I reckon about a third of my life is dedicated to books and another third to my toddler but that last third is taken up by gaming. I’ve always had a console, my mum got me a Sega Megadrive when I was tiny and I haven’t been without a console since. I’ve never considered myself a gamer as growing up it was always a mild interest but in the past few years I’ve fallen in love with RPGs. I love the epic sprawling ones that take way too much to complete like the Final Fantasy games, Kingdom Hearts, Bioshock and the Tales series.
This week I finally caved and got Persona 5. I’ve played the others and I avoided getting this one as I knew it’d take over my life. I only started Persona 5 a few days ago and I’m already nine hours deep, it was while I was playing I was mulling over why I got so absorbed in these types of games and it’s obvious: they’re great stories.
The story writing and editing of these types of games parallel the best novels out there. Bioshock Infinite for one left me shook and years on I’ll still go back and watch the ending on Youtube just to fathom it once more (and tbh I’m still trying to get my head round it). More recently I’ve devoted a large portion of my life to Final Fantasy XV. I bloody love everything about this game, I haven’t been as emotionally invested in a FF game since FFX which left me in bits by the time I got to the end. The fact that each part of the game is divided into chapters says that you’re not just playing a game, you’re taking part in a story that a team have put their heart and soul into.
If like me you love a game for it’s story you might find these books right up your street.
Lyonesse by Jack Vance – I read the first book in the Lyonesse trilogy about six years ago. I picked up a copy purely because the Gollancz Fantasy Masterworks edition has a stunning front cover and I wasn’t expecting much from what sounded like a paint-by-numbers fantasy novel. This book is very epic considering it’s the first in a trilogy, it’s a heady mix of fantasy, fairytale, myth and legend. I’ve not made it round to books two and three yet but I managed to get copies with the original 1986 cover.
Strange the Dreamer by Laini Taylor – Taylor’s previous series was wonderful escapism so obviously this new novel was going to be just as ace. Strange the Dreamer starts with Lazlo running away from his abusive life and he takes refuge and solace in a library where he becomes to inhabit. Lazlo’s love of books is so beautifully written and as he starts to discover that there’s a strange truth to the books he considered as fairytales you find yourself being sucked into an emotionally deep fantasy. It’s got really brilliant characters and some wicked cool Gods, have a read.
The Dark Tower by Stephen King – OBVIOUSLY THESE BOOKS WOULD BE MENTIONED! I think everyone should read them, not only has King created an epic intricate world that could rival any Final Fantasy game, he also gives readers an amazing journey. Seven books (and Wind Through the Keyhole) which leave you wanting so much more and a cast of characters so rich you can’t help but agonise that you hadn’t read them sooner. This is must for Bioshock fans, the complexity of the story is outstanding. Most of The Dark Tower books read like really cool RPGs and there’s so many chapters and fights that you can’t help but think “this would make an amazing video game”.
1Q84 by Haruki Murakami – It’s magical realism at it’s finest. 1Q84 is a book made up of three volumes and from the start you feel your world changing around you as you become so completely involved in Aomame and Tengo’s story. When her taxi becomes stuck in a traffic jam Aomame is warned by the driver that getting out of the cab could change reality the world, not wanting to be late for her meeting Aomame gets out of the car. 1Q84 is one of the greatest novels I’ve ever read. It’s long, it’s complicated but it’s as close to perfect as a novel gets. It’s David Mitchell meets FFXV.
Annihilation by Jeff VanderMeer – Now this is a bit of a life-ruiner of a book. It’s weird, really weird and mind bending and amazing and just head-shattering. I finished Annihilation about three months ago and I’m still numbed by the ending. I can’t bring myself to even consider book two in the Southern Reach trilogy yet. The story follows a nameless biologist and her companions as they set out to explore Area X. That’s all you need to know about Annihilation, just go and read it.
American Gods by Neil Gaiman – This is one of the best road stories out there. After being released from prison Shadow ends up travelling across the States with a ‘man’ only known as Mr Wednesday. American Gods is beautifully written balance of travel, mystery and mythology. This is a must read and I’m about to re-read this as I first finished it about five years ago. I just finished the television show (which was brilliant) and after watching I had the strangest sense to play Devil May Cry for the billionth time.
