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24 December 2015

Tipping the Velvet
Sarah Waters
Publication Date
historical romance

Description (from Amazon)

Piercing the shadows of the naked stage was a single shaft of rosy limelight, and in the centre of this was a girl: the most marvellous girl - I knew it at once! - that I had ever seen. 
A saucy, sensuous and multi-layered historical romance, Tipping the Velvet follows the glittering career of Nan King - oyster girl turned music-hall star turned rent boy turned East End 'tom'.

My thoughts

I loved this book! And it affirmed my love for Sarah Waters. This was the second book of hers I bought. My first one was Fingersmith which was an impulse buy in a book shop, and as I loved this book, I then looked for more of Sarah Waters and was not disappointed. 

Tipping the Velvet is a historical romance book and the story of a lesbian self-discovery, telling the story of Nancy 'Nan' Astley aka Nancy King and set mainly in London's East End during Victorian times. 

Nancy lives with her family of sell Oysters in their restaurant in Herne Bay, and can't imagine nothing else but to eventually marry her boyfriend and live as an oyster girl in Kent. But then she visits the the local theatre and sees Kitty Butler, a male impersonator, and though she doesn't know it initially, falls in love. She joins Kitty and stage and the two become not only a double act but also lovers. But there is no happy end in this relationship. But Nan is a survivor, and she will have many more adventures and loves to live in Victorian London.

I loved reading Nan's story, and how she makes her way. I also found the descriptions of London and life at the time fascinating. From the theatre scene to 'lady's club' to rent boys to political activists, all packed into this page turner. 

Yes, there are some lesbian love scenes, but they are by no means explicit, but very tasteful (pardon the pun). The developing romance(s) for Nan are like any other romances really told often before, from madly in love, being hurt, and finally finding a soul mate, and all this in prude Victorian London!

3 December 2015

Bad Billy
Jimmy Pudge
Burning Man Productions
Publication Date
September 2011
Horror, crime, psychological


Bad Billy has spent his entire life in Mama's basement. When the chains break free and he escapes into the world, he must learn the difference between being a monster and a human being.

It's going to be a bloody education.

My thoughts

At only 64 pages, I was happy to give this a try. And I don't mind a bit of blood and gore ever now and again. And you are certainly going to get this here.

Bad Billy is the evil product / spawn of an incestuous relationship. And there is always a story behind the evil. Not only are Bad Billy's parents siblings, they are also suffering from various degrees of mental and physical disabilities. Not being 'bad' people themselves, they can't cope with whats before them. Billy probably just wants to be loved, but after being chained up in the basement and fed only roadkill for all his childhood and adolescence, there is not much human feelings left in Billy.

This short book is about 30% of backstory, and the rest is action - what does Billy actually do when he escapes. Don't try to analyse it too deeply and look for extensive psychological backgrounds. This would not be possible within this short book, and is not the aim of the author I would think. Just simply see it as a feast of horror and human evil. is the whole story a bit over the top? Yes, maybe, but it also makes weirdly addictive reading.  

27 November 2015

The Talisman (Part 1)
Stephen King and Peter Straub
Publication Date
November 1984
Dark Fantasy

Synopsis (from Amazon)

In a terrifying trip across America, young Jack Sawyer is searching for the Talisman, the only thing that can save his dying mother. His quest takes him into the menacing Territories where violence, surprise and the titanic struggle between good and evil reach across a mythic landscape.

My thoughts

This book is a collaboration of Stephen King and American Novelist and Poet Peter Straub.  There is a Part 2 to this book ('Black House'). Part 1 gives an ending which is not a cliffhanger, and therefore can be read on it's own. I have yet to read Black House, but so I understand, whereas in Part 1 our main protagonist, Jack Sawyer, is a 12 year old boy, in Part 2 he is an adult who will have to re-visit his previous adventures. So I kind of guess that it may be helpful to have read Part 1 before going into Part 2. 

At 786 pages, this is not a quick read, but then many of King's books are about this size. (The Kindle edition has actual page numbers which is nice.) I have not read anything else of Straub's work. You would not be able to say that this was a book written by two different authors, and the story flows without an obvious difference in style.

