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51mOgPy-TCLWhat’s it all about?

In Adam Nevill’s The Ritual, four old university friends reunite for a hiking trip in the Scandinavian wilderness of the Arctic Circle. No longer young men, they have little left in common and tensions rise as they struggle to connect. Frustrated and tired they take a shortcut that turns their hike into a nightmare that could cost them their lives.

Why did I want to read it?

Amusingly, the Kindle edition of this book has as part of its title “Now A Major Film, The Most Thrilling Chiller You’ll Read This Year”, and to be fair that’s partly why I bought it. It also fitted in with some of my autumn reading which involved a mixture of Scandinavia, the supernatural, death and gore and appalling weather. You will see more of this as I catch up with my humongous backlog of posts.

What did I think of it?

I have several Adam Nevill books but haven’t got around to reading any of them until now, and as I said above this was triggered by the release of the film which, by the way, I haven’t seen.

So, these four guys are doing the male bonding thing and it isn’t going well so Hutch, the one who is leading their expedition, suggests a shortcut; this is a horror novel so of course this is not going to end well. They come across evidence of some very strange practices and there is definitely Something Out There and it is not friendly.  And when you think you know where this might be going it takes a weird turn.

And then it ends.

It’s a very blokey novel and I definitely felt that I was not the target audience, which is fine, but I was mildly annoyed that all of the women referenced in the story were so, well, unpleasant. The Big Nasty was creepy and horrible and well done, and the story definitely unsettling. Although it’s not written in the first person it becomes clear very early on that Luke is the guy we are supposed to be rooting for as we see everything from his perspective, but he really is a bit of a jerk. And the book ends just at the point where it got really interesting. How is Luke going to explain all of this? Sadly, we will never know.

So it’s fine as a novel. Will be fascinated to see how it works as a film, though not fascinated enough to spend any money seeing it. I will read the other works by Nevill that I already have, but won’t be rushing out to buy any more for now.

 

 

 

 

 

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IMG_0166Let the Old Dreams Die is a book of horror short stories by the Swedish author John Ajvide Lindqvist, first published in 2006 but only relatively recently available in an English language translation. I was very keen to read some of his shorter work having been very impressed by the three of his four novels that I’ve read so far:

I really enjoyed this collection which I read over several days while on holiday, staying in a former stately home in Cumbria. I like Lindqvist’s take on horror, which doesn’t ignore gory unpleasantness (as anyone who knows what happens at the end of Let the Right One In will confirm) but is overwhelmingly, to my mind at any rate, one of creepiness tinged with melancholy, which means they aren’t the sort of stories you can binge on. As an aside, I once heard an author being interviewed on the radio (I think it was Anne Enright but I’m not sure) who said something along the lines that people tend to approach anthologies the way they do a box of chocolates – they either eat them singly over time and savour each one, or they devour the lot in one go – I have done both in my time. This is definitely a one sweetie at a time thing.

I’m not going to pick out any individual stories to mention (except perhaps Village on the Hill which led me to consider drains more carefully than I had before) but will say that for many readers the two titles of most interest  will be the title story which is sort of but not quite a sequel to Let the Right One In (Lindqvist himself says in his afterword that it deals with a problem of interpretation that he hadn’t identified until he saw the movie version) and The Final Processing, the longest story in the collection, which is basically a sequel to Handling the Undead. There is also Eternal/Love where I think you can see Lindqvist exploring some of the themes that pop up in Harbour.

I really enjoyed this selection; it was a perfect autumn holiday read and it has made me want to pick up the most recent novel, Little Star. Recommended.

This was my second read for RIP IX.

IMG_0104What’s it all about?

The Gospel of Loki is the re-telling of the rise and fall of the Norse Gods entirely from the perspective of the Trickster, Loki, using (as far as I can tell and goodness knows I’m no expert) the structure of the sagas but also very much in the style of the self-serving memoir. Which makes it sound a bit dull and worthy when in fact (jumping ahead a little here) it is witty and funny and quite moving. I’m going to say right up front that I loved it.

Why did I want to read it?