Honourable mention – The Bone Clocks by David Mitchell
I hope you enjoy these recommends for gamers and give me a shout if you know of a stand out RPG I must play!
It’s been so long since I sunk my teeth into a Stephen King book. I’d been reading lots of upcoming fiction or picture books so I hadn’t stopped to spare a thought for my favourite author. I couldn’t decide which of King’s many works I should start but I narrowed it down to Dreamcatcher and Dolores Claiborne then I did the sensible thing and asked my fellow SK superfans to decide for me. My ka-tet came through and unanimously nominated Dolores Claiborne. I hadn’t heard much about Dolores but knew there was an old film starring Kathy Bates but didn’t know the plot.
Dolores Claiborne is telling officers Andy Bissette, Frank Proulx and Nancy Bannister the fate that’s befallen her employee Vera Donovan. The almost 300 page ‘statement’ starts from the day Dolores is hired as a housekeeper to look after the holiday home of the wealthy Mrs Donovan. Dolores is a young mother to a small daughter, already pregnant with her second child and starting to realise that her marriage is already showing cracks. On top of that working for Mrs Donovan is demanding and unrewarding. The wealthy, taskmaster is relentless and thinks little of her staff, she only gets harsher after the death of her husband.
I won’t say too much about the story of this one but you need to know that this is some of King’s best writing. Dolores is the best female character he’s written, she’s sharp-tongued, bold and so strong. Dolores is the personification of hard work and every page was a tragic pleasure. I loved this book and if you’ve read any King you’ll be blown away by how great his writing is in this novel.
It only took me a few days to finish Dolores Claiborne, I would have finished it sooner if I had gotten myself into such a podcast hole. I’ve never been into audiobooks but I’ve been devouring some of the audio dramas on itunes. If you’ve enjoyed Night Vale check out Tanis, The Darkest Night, The Magnus Archives and Homecoming just to mention a few. And if any of you can recommend some more that’d be swell!
Now that I had rediscovered the ability to read and my generous baby graciously lets me have more than five hours sleep a night, I thought it best to get back on the Stephen King train. Four books were jumping out at me and it was though deciding what one to start. I narrowed down my never-ending collection to Christine, Cujo, Desperation and The Dead Zone.
I still couldn’t bring myself to read Cujo, my love for all things dog is far too strong so once again I made myself a pathetic excuse and put Cujo on the back burner for a second year. I remembered a pal (@BooksellerEmma) saying about how much she had enjoyed The Dead Zone. I didn’t know anything about this Stephen King novel so I was quite excited about starting this one.
Straight away you know what you’re in for with The Dead Zone. It reads like classic Stephen King and reminded me a lot of ‘Salem’s Lot and Pet Semetary. If you’ve made it this far without reading a Stephen King novel, The Dead Zone is great starter novel. King’s writing is enthusiastic and gripping and will have you roaring through the pages.
The Dead Zone opens with a brutal prologue of a man viciously attacking a farm dog. Dog violence… way to freak out your readers on the first page Mr King. Our main character John Smith is very much an every-man, hence the plain name. Johnny is one of King’s more likeable main characters and from the off he’s very readable. At the start of the novel Johnny is a fairly unremarkable young man, injured as child, Johnny bumps his head when skating on frozen ice, he comes to with a touch of premonition. When Johnny’s in his twenties he has a great girl, a great job and everything’s peachy until a horrific car accident leaves him comatose. When Johnny wakes from his slumber four years later he finds he can see into ‘the dead zone’, he has a much stronger precognitive ability than what he had as a child.
The obvious chaos ensues when John realises his new ability but it really comes into play when Johnny is contacted by Sheriff Bannerman who is desperately searching for a serial killer who has been at large for six years. After this display of power the story really escalates in a way that I won’t spoil for you.
The Dead Zone has been one of the most enjoyable King novel I’ve read in a long time. The Dead Zone is a proper page turner and the characters are brilliant (King has a real knack for writing fanatical mothers). The Dead Zone is just a fun read that you’ll bust through in no time!
Next up… The Welcome to Night Vale novel!
Maternity leave can be exhausting and there’s days when get absolutely nothing done so it’s always a delight when you get sent a book you’re not expecting.