The story is a typical 'quest' where our main protagonist (12 year old Jack Sawyer) leaves his home (as it happens, a hotel he stays with his mother) and goes in search for a particular item (a talisman), has to overcome obstacles and at the end, returns to his initial place, the hotel. There is the personal reason for Jack to find the Talisman - to save his mum's life, but, as he learns in his travels, this also has wider implications for the world. It is again a struggle between the good and the bad. 

It is also a story of a parallel world, the 'Territories' , where everyone in this, our world, seems to have a 'twinner'. As Jack will find out, his father and also his father's business partner were well aware of the Territories. 

I know that many King fans love this book, but I have mixed feelings. For some reasons, I have not taken like I do to most other of his works. Part of the problem might be that I am not a great fan of fantasy worlds. I did not always properly understand the Territories and the concept of Twinners. Are they two people, are the the same person in different worlds? How exactly does it work in the Territories?  There were certainly parts as well which I liked a lot. The concept of the Territories, a parallel world, is so interesting and has great promise.  I could often image that strange, different world and who Jack moved between the worlds. And the characters are all so wonderfully drawn out. I loved the character of wolf. Maybe I should re-read it at some stage

I occurred to me that King used the idea of a parallel world again in 22/11/63 - I absolutely loved that book and fully understood the concept there which is more time travel then parallel world.

24 October 2015


Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (Harry Potter 7)
J K Rowling
Bloomsbury Children 
Publication Date
July 2007
fantasy, children

Description (from Amazon)

As he climbs into the sidecar of Hagrid's motorbike and takes to the skies, leaving Privet Drive for the last time, Harry Potter knows that Lord Voldemort and the Death Eaters are not far behind. The protective charm that has kept Harry safe until now is now broken, but he cannot keep hiding. The Dark Lord is breathing fear into everything Harry loves, and to stop him Harry will have to find and destroy the remaining Horcruxes. The final battle must begin - Harry must stand and face his enemy.

My thoughts

The sevenths and final adventure for Harry, Ron, Hermoine & co.

I knew the story and also the ending from the movie which I watched first, but this did not matter - it was still a fantastic read and I felt myself being drawn into the final battle which Harry, Hermione and Ron are facing. The writing is flawless as always and JK Rowling knows how to create tension and tell a fantastic story. 

I also felt that this book was a very fitting ending to the Harry Potter Books, creating the final climax and having a nice little 'wrap up' at the end. Without trying to give to much away, I think most know that Harry does indeed survive his adventures, and the last chapter tells us what Harry and his friends are doing 20 years later. 

5 October 2015


After You
James Farmer
Publication Date
August 2013

Fiction, Romance, Contemporary

Description (from Amazon)

‘The day we met. Our first kiss. Our first dance. The night we first made love. The first time your text didn’t end with an X. The day you said it was over.’

It was supposed to last forever...

Is it ever possible to pick up the pieces and start again after losing The One?

An honest and evocative tale detailing the aftermath of the break-up that was never meant to happen.

My thoughts

At only just over 200 pages, this little book can be read almost in one/two sittings, and only 99p at the moment (I've picked it up as a Freebie from Amazon a while ago).

The story of a break-up, as simple as that. No hidden agenda and no big twists and turns in the middle nor a huge revelation at the end. I could almost physically feel the pain of the protagonist. And even though the author says at the end that it is not based on personal experience, it certainly feels that way. The way the raw emotions are described, it feels like you can only write about it in that way if you 'have been there'. It starts out depressing - and that's the point of it I think, as the author wants to show how incredibly hard it was. And that's it's not a one-way street but have throw-backs. How your friends think they are helping you but actually just seem to make at worst. At least at the beginning.

But there is a positive message at the end. I don't think it is too raw to read if you are just going through a difficult break-up, as it shows that others have been there, and there is hope. (I know it's fiction but even fiction taken from real life here for sure.)

4 October 2015

Nightmares and Dreamscapes
Stephen King
Publication Date
Horror, short stories, paranormal

Description from Amazon

The Stephen King Amusement Park – an unnerving experience, with rides every which way to hell…and a few to glory.

A solitary finger pokes out of a drain. Novelty teeth turn predatory. The Nevada desert swallows a Cadillac. Meanwhile, the legend of Castle Rock returns… and grows on you. What does it all mean? What else could it mean? Stephen King is here with a powerful collection of stories – a vast, many-chambered cave of a volume.

