Booking Ahead: December 2019

Booking Ahead is an opportunity to glance through my never-ending TBR list/pile and select a few potential reads for the coming month. If I’m not reading books I love talking about books I’d like to read, so this post is a perfect excuse to do just that.

Welcome to another Booking Ahead. It’s that time again, to look for a few potential reads for the month. There are two books I really do want to read as soon as I can, so they’re definitely having a mention. Beyond that, I’m not sure, so it may be a short list this month.
Here are my December reading choices…

New Books

Angel Mage by Garth Nix – I’ve never read anything by Garth Nix but I’ve seen reviews for this book mentioning angel and musketeers?! Sounds like a decent combination to me. Can’t wait to get started reading this.

The Starless Sea by Erin Morgenstern – I couldn’t not want to read the new book from the author of the Night Circus. It’s a lovely looking book, and the story sounds great, so to the top of the TBR pile it goes.

Books from the Backlist

I’m not sure I’ll manage any Backlist books this month. Both the books I’ve chosen already are pretty long and I’d love to read them before the end of the year.


What are you hoping to read this month? Have you read of my picks, and if so what did you think?
See you again next month year for another Booking Ahead.

Book Review: Full Throttle by Joe Hill

Name:  Full Throttle
Author:  
Joe Hill
Number of Pages:
480 (Hardback)
Published:
October 10th 2019 by Gollancz
Genre:  Short stories, Horror, Fantasy

Goodreads

A masterful collection of thirteen relentless tales of supernatural suspense, including In The Tall Grass, one of two stories co-written with Stephen King, the basis for the terrifying feature film from Netflix.
A little door that opens to a world of fairy tale wonders becomes the blood-drenched stomping ground for a gang of hunters in Faun.
A grief-stricken librarian climbs behind the wheel of an antique Bookmobile to deliver fresh reads to the dead in Late Returns.
In By the Silver Water of Lake Champlain, two young friends stumble on the corpse of a plesiosaur at the water’s edge, a discovery that forces them to confront the inescapable truth of their own mortality… and other horrors that lurk in the water’s shivery depths.
And tension shimmers in the sweltering heat of the Nevada desert as a faceless trucker finds himself caught in a sinister dance with a tribe of motorcycle outlaws in Throttle, co-written with Stephen King.
Featuring two previously unpublished stories, Full Throttle is a darkly imagined odyssey through the complexities of the human psyche. Hypnotic and disquieting, it mines our tormented secrets, hidden vulnerabilities, and basest fears.


My Rating:

My Thoughts:

Short stories aren’t my usual reading choice, I tend to go for massive books that take me ages to read, but I enjoyed both The Fireman and Strange Weather, a novella collection, by Joe Hill so I thought I’d give this latest offering a try, and it was a real treat to dip in to a collection of stories varying in length and writing style. It meant I read some quicker than others, so it wasn’t always possible to finish a whole story in one sitting, but I had something to look forward to next time I picked up the book.

I loved the introduction, the insight into writing and childhood and growing up with two writers for parents, and the experiences and influences on Hill’s own writing.
Now, onto the stories. I don’t know that I’ll mention every single one as my review will end up longer than a story or two, and where’s the fun in knowing everything before you start reading? Here are a few mentions…

Throttle – I recently finished watching Sons of Anarchy, so inevitably the characters/group here reminded me a little of that series, and the story was co written with Stephen King, so my next thought was ‘hey, remember when Stephen King made a brief appearance in SOA?’ I digress.. The story follows a biker group in the midst of trouble who cross paths with a truck driver with a grudge. It’s tense and exciting.

Dark Carousel – You’re not going to look at a merry-go-round in the same way after reading this one. I loved the carnival atmosphere, all dazzle and lights and fantasy, tinged with a slightly sinister air once night descends. A group of teenagers celebrate being young and free before moving on to various commitments but an experience on the Wild Wheel changes things forever. NOS4A2 remains on my TBR pile, but just the mention that one of the figures on the ride was gifted by Manx who runs Christmasland gave me the idea that this wasn’t going to end well.

By the Silver Water of Lake Champlain – Young friends make a startling discovery by the side of a mist-shrouded lake and dream of what it will mean for their futures; it’s not every day you discover a Plesiosaur after all. I loved the imagination of the kids in this tale.

Faun – Definitely one of my favourite stories in the collection. I could have read a full length novel in this world with these characters. I don’t want to say too much about it and spoil it, but from the outset I was intrigued, and as the fantasy element came into play I loved it more, and then it went in a direction I didn’t anticipate and….

Late Returns – Another favourite, about a man who gets a job driving a Bookmobile taking out library books, only his patrons are from other eras and are in need of one last great read. A love of books and reading really shows in this story.