The wonderful guys at Hodder and Stoughton surprised me with a copy of The Loney by Andrew Michael Hurley. With a small note saying Stephen King said “The Loney is not just good, it’s great. It’s an amazing piece of fiction” and printed on the front of the book was a quote from the Sunday Telegraph saying “Modern classics in this genre are rare, and instant ones even rarer; The Loney, however, looks as though it may be both.” it’s hard to ignore that kind of praise.
The Loney is a strange book and it completely took me by surprise. Starting in 1970s London, a small congregation from St Jude’s church decide to take a pilgrimage to ‘The Loney’ for holy week. The pilgrimage headed up by their new priest, Father Bernard and he takes his little congregation consisting of an elderly couple, Mr & Mrs Belderboss, young Miss Bunce, her fiancee David and finally the Smith family with their disabled, mute son Hanny. Convinced that this trip will encourage God to heal Hanny, the congregation debark upon the isolated English countryside.
I was quite cautious when it came to the first few chapters of The Loney, I thought the heavy Christian overtones of the story would bother me as I try to steer clear of religion but Hurley writes in a manner that doesn’t alienate his non-religious readers. It’s the sort of book that gives you the insight into the hold and hope religion can have over people. The Loney is a very dark and stark novel that explores the mysteries that surround an isolated community and pushes the faith of the outsiders visiting. The Loney is described as a landscape that’s very untouched by man and Hurley’s writing makes the more lonely than ever.
The further you read into The Loney the darker the story gets. Sometimes a small throw-away sentence can leave you feeling totally haunted and will give the reader shivers. The Loney reminded me of three novels in particular; The Woman in Black, Rebecca and The Wasp Factory and the word eerie doesn’t do this book justice.
The last 50 pages of his book are completely un-put-down-able. Hurley gives a death rattle of breath to old English lore and tradition that leads readers into some uneasy twists and by the time you finish this outstanding debt novel you’ll rethink everything you’ve just read.
Published on 27th August by John Murray
It’s not since Harry Potter that I’ve gotten silly about a book but the forthcoming publication of the Welcome to Night Vale book has got me sick with excitement.
Coming from the minds that brought us one of the world’s most popular podcasts, Joseph Fink and Jeffrey Cranor let us delve deeper into this eery desert town. Due to be published on 20th October 2015 by Little Brown Book Group, this will be a must read for fans of Stephen King, Sarah Lotz and for anyone thats watched Twin Peaks.
This months podcast is the first chapter read brilliantly by Cecil himself and it’ll leave you itching to pre-order this book. (Waterstones are doing an exclusive edition and a chance to win one of 10 Night Vale prints.)
Two years ago I stumbled across the Welcome to Night Vale podcast and upon my first listen I thought I was listening to some X-Files-esque radio show that crossed the border between entertainment and horror. Episodes of the podcast freaked me out to no avail so when they finally announced that they were bringing their live tour to London I snapped up tickets. Taking place in the Union Chapel this was the perfect setting for one of Night Vales creepiest stories yet.
If you see something, say nothing and drink to forget.
I’ve been away for a long time. Not too long after March I took an unexpected hiatus from blogging, reading and life in general.
I had just finished Sarah Lotz’s chilling latest novel Day Four when the I got caught up in the woes of moving house. If you’ve ever had the displeasure of moving you’ll understand how truly horrible it was. Add in the hassle of setting up broadband in a new home, I knew I wasn’t to get much reading or blogging done. After I had settled into my new home I picked up Stephen King’s Wind Through the Keyhole. I wanted more than anything to become lost once again in Mid-World. Roughly 30 pages into The Wind Through the Keyhole something very unexpected happened… my baby arrived a whole two months early. Thus to say I did not finish this final dip into Mid-World.
So, catching me off guard I found myself so overwhelmed with life, reading had to go on the back burner. Over the past two months I managed to read one book in full and that was Stephen King’s follow up to Mr Mercedes, Finders Keepers. Finders Keepers got me through the toughest three weeks of my life. I spent between 10 and 12 hours a day sitting next to an incubator in a hospital waiting for the the fantastic doctors and nurses to let my daughter come home. It felt like I was waiting forever but I passed the time by ploughing through Finder Keepers. The day I finished Finders Keepers I got the fantastic news that my daughter had gained enough weight to come home. That’s when the reading stopped.