The long reach of Stephen King’s imagination will take you on a rollercoaster to places you’ve never been before. You will lose sleep. But Stephen King, writing to beat the devil, will do your dreaming for you.

My thoughts / contents 

Yes, this is King. Pure and fine, it will grab you and you won't forget them ever. Every King fan recognises the stories:

1. Dolan's Cadillac
A husband revenges the killing of his wife. Only, it isn't that easy when the mob is involved. So you take a job at the Highway Department, learn all about digging out the road and wait for your chance.

2. The End of the Whole Mess
Howard gets a visit from his brother Bobby whom he hasn't seen for a while. Bobby has always been very bright and gifted and dreams of making the world a better place. He discovers that people in a certain place are more mellow than in others and links it to the water. Now if he could extract whatever it is in the water that makes people mellow and non-fighting and could distribute it around the world, that would be the solution to eternal peace. 

3. Suffer the Little Children
A mean teacher, Miss Sidley, and how her pupils became infected with something rather strange. That brought her down a bit!

4. The Night Flier
Journalist Dees thinks he is on to a story. A serial killer who uses a small plane to turn up, and leaving mutilated bodies behind. Strangle, with a hold of the plane full of soil, and he wears a long coat and seems to operate only once daylight is gone. Dees catches up with him.

5. Popsy
Sheridan is about to abduct a kid at the local shopping mall. But he picked the wrong kid, because his popsy is coming. Both the kid and popsy are thirty, and it's not water they want. 

6. It grows on you
Dedicated King fans:we are back in Castle Rock and a house that keeps growing. Locals remember. 

7. Chattery Teeth
Hogan, a travelling salesman, buys a set of novelty teeth on legs in a roadside shop for his son. And he picks up a hitchhiker even though he usually does not do this kind of thing. And it was a bad choice, as it turns out. Will the chattery teeth save his life?

8. Dedication
Martha Rosswell tells her friend the story of the somewhat unusual conception of her son. That son will in later life be come a successful novelist. A bit 'yucky' but this story also has serious undertones of racism experienced by Martha. 

9. The Moving Finger
Maybe the most creepy story of this collection, and, in typical King style, shows how two common objects - a finger and a wash basin - can become someones absolute horror.

10. Sneakers
John can see a pair of sneakers (worn by a person I shall add) under the toilet cubicle next to his. Nothing strange. Expect they are still there next time he goes, weeks later. 

11. You Know They Got a Hell of a Band
A road trip. Mary and Clark get lost, the roads gets smaller and smaller and then opens into a clearing with a lovely little town. But something is odd. All the residents they meet seem to resemble deceased rock stars. Janis Joplin, Buddy Holly, Elvis. And they would like Mary and Clark to stay for a concert that evening.

12. Home Delivery
Maddie Pace is a simple country girl who marries young to a man who takes charge of her, and that's how she likes it. Now she is expecting her baby. But she seems to be the only one left now on this planet. 

13. Rainy Season
Another road trip (I love those!) John and Elise Graham arrive in their holiday home in Willow, Maine (where else!). The local shopkeeper warn him that it is rainy season that night (It doesn't look very cloudy at all!) and that it rains frogs. He warns them to close all doors and windows to their holiday home tightly. John and Elise dismiss him, but of course should have listened to him.

14. My Pretty Pony
Grandpa explained Clivey a bit about the passing of time. 
I struggled a bit with this story - didn't get into it as much as other stories, but t did contain a quote which I highlighted and took out from this book:
'Times when you're hurt go on forever, seems like'

15. Sorry, Right Number
Loved this, as the realisation of what's happened hit me on the last page. A story of time travel / different dimensions. 
Katie receives a phone call: someone is sobbing and clearly in extreme distress, trying to tell her something. The voice sounds familiar, and she thinks one of her family members is in trouble. Katie and her husband Bill frantically check out their daughter and Katie's sister, but they are fine. So who called, and in a voice which was oddly familiar?

16. The Ten O'Clock People
The Ten O'Clock People are the ones who gather outside office buildings at 10, for their first cigarette break of the working day. Pearson sees the same people every day at 10, with their unspoken unity of their vice. But today Pearson notices something very strange indeed - his co-worker suddenly seem to transfer into some kind of alien species. Does no one else notice? And what is the link to the Ten O'clock People?