I’ve come a bit late to the work of Joanne Harris. I was obviously aware of Chocolat because of the film (which I still haven’t seen and I’ve only recently bought the book) and I’ve read a couple of her other novels (Gentlemen and Players a particular favourite) and enjoyed her view of the world which is a lot darker than you might expect. I also have an enormous (and I will be clearly, entirely pre-Tom Hiddleston) love for Loki as a character; I even had a lilac-point Siamese cat of that name back in the 1980s. So I like to think I’m the ideal audience for this.

What did I think of it?

Like I said at the beginning of the post, I loved this. It’s so entirely its own thing and introduces (or hopefully re-introduces) us to the world of Norse mythology untainted by the Marvel thing which is the main reference these days for so many young people (and again I will say that I really enjoyed the Thor and Avengers films as you will see if you visit my other blog, but I am very clear that it is not the same thing at all). So we have Odin and his ravens and his single eye binding Loki to him in a form of brotherhood that of course is not going to end well, and you have Loki and his too-clever-for-his-own-good-ness trying to fit in but not really, the permanent outsider who can never win and who will inevitably trigger the disaster that is Ragnarok. I still liked him though. And it made me want to go and find out more about the original tales, which is always a good thing. Recommended.

Well now, this one is a bit special.

Readers of this blog will know that I am very fond of John Ajvide Lindqvist having read and reviewed his Swedish vampire novel (Let the Right One In) followed by his Swedish zombie novel (Handling the Undead) both of which were about considerably more than the tags I’ve given them here. Both were about love and relationships and harbour is in many ways no different, though I haven’t yet been able to come up with a suitable Swedish tag for it.

There is a tiny wee story behind this, in that having persuaded my friend Silvery Dude to try Lindqvist  he has been racing ahead and actually read this some months before I did. he recommended that I save this until the autumn, which is why I took it with me to berlin on my recent trip. It felt right to be reading this story in a more European setting than good old Surrey, and his recommendation and my instinct were both correct.

So, Harbour tells the story of a community, Domaro, which makes its living from the sea and from the summer visitors who have built houses there. Our entry to the community is through Anders who has a foot in both camps. One winter day he and his wife take their little girl, Maja, out onto the thick ice to visit the local lighthouse. They only look away for a few minutes, but in that short time every parents nightmare occurs; Maja has disappeared. There are no holes in the ice, nowhere that she could have gone, and despite searching high and low with the help of their neighbours, Maja can’t be found.

Two years later, his marriage destroyed and dependent on alcohol, Anders returns to Domaro determined to find out what happened. At this point we are also introduced to Simon, a stage magician and the partner of Anders’ grandmother. As strange events begin to occur and the secrets of Domaro begin to be revealed, Simon comes to understand that despite the number of years he has spent there he is very much an outsider. Between them he and Anders begin to unpick, albeit accidentally at times, what has been lurking underneath daily life.

I really, really enjoyed this novel. As in his previous books, Lindqvist shows great skill in describing strong emotions such as love, grief, betrayal and anger. His characters are fully rounded (my favourite was Simon) and I really wanted to know how they would get through the events which unfolded. The introduction of the supernatural elements (I’m not sure how else to describe them) builds up slowly and by the time some of the more bizarre incidents take place I was really invested in the story. How the community came to collude in and rely on the secret at its heart was all too plausible. If weird.

I agree whole heartedly with the comment on the cover “a third consecutive masterpiece”; so much so that I have already got a hold of his fourth novel, Little Star.

Strongly recommended.

So Carl’s RIP challenge has come to an end for another year and I’m really pleased that I that I did finish the main challenge as well as dipping into movies and short stories and had a really enjoyable experience.

In terms of books I read the following:

I read and wrote about five of the stories from Lovecraft Unbound edited by the wonderful Ellen Datlow and will continue to read the collection

I only watched two of the films on my list but saw an additional one, Contagion, which I’ve decided to include as a worldwide epidemic says “peril” to me.

  • The Others
  • The Nightmare before Christmas

Still got many of the reviews to complete and publish which I’ll do during the course of this week, but pleased with what I achieved.