Some insane logic had made me think, “I’ll get so much reading done with a newborn baby in tow”. As any parent will tell you, you’ll get absolute nothing done. During her first few weeks home I tried to finished Wind Through the Keyhole but I could only get about 10 pages in before another baby related issue arose. I then came to the conclusion that it wasn’t me, it was the book! I needed something I could be completely swept up in. So I started Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell by Susanna Clarke, this was one of the stupidest ideas I’d ever had. At over 700 pages there was no hope of me finishing this book. I then figured I needed to read an author I was more familiar with.
That’s when I started David Mitchell’s The Thousand Autumns of Jacob De Zoet, this is a book that’s defeated me before. And it defeated me again.
But yesterday something magical happened…
Friend and colleague @CatrionaRoseann (follow her, she’s got some great recommendations) told me about one of her much loved reads. The Unit by Ninni Holmqvist. I could honestly say I had never heard of this book, but this was the book that got me back on track. This is a dark, dystopic and bleak to boot. The Unit tells the tale of fifty year old Dorrit who is forced to leave everything behind when she becomes a resident of the Second Reserve Bank Unit. For the first time in that felt like forever I devoured this book. I started The Unit just around 3AM as I couldn’t get back to sleep after my daughter’s feed, I finished The Unit at 10PM the same day.
Get a copy of this book! And in short… I’m back!
Up next is The Loney by Andrew Michael Hurley.
Mothering Sunday is that age old day where we turn to the wonderful women in our lives and say a big fat thank you. So there’s no better way to celebrate Mother’s Day with a Stephen King book. Here’s my five most maternal reads that prove that King writes some of the most bad-ass ladies in fiction.
5. Frannie Goldsmith – The Stand – All though we don’t see Fran’s mothering skills all too much in The Stand but throughout the novel she’s easily the best mum-to-be in a apocalyptic situation. Not stopping until she finds a community and safe place for herself and her baby, Frannie goes from bolshy teen to a strong adaptable young woman in a matter of chapters. Even with the constant threat that her baby could be taken by ‘Captain Trips’ the moment it’s born or the looming presence of Randall Flagg, fran doesn’t quit.
4. Annie Wilkes – Misery – Technically Annie isn’t a mother but she’s certainly one of King’s most caring and matronly characters when it comes down to it. Yes, she shows her love by keeping her favourite author captive and there’s that matter of the infant deaths when she was a maternity nurse, not to mention the other strange deaths surrounding her, but nobody’s perfect! Annie Wilkes is not only of my favourite characters in King’s back-catalogue but she’s that misunderstood motherly figure who just wanted to keep those dirty birdies in check.
3. Mia – Wolves of Calla/ Song for Susannah – Mia is one hell of a mother and flourishing in the early stages of pregnancy in King’s fifth Dark Tower instalment. Longing for a child Mia finally gets her wish when she makes a bargain with Walter. Mia whilst in possession of Susannah does some down right vile things to feed and nurture her growing ‘chap’. The opening chapter of the Wolves of Calla made me feel physically sick but considering some of the things I went through in my first trimester of pregnancy, it’s nothing really. Pregnancy and motherhood are Mia’s only priority and when she gives birth to that beautiful half-spider child that rips off her breast and kills her, Mia’s work is done.
2. Wendy Torrance – The Shining – Wendy really has her work cut out for her. With an unhinged husband and weird psychic five-year-old, Wendy has a fair amount of stamina when it comes down to the nitty-gritty. Wendy is pretty drippy in the personality department but she puts Danny first and does whatever she can to protect her son. Beaten with a mallet and with the Overlook hotel against them, Wendy still manages to get the better of her manic husband in The Shining.
1. Margaret White – Carrie – Carrie White’s mum is a force of nature. Instilling religious fear and sheltering her already unique daughter, Mrs White is extremely old fashioned in her approach to child rearing but like most mums, she thinks she’s doing the right thing to protect her little girl. The right thing by God that is, certainly not the right thing by any sane person. Margaret White is down right banana splits. Almost as a strict warning to parents out there, King proves that we all surpass our parents at one point or another and it helps if you have wicked cool telekinesis powers.