17. Crouch End
I lived in London for a while, and now still work here, so this took me almost to familiar territory. King's kind of horror does not only happen in Maine, but right in the suburbs of London. 
An American couple on holiday in London, and they seem to end up in a very strange place indeed. Now I know that some areas in every big city are dodgy, but here we are talking a different dimension where the taxi cab which dropped them is suddenly gone and while they still stand in the same road, it has changed and the town's noise is muffled. 

18. The House on Maple Street
The Bradbury children live with their mum and step-dad in said house. Lew, their step-dad, is not a very pleasant man, and it seems their mum as given up on life. Then the children discover some kind of strange metallic structure behind the walls in their house, and it grows. 

19. The Doctor's Case
A Sherlock Holmes story here! I loved how King manages to exactly hit the writing style and tone of the Sherlock Holmes books. All our favourite characters are here: Holmes, Watson, Lestrade and of course, they solve a crime in typical Holmes/Watson manner. Lord Hull gets stabbed to death in his study, with no-one having access to the room. His wife and children were all in the house at the time, and they all had reasons to wanting to dispose of him. 

20. Umney's Last Case
Umney is a detective in the 1940's - or is he? Maybe he belongs to a different time period? I don't want to give too much away, but here, the characters of a story interact with the writer of the story in unexpected ways.

21. Head Down
A departure here from all the other stories - this is a non-fiction account where King tells us about his son's local baseball team league. Nothing supernatural here. I did struggle a bit, as I don't know anything about baseball apart from the fact that it is a sport played in stadiums. But it was still worth reading for King's wonderful prose.

22. The Beggar and the Diamond
A Hindu Parabel, re-told by King

12 September 2015

Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince
J K Rowling
Bloomsbury Children's
Publication Date
July 2005
fantasy, children's

Description (from Amazon)

When Dumbledore arrives at Privet Drive one summer night to collect Harry Potter, his wand hand is blackened and shrivelled, but he does not reveal why. Secrets and suspicion are spreading through the wizarding world, and Hogwarts itself is not safe. Harry is convinced that Malfoy bears the Dark Mark: there is a Death Eater amongst them. Harry will need powerful magic and true friends as he explores Voldemort's darkest secrets, and Dumbledore prepares him to face his destiny.

My thoughts

The 6th instalment in the Harry Potter series, and it just gets better and better. I have to say it again - I was not a great fan of HP when they first came out, because I just simply was not into children's book. But what a wonderful story teller JK Rowling is. The plot now thickens, and everything comes together, or gets unravelled even further. The Dark Lord is back - that much is confirmed, and all hell seems to break loose, though some still deny it initially. And yes, a major character dies in this book which I shall not reveal here, for all those who have not yet read the book nor watched the movie. I had seen the movie, but honestly, reading the book is just a completely different experience.

JK Rowling is simply a master in weaving her plot (and this over several books), and all the characters are unique. We are talking about a fantasy world, but they still face the same problems like us (or like us Muggles shall I say) and thus are completely believable. It is a skill to create characters which appeal both to a child/teenage audience and also to adults. Also, all the magical creates are so well drawn out - even if you have not seen the movies, it is easy to form a picture in your imagination, and this is what reading is all about. 

By the way, Stephen King has the Harry Potter Books in his recommended list of books to read if you want to be a writer. 

15 August 2015

The Great Gatsby
F Scott Ftzgerald
Charles Scribner's Sons
Publication Date


Generally considered to be F. Scott Fitzgerald's finest novel, The Great Gatsby is a consummate summary of the "roaring twenties", and a devastating expose of the "Jazz Age". Through the narration of Nick Carraway, the reader is taken into the superficially glittering world of the mansions which lined the Long Island shore in the 1920s, to encounter Nick's cousin Daisy, her brash but wealthy husband Tom Buchanan, Jay Gatsby and the mystery that surrounds him.

My thoughts

The book takes to America of the roaring 20's, being set in 1922 and having been published in 1925. It is narrated by Nick Carraway who moves to the fictional town of West Egg, on Long Island to become a bond trader. His neighbour is the mysterious millionaire Jay Gatsby. Gatsby holds outlandish parties in his big mansion almost every day. Gatsby then makes contact with Nick, and Nick learns that Gatsby has known his cousin, Daisy, for a long time and has been harbouring a deep love for her. All the partying and large house are to impress Daisy. But Daisy is married. And whilst having an affair himself, Daisy husband certainly don't take kindly to anyone looking at his wife. Gatsby's secrets are revealed throughout the book. Without giving too much away, the book does not have a 'happy ever after' ending. 