Twittering From the Circus of the Dead – Written in the form of tweets, I wondered at first where the story was going. A family on vacation find themselves attending a circus which a difference. Or do they? What if anything really happened, or was it all just clever marketing?

Still with me so far? So, what conclusion can I draw?
Full Throttle offers a great variety of reading fare; there probably is something for almost everyone. A vast array of settings, themes, characters, twists, endings that come out of nowhere and leave you thinking, this book offers them all, something to scare or delight a reader. That’s not to say I enjoyed every story. I spent the first half thinking I’d found the best story, only to be wowed by the next one, and I wondered when I’d finally hit the point where I didn’t quite love the story as much. That did happen, inevitably, but then it was back to another tale where I ended up thinking I wish there was so much more of this.
Full Throttle is variety, excitement, horror, thriller, mystery and so much more all contained in one volume and I really enjoyed it.

Book Review: Bone China by Laura Purcell

Name:  Bone China
Author:  
Laura Purcell
Number of Pages:
433 (Hardback)
Published:
September 19th 2019 by Raven Books
Genre:  Historical, Gothic

Goodreads

Consumption has ravaged Louise Pinecroft’s family, leaving her and her father alone and heartbroken. But Dr Pinecroft has plans for a revolutionary experiment: convinced that sea air will prove to be the cure his wife and children needed, he arranges to house a group of prisoners suffering from the same disease in the cliffs beneath his new Cornish home. While he devotes himself to his controversial medical trials, Louise finds herself increasingly discomfited by the strange tales her new maid tells of the fairies that hunt the land, searching for those they can steal away to their realm.
Forty years later, Hester Why arrives at Morvoren House to take up a position as nurse to the now partially paralysed and almost entirely mute Miss Pinecroft. Hester has fled to Cornwall to try and escape her past, but surrounded by superstitious staff enacting bizarre rituals, she soon discovers that her new home may be just as dangerous as her last.


My Rating:

My Thoughts:

Bone China is another great read from Laura Purcell. I enjoyed both her previous novels so much that I had high hopes for the latest and it really delivered. Her novels offer a taste of Gothic mystery with intriguing characters, beautiful but slightly creepy settings and a hint of something slightly spooky.

The story is set in Cornwall, an isolated old house on the cliffs and in easy reach of the wildness of the sea. At times bleak and imposing, at times beautiful and tranquil.
There are two timelines, both featuring Morvoren House and it’s inhabitants. In the first we meet Hester Why, a woman running away from her past under an assumed name, a well chosen name for I found myself wondering almost straight away, why have you run? What did you do that was so terrible you had to leave your life behind and take a new name? Hester’s reliance on gin and laudanum makes her something of an unreliable narrator.
And this is how Laura Purcell draws you in, for the circumstances surrounding Hester’s flight are gradually revealed, teased in between her current new living situation and the second narrative which follows Miss Pinecroft in her younger days, coming to live at Morvoren with her father as he tries to establish a colony for a group of prisoners from Bodmin jail who have consumption. He wants to find a cure, having lost most of his own family to the disease.
These people are grief-stricken and driven by guilt and the need to make amends.

These distraught characters are touched by grief and loss, then thrown into a place rich in folklore which is revealed through the arrival of Creeda, a young woman who insists she was taken by fairies, or the little people as she calls them, and that somehow she was returned, whereas most people are not so lucky, they’re swapped for a changeling and rarely returned.

The setting, so dramatic and wild, and the inclusion of these sick men dwelling within a cave which can be pretty spooky in itself, especially during the night, and the overwhelming sadness that drives Dr Pinecroft and to some extent his daughter Louise is all really well bought to life.
The isolation of their house on the cliffs also feeds into the mystery and magic of the Cornish coast and the folklore which becomes central to this tale.

I can’t say too much more without venturing into spoiler territory. Bone China is well worth your reading time, and with her new novel Laura Purcell still remains an auto-read author for me.

 

Book Review: The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson

Name:  The Haunting of Hill House
Author:  
Shirley Jackson
Number of Pages:
246 (Kindle)
Published:
October 1st 2013 by Penguin Classics (first published October 16th 1959)
Genre:  Horror

Goodreads

The classic supernatural thriller by an author who helped define the genre. First published in 1959, Shirley Jackson’s The Haunting of Hill House has been hailed as a perfect work of unnerving terror. It is the story of four seekers who arrive at a notoriously unfriendly pile called Hill House: Dr. Montague, an occult scholar looking for solid evidence of a “haunting;’ Theodora, his lighthearted assistant; Eleanor, a friendless, fragile young woman well acquainted with poltergeists; and Luke, the future heir of Hill House. At first, their stay seems destined to be merely a spooky encounter with inexplicable phenomena. But Hill House is gathering its powers—and soon it will choose one of them to make its own.


