward to choosing my new Poirot novel to read.

Book Review: The Six by Luca Veste

Name:  The Six
Author:  
Luca Veste
Number of Pages:
417 (Paperback)
Published:
October 31st 2019 by Simon & Schuster UK
Genre:  Thriller

Goodreads

Six friends trapped by one dark secret.
It was supposed to be our last weekend away as friends, before marriage and respectability beckoned. But what happened that Saturday changed everything.
In the middle of the night, someone died. The six of us promised each other we would not tell anyone about the body we buried. But now the pact has been broken. And the killing has started again …
Who knows what we did? And what price will we pay?


My Rating:

My Thoughts:

I’ve never read anything by Luca Veste before but The Six caught my attention and I fancied something a bit different so decided to give this a try.

The story follows a group of six friends as they enjoy a music festival together, recapturing something of their youth. It all goes very wrong and someone ends up dead. The group also stumble across another body in the woods, so their problems go from bad to worse. They come to the conclusion that hiding the truth and never talking about anything that happened that weekend is for the best, and so try to resume their usual lives.
I don’t want to say any more about the plot and risk giving too much away.

The Six really delivered a fast-paced, page-turning, ‘just one more chapter’, don’t want to put it down reading experience.
I had no idea where the story would go next, guess as I did, and of course I was surprised at times by the twists and turns. There was a vaguely creepy air to some scenes throughout the story, which was a nice touch.
The ending came as a total shock. I’d been puzzling away and wondering various things about and how the story would end. I was totally wrong.
The Six is mysterious thriller which will keep you guessing throughout.