There is open racism in the book which would, of course, not be acceptable today but is a good representation of the normal perception then. 

I always struggle a bit with classic literature. This one came as a freebee, so I gave it a go. After all, it is a very small book. I don't always find it easy to get to grips with the language in classic literature, not sure if this is because English is not my mother tongue. So I did not enjoy it as much as I hoped I would, and maybe I have to give it another chance. 

According to Wikipedia, on publication the book sold poorly and Fitzgerald died without having seen it go to success, but it is now regarded as classic literature and representation of 1920's jazz and flapper age. 

The book has been made into a movie in 2013 starring Leonardo DiCaprio as Gatsby, Tobey Maguire as Nick and Carey Mulligan as Daisy. Perfect cast in my opinion and beautiful to watch. 

9 August 2015

Night Shift
Stephen King
Publication Date

Description (from Amazon)

A collection of tales to invade and paralyse the mind as the safe light of day is infiltrated by the shadows of the night.
As you read, the clutching fingers of terror brush lightly across the nape of the neck, reach round from behind to clutch and lock themselves, white-knuckled, around the throat.
This is the horror of ordinary people and everyday objects that become strangely altered; a world where nothing is ever quite what it seems, where the familiar and the friendly lure and deceive. A world where madness and blind panic become the only reality.

My thoughts

An early Stephen King,  a short story collection. Many of them were previously published in magazines, when King was still a struggling author. Some of the short stories have been made into movies, and the movie 'Cat's eye' contains 3 stories from this collection which also comes highly recommended. 

The book shows how the King of horror can take everyday objects and people and normal situations and make them into a horror story. This is different from bloods and gore horror.  A lawn mover man who mows butt naked and eats the grass, a couple taking a road trip and discover the evil which can hide in a humble corn field, a man trying to quit smoking and those how help him have somewhat unusual but very convincing methods, a man who has an affair with a rich guy's wife and the  husband wants revenge on the outer ledge of a skyscraper. 

Even though I am a big fan of King's work, I did not always find this short story collection very 'easy reading'. I think part of it is that you have to 'get into the story' and obviously with a short story collection, you constantly have to get into  a new story. Once in, I was hooked on every single one of them and felt that literally all of them have enough plot and characters to make it a full book. What an imagination this guy has. His talent for turning the ordinary and mundane into the crazy is undisputed. 

28 July 2015

The Severest Inks Shorts
Several authors
Severest Inks
Publication Date
May 2015
short stories

Description (from Amazon)

The Severest Inks Shorts collects eight stories from some of the boldest new writers on the scene today. Melding unflinching themes with innovative narratives, these works confront the rawest elements of the human condition through the potent short story form. This anthology comes loaded with bonus material, including commentaries, special monochrome editions of original cover art and transcripts.


Red by Khalid Patel
Dr Craine’s Body by Khalid Patel
Further South by Eryk Pruitt
June in July by Hunter Heath
Mesa Boys by Matt Phillips
Georgia Rouge by Lucy Black
The Exchange by Charmaine Pauls
Grand Finale by Charmaine Pauls

My thoughts

The Severest Inks Shorts compilation of stories offers a great variety: from dark city fables to a pathologist in the mortuary, and this is what I liked so much here – the variety of it.

Each story fitted neatly into my morning commute, and it was easy to get into – something I sometimes find a challenge when reading a compilation of short stories when you have to constantly transport yourself into a different setting. All stories captured me from the beginning, kept my interest and still made sense.

I would also like to draw the attention to the original artwork on the cover of the stories which definitely caught my eye. I also really enjoyed the extra chapters at the end of the book where the authors tell us a bit about themselves and how their particular story came about.

I am sure, like me, the reader will have a favourite story after reading the compilation. We have all different tastes, and this book caters for quite a few without being too wide in range and extremes (i.e. soppy romance and hard-core horror).  I had read 2 of the included stories before as ‘singles’ and enjoyed them, and was glad to read this book. And, at the end, it is also good value for money, as you get 8 stories in book.