It’s that wonderful time of the year when Carl hosts his RIP challenge and I am determined this year not only to take part but to actually finish the challenge and I have selected an interesting (well I think so) bunch of books from the stacks to help me do so.

I’m actually going to take part in three of the challenges – books, short stories and films, between 1 September and 31 October. Exciting stuff.

So, when it comes to books I’m going to take part in Peril the First and will be reading four books (at least) from the following list. I’ve already started the Stephen King and am already enjoying it in that “why haven’t I read this already” way that I always get when I pick up a King book that’s been sitting on the tbr pile. Anyhow the list goes something like this:

  • The Fall by Guillermo del Toro and Chuck Hogan – a recent purchase, mentioned here;
  • The Possessions of Doctor Forrest by Richard T Kelly – another recent buy, mentioned here;
  • The Small Hand by Susan Hill – a ghost story
  • Dark Harvest by Norman Partridge – winner of the Bram Stoker award and a fantastic cover (fiery pumpkin-headed things can’t be missed) (I think Susan may also be reading this one);
  • Harbour by John Ajvide Lindqvist – had this for ages and Silvery Dude tells me it’s excellent
  • The Dead of Winter by Chris Priestley – a boy, a mysterious guardian and a haunted house with a terrible secret;
  • The Rapture by Liz Jensen – “electrifying psychological thriller” apparently
  • Duma Key by Stephen King – as mentioned above

Not a bad list, I think

For the short story challenge I’m going to concentrate on Lovecraft Unbound; edited by the wonderful Ellen Datlow this is exactly what it says on the tin, a collection of short stories inspired by the works of one of my all-time favourites HP Lovecraft. A lot of the authors are unknown to me, which is no bad thing, but it does include stories by Michael Chabon and Joyce Carol Oates.

And finally a movie challenge. I am going to watch as many of the following as I can (given that I’m actually going to be in Germany for a chunk of October but we’ll see what can be done:

Right, well that lot should keep me busy. What’s on your list??

Going through a bit of a “must buy” phase at the moment, and these are the newest additions to the TBR pile (which now resembles one of the Alps….)

  • The Deadly Space Between by Patricia Duncker: after the success of The Composer (as reviewed here), why read the books by her that I already have when I can go out and buy a new one?
  • Famous Players by Rick Geary: following on from Jack the Ripper, I thought I’d try one of the titles from the Treasury of XXth Century Murder
  • A Visit from the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan: “You must read this!” said Silvery Dude; I always do what I am told….
  • The Fallen Blade by Jon Courtenay Grimwood: this is actually sort of a present for the Book God but once I saw it I realised I want to read it too, a blend of history and dark fantasy in 1407 Venice
  • The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins: everyone will know what this is all about; with the film being heavily touted I thought I should give this a go;
  • Wolf Brother by Michelle Paver: having thoroughly enjoyed Dark Matter and following a recommendation from Silvery Dude, I thought I would try her children’s series;
  • Your Presence is Required at Suvanto by Maile Chapman: I know absolutely nothing about this book, it was simply lying on a table in the Wimbledon branch of Waterstone’s and I liked the cover and found the idea of a sanatorium in early twentieth century Finland intriguing;
  • The Sense of an Ending by Julian Barnes: the only one of the Booker long list that has piqued my interest so far;
  • How to be a Woman by Caitlin Moran: bought because I follow her on Twitter and everyone (including the young woman at the till in Waterstone’s while I was paying for it) told me how funny it was;
  • The Possession of Dr Forrest by Richard T Kelly: Scottish doctors, friends since boyhood, one goes missing, bizarre, unnerving, menacing, one for RIP

It’s good to be excited by books again.

I really enjoy a good ghost story and Dark Matter is a very good ghost story indeed. This had been on my tbr list since I read a number of favourable reviews when the book first came out last year, and the Book God was kind enough to buy me a copy as a present for either Christmas or my birthday (I can’t always remember which as they are so close together).

I had thought to save it for RIP this year but for some reason decided it was just what was needed for a humid and over cast August and was totally gripped by the story as soon as I picked it up.