My Rating:

My Thoughts:

Eleanor’s first thought upon seeing the house to which she has been invited to spend the summer as part of a party exploring psychic phenomena is to leave at once, and yet she doesn’t, and so we discover Hill House.
Hill House with its unsettling angles and oddly proportioned rooms, set out in a deliberately distorted way so that rooms are not where they would logically be. The house has a vivid and disquieting and unsettling history of unhappiness and tragedy and the assurance in the very first paragraph that ‘whatever walked there, walked alone’.

The story has an engulfing atmosphere that seeps from each page the further you read, rather as it seeps into the characters, drawn together by the enthusiastic Dr Montague.
It’s a real slow burn, starting out innocently enough as we meet each of the house party before Hill House starts to take a hold.

There’s Eleanor, travelling whilst her daydreams occupy so much of her journey to the house, and Theo with her apparent telepathic talent, who dons a bright yellow top to go exploring the grounds, remaining cheerfully brave in the face of such an unnerving locale. Luke is there as the heir to Hill House, with it’s dark and troubling history of sorrow and misfortune.
This group of strangers intend to observe and record any instances of strange phenomena to add to Dr. Montague’s proposed book on the topic.

For at least the first half, there’s a sense of being lulled into a false security, as the characters pass their first night uneventfully, and come to believe that things will be not as bad as first speculated. Needless to say, this is not the case, and the situation becomes more unsettling as time goes on. There’s a slight break in the tense atmosphere at the arrival of Montague’s wife and her sidekick Arthur, as the pair begin to take over the investigations, but by that point it’s already too late for at least one member of the ill-fated party.

The Haunting of Hill House is a beautifully written tale which leaves so much open to speculation. Is Eleanor ill? Is the house really haunted? And what of the rest of the characters after the events of Hill House? This is definitely a book to savour over the dark nights of autumn and winter.

Booking Ahead: November 2019

Booking Ahead is an opportunity to glance through my never-ending TBR list/pile and select a few potential reads for the coming month. If I’m not reading books I love talking about books I’d like to read, so this post is a perfect excuse to do just that.

My TBR pile remains massive, and I’ve just picked up another pile of books from the library, so here’s a small selection that may be keeping me busy throughout the coming month…

New Books

Bone China by Laura Purcell – I’ve enjoyed both of Laura Purcell’s previous novels so I’m really looking forward to another gothic tale, this time set in Cornwall.

Full Throttle by Joe Hill – A short story collection, one of which, Into the Tall Grass, has been adapted into a film. I don’t usually read short stories, but I enjoyed Joe Hill’s Strange Weather and The Fireman so thought I’d give this new collection a try.

The Kingdom by Jess Rothenberg – That cover!! You shouldn’t choose a book for the cover, I know, but I saw a brand new copy on the shelf at the library and I couldn’t resist picking it up. It sounds like this might have a Westworld type theme? We’ll see…

Books from the Backlist

The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson – I’m actually reading this one at the moment. I started it during Readers Imbibing Peril but didn’t manage to finish it before the event ended.


What are you hoping to read this month? Have you read of my picks, and if so what did you think?
See you again next month for another Booking Ahead.

Book Review: A Little Hatred (The Age of Madness #1) by Joe Abercrombie

Name:  A Little Hatred (The Age of Madness #1)
Author:  
Joe Abercrombie
Number of Pages:
471 (Hardback)
Published:
September 17th 2019 by Gollancz
Genre:  Fantasy

Goodreads

The chimneys of industry rise over Adua and the world seethes with new opportunities. But old scores run deep as ever.
On the blood-soaked borders of Angland, Leo dan Brock struggles to win fame on the battlefield, and defeat the marauding armies of Stour Nightfall. He hopes for help from the crown. But King Jezal’s son, the feckless Prince Orso, is a man who specializes in disappointments.
Savine dan Glokta – socialite, investor, and daughter of the most feared man in the Union – plans to claw her way to the top of the slag-heap of society by any means necessary. But the slums boil over with a rage that all the money in the world cannot control.
The age of the machine dawns, but the age of magic refuses to die. With the help of the mad hillwoman Isern-i-Phail, Rikke struggles to control the blessing, or the curse, of the Long Eye. Glimpsing the future is one thing, but with the guiding hand of the First of the Magi still pulling the strings, changing it will be quite another…


My Rating:

My Thoughts:

A Little Hatred is the first book in The Age of Madness, and what a great beginning. I can’t wait to see what lies ahead for these characters, but for now, let’s talk A Little Hatred…

There’s this vividly realised, sprawling epic of a world and a myriad of colourful characters – villainous, scheming, battling, conquering. From the ballroom to the factories, the battlefield to the woodlands, almost every aspect of humanity is richly drawn within these pages.
The battle is brutal, the detail plentiful, but then there are those who go about their scheming in a more subtle yet equally brutal manner. Savine Dan Glokta made her money through business and knowing how to thrive in the changing world. Savine herself muses that if she must be the villain then so be it, but as her story unfolds it’s not that black and white, and I loved the way her narrative developed.