So it is 1937 and Jack Miller is poor and unhappy and takes up the opportunity to be the radio operator on an expedition to the Arctic. There is tension from the very beginning; there are class issues (everyone else is much more posh than Jack) but he goes along anyway as this is his chance to prove himself – to himself as much as anyone. Through various incidents Jack finds himself alone at their camp on Gruhuken as the sun disappears for months, with only the huskies for company.

Well not only the huskies.

For there is something else on Gruhuken.

This is fabulous stuff. You know right from the outset that the expedition does not go well, that someone is injured and someone dies but not who or how. The bulk of the story is told through Jack’s own journal which gives it an immediacy that a third-person narrative wouldn’t have delivered so well. Whether or not you are afraid of the dark (and I’m not really) the idea of being in a world without the sun for such a long period of time and with no other people around (except for one rather touching interlude) is a daunting prospect to consider. And there is a real sense of foreboding which builds as the story develops.

I am not ashamed to say that this really creeped me out; I was reading in bed and absolutely had to stop, though I devoured the remainder of the story the next day. I found the ending really poignant and have gone back to it a couple of times as it was so affecting and effective.

If you love ghost stories you really must read this; it’s one of my favourite reads of the year so far.

I didn’t know anything about Michelle Paver but understand from Silvery Dude (who has read her back catalogue and has taken a copy of Dark Matter on holiday to France) that she has written a whole series of children’s books and I’m really tempted to give them a try.

But this is one story that will linger with me for a long time.

What is it about Scandinavian crime? I’m not reading it all, but there is quite a lot in the stacks and I’m not sure why; I don’t think it’s a bandwagon on which I have jumped along with many others as everything I’ve read so far has been great, but it is interesting how much has been published over the past few years.

Although I have to confess that I picked this up without really registering that it actually was Scandinavian; for some reason I thought it was German – probably just because the hero’s name is Martin Beck, which (feebly) sounds faintly German to me.

Bit of a rambly intro into a review of a book which I enjoyed very much.

Roseanna is the first of 10 novels in the Martin Beck sequence which look at crime as a reflection of Swedish society (as explained by Henning Mankell in his fascinating introduction) and was published in 1965. It is the story of the investigation of the murder of Roseanna, though at the beginning we know nothing about her for quite a long time, she is simply a body pulled from a lake by a dredger, clearly murdered but by whom?

What makes this such an interesting read is how it concentrates on the tedium of much police work. It takes Beck and his colleagues ages to find out anything about the victim other than the stuff that is revealed by the post-mortem, and what they do find out is partly based on luck.

Beck himself is not what I expected; yes, like a lot of detectives, he isn’t entirely happy at home, though he at least is still married to his wife unlike so many others, and he is prone to depression and has problems with his digestion which gives an interesting perspective on how he handles his job. The importance of team work comes across; Beck is not one of those detectives who goes off on his own following hunches, this is a proper police procedural. And the killer and his motive (if it can be called that) was sadly all too plausible.

Will definitely be looking for others in the series.

Well, I may not be reading very much at the moment but I am still buying books to add to the TBR pile (which by now constitutes most of my house….)

It was our wedding anniversary yesterday and on our way to see Thor (which will be reviewed here at some point in the next day or two) we had a small diversion to a well known chain bookshop “just to have a look”; the outcome of this “looking” was:

  • Mr Chartwell by Rebecca Hunt – has had some good reviews and looks very interesting, plus I liked the cover
  • Great House by Nicole Krauss – again some good reviews and shortlisted for the Orange Prize
  • Harbour by John Avide Lindqvist – oooh, I’ve been waiting for this to come out in paperback for ages, what will he give us after Swedish vampires and Swedish zombies, I wonder?

Now I just have to start reading again…..

Bride of the Book God

Follow brideofthebook on Twitter

Scottish, in my fifties, love books but not always able to find the time to read them as much as I would like. I’m based in London and happily married to the Book God.

I also blog at Bride of the Screen God (all about movies and TV) and The Dowager Bride, if you are interested in ramblings about stuff of little consequence

If you would like to get in touch you can contact me at brideofthebookgod (at) btinternet (dot) com.

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