The writing is great. There’s a marvellous scene, just as the trouble around the mills begins, that switches viewpoints through several minor characters, giving their thoughts and feelings at this moment of revolution and change. They’re characters you may not see again, but in that moment it creates the perfect atmosphere, the contrasts of those in power, and those who wielded the power previously finding themselves suddenly brought low by unexpected circumstances and the way this changes them.

I haven’t read any of the First Law books but I was drawn in by the cover of this new book, and finding it was the beginning of a new series, well, I couldn’t resist. For the most part I didn’t mind it being my introduction to this world, but there were times when no doubt there were references to events and characters of bygone times that didn’t resonate with me as they would for a long-time reader. Past characters/events were mentioned, especially with the young warriors as they recalled former heroes/villains and epic victories to which this new generation aspires and I found myself wondering whether these things had happened on-page or were just passing references.
Still, I can always go back and start at the beginning, can’t I, and overall that didn’t take anything away from my absolute enjoyment of every scenario, character and development in A Little Hatred. I’m already looking forward to the next book in this series!

 

Book Review: The Institute by Stephen King

Name:  The Institute
Author:  
Stephen King
Number of Pages:
485 (Hardback)
Published:
September 10th 2019 by Hodder & Stoughton
Genre:  Thriller, Horror

Goodreads

Deep in the woods of Maine, there is a dark state facility where kids, abducted from across the United States, are incarcerated. In the Institute they are subjected to a series of tests and procedures meant to combine their exceptional gifts – telepathy, telekinesis – for concentrated effect.
Luke Ellis is the latest recruit. He’s just a regular 12-year-old, except he’s not just smart, he’s super-smart. And he has another gift which the Institute wants to use…
Far away in a small town in South Carolina, former cop Tim Jamieson has taken a job working for the local Sheriff. He’s basically just walking the beat. But he’s about to take on the biggest case of his career.
Back in the Institute’s downtrodden playground and corridors where posters advertise ‘just another day in paradise’, Luke, his friend Kalisha and the other kids are in no doubt that they are prisoners, not guests. And there is no hope of escape.
But great events can turn on small hinges and Luke is about to team up with a new, even younger recruit, Avery Dixon, whose ability to read minds is off the scale. While the Institute may want to harness their powers for covert ends, the combined intelligence of Luke and Avery is beyond anything that even those who run the experiments – even the infamous Mrs Sigsby – suspect.
Thrilling, suspenseful, heartbreaking, The Institute is a stunning novel of childhood betrayed and hope regained.


My Rating:

My Thoughts:

Stephen King’s latest novel proved to be a real page-turner.  The novel centres around a group of children, strangers until they’re drawn together in the Institute after being kidnapped from their everyday lives. There are no lengths the Institute staff will not go to in pursuit of their aims, and you’d think the odds were stacked against these kids from the outset, isolated in this strange place out in the woods, subjected to all manner of horrors, and yet… they’re not average kids. They’ve been selected because they have varying levels of power, either in telepathy or telekinesis.

It starts out with another character, former policeman Tim Jamieson, newly arrived in the small town of DuPray. This intro is engrossing and we come to know Tim and the residents of this small town fairly well before the story moves on. I mention this because once you leave Tim behind, getting settled into a new routine, the story won’t go back to him for a long time. I’d read this in a review beforehand, so never went into the rest of the tale wondering what was happening back in DuPray, but becoming fully immersed in the awful situation that Luke and his new friends are involved in.

The characters are so well realised, from Luke with his vast intelligence to Kalisha, one of the first people Luke meets at the Institute, to Nicky, the boy with enough attitude to always answer back, and Avery, who acts younger than his years and yet has great potential power.
The group draws strength from each other, and even when some of them are taken to the mysterious Back Half, they’re still thinking of each other and what best to do.
Luke and his group are smart and incredibly brave in a terrifying situation, and their friendship and determination not to be beaten by this system gave hope throughout that despite all the horrible things they would win through in the end. I’m saying nothing about whether this actually proves to be the case though!

And of course, there are the villains of the piece too, from the director of the Institute Mrs. Sigsby, to the doctors who go along with the requirements of the place, and those who oversee the kids on a day to day basis and ensure there is order – they’re mostly awful, yet even in such a place there‘s at least one decent person.

Faced with the prospect of being moved to Back Half and whatever new trials that entails, Luke sets his mind to the impossible – escaping the Institute and exposing the place and those working there to the wider world. Will he manage it, or is it just too great a task? What is the Institute and why are they doing the things they do? There’s only one way to find out…