Past Features

Turning Off The TV #26: Horror October Special Edition

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Welcome to my regular Thursday feature, Turning off the TV! In this feature I recommend books similar to TV shows or films you may have enjoyed, both series and specific episodes. This is a special Horror October edition of the feature, with lots more recommendations under a general theme. Obviously, the theme is horror (surprise, surprise!), but I’ve separated the books out by the main element of the story and suggested a film for each one. Each cover leads to the Goodreads page for the book.

Haunted houses e.g. Poltergeist

The Haunting of Hill House Amityville Horror The Vanishing by Wendy Webb

Experimentation e.g. Splice

The Madman's Daughter Broken The Heavens Rise

Ghosts e.g. Paranormal Activity

Anna Dressed In Blood The Turn Of The Screw The Graveyard Book

Werewolves e.g. The Howling

Red Moon by Benjamin Percy Shiver Lonely Werewolf Girl by Martin Millar

Terrifying beasts e.g. Trollhunter

The Terror The Ruins Snowblind

Vampires e.g. Nosferatu

Carmilla Interview with the Vampire The Historian

Do you have any recommendations to add? What are some of your favourite elements or tropes of the horror genre?

Past Features

Turning Off The TV #25: Alien

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Welcome to my regular Thursday feature, Turning off the TV! In this feature I recommend books similar to TV shows or films you may have enjoyed, both series and specific episodes.

The film this week is: Alien.

Alien

The commercial vessel Nostromo receives a distress call from an unexplored planet. After searching for survivors, the crew heads home only to realize that a deadly bioform has joined them.

Since I’m putting this feature on hold for Sci-Fi Month next month, I thought I’d do a special science fiction edition now – and the next one will be a special horror edition! I’ve chosen Alien because it’s an absolutely fantastic film. It’s tense and keeps you on the edge of your seat, it’s claustrophobic and scary. It pretty much set up the whole ‘survival horror’ genre.

Leviathan Wakes (Expanse #1) by James S.A. Corey

Leviathan Wakes (Expanse #1) by James S.A. Corey

So I may have recommended Leviathan Wakes by James S.A. Corey previously, but it definitely works for fans of Alien. It has that same sort of claustrophobic feeling, not to mention some terrifying extra-terrestrials.

The War of the Worlds by H.G. Wells

The War of the Worlds by H.G. Wells

H.G. Wells’ The War of the Worlds is one of my favourite books, and it definitely needs to be read if you enjoyed Alien! When you think of books featuring aliens, I’m sure this is one of the first ones that comes to mind – and for good reason. Like Alien itself, it was pretty ground-breaking at the time.

The Day of the Triffids by John Wyndham

The Day of the Triffids by John Wyndham

The Day of the Triffids by John Wyndham is another classic science fiction novel. It’s not quite as claustrophobic as Alien, but it definitely has that constant feeling of danger. I also really enjoyed this one, it’s definitely my preferred work of Wyndham’s.

Are you a fan of Alien? Do you have any recommendations to add? Are there any other TV shows or films you’d like me to cover?

Past Features

Turning Off The TV #24: The Day After Tomorrow

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Welcome to my regular Thursday feature, Turning off the TV! In this feature I recommend books similar to TV shows or films you may have enjoyed, both series and specific episodes.

The film this week is: The Day After Tomorrow.

The Day After Tomorrow

Jack Hall, paleoclimatologist, must make a daring trek across America to reach his son, trapped in the cross-hairs of a sudden international storm which plunges the planet into a new Ice Age.

Oh Roland Emmerich, you bringer of doom. I’ve lost count of how many disaster/end of the world movies Mr. Emmerich has made, but it’s definitely a lot. Does he have an obsession with global warming or the elimination of the human race? Is he trying to send us a message? Or does he just like making huge scale mediocre movies full of doom and gloom and attractive young actors in dire peril? We shall never know. The Day After Tomorrow is a fun movie, silly, but fun. Plus I guess it’s not about the end of the world as such, as just a rather inconvenient and extreme ice storm that hits the majority of the world and kills off a large percentage of the population. Nothing too major. Anyway I knew I had to pick this one for this feature one day, because think of many end of the world novels there are! Apparently we, as the human race, could go out in a variety of different ways. Let’s take a rather depressing look at them!

The Swarm by Frank Sch├Ątzing

The Swarm by Frank Schaetzing

Okay, so it’s not a huge ice storm that’s the big threat in this, but mankind is still under fire from nature. Apparently The Swarm has been on bestseller lists in Germany since release, which is impressive. It sounds like it would really appeal to fans of The Day After Tomorrow because the peril that humanity has brought upon itself, due to the mistreatment of ecology.

The Road by Cormac McCarthy

The Road by Cormac McCarthy

If you’re looking for something that’s more post-apocalypse, rather than set during the apocalypse itself, then Cormac McCarthy’s The Road is a great pick. It’s stark, it’s bleak, it’s depressing – and highly moving. Although the reader never finds out the names of the protagonists, who are referred to only as ‘The Man’ and ‘The Boy’, they’ll be rooting for them. It’s a tough terrifying world that shows how easily people can turn on each other.

Breathe by Sarah Crossan

Breathe by Sarah Crossan

Throwing a Young Adult choice into the mix, Breathe by Sarah Crossan focuses, like The Day After Tomorrow on environmental factors. The oxygen levels on Earth have plummeted, and millions have died as a result. Now the population must pay for oxygen, which is no problem for the rich, but what about those who are less wealthy?

Are you a fan of The Day After Tomorrow? Do you have any recommendations to add? Are there any other TV shows or films you’d like me to cover?

Past Features

Turning Off The TV #23: The Avengers/Avengers Assemble

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Welcome to my regular Thursday feature, Turning off the TV! In this feature I recommend books similar to TV shows or films you may have enjoyed, both series and specific episodes.

The film this week is: The Avengers/Avengers Assemble.

Avengers

Nick Fury is director of S.H.I.E.L.D, an international peace keeping agency. The agency is a who’s who of Marvel Super Heroes, with Iron Man, The Incredible Hulk, Thor, Captain America, Hawkeye and Black Widow. When global security is threatened by Loki and his cohorts, Nick Fury and his team will need all their powers to save the world from disaster. (via IMDB)

The Avengers, also released as Avengers Assemble in the UK, is one of the highest grossing films of all time. But what did you expect when it brings together various beloved superheroes, with their own franchises, as well as a handful of new characters? I absolutely LOVE this film and am pretty much in awe of everything in it: the costumes, the technology, the sets, the special effects, the music and the perfect cast. Like my X-Men version of this feature, I won’t be recommending novels but different Marvel comic books, since there are so many different storylines and line-ups to explore.

The Avengers Volume 2, by Brian Michael Bendis

The Avengers by Brian Michael Bendis

The Avengers Volume 2 by Brian Michael Bendis features some familiar faces to fans of the film: Thor, Iron Man, Hawkeye and Captain America, but also some new like Red Hulk, Black Bolt, Dr. Strange, Mr. Fantastic, Professor X and the Sub-mariner. Including the Avengers, the New Avengers and the Secret Avengers, it’s a force not to be messed with! The Infinity Gems, which if in the wrong hands could be used to destroy Earth, are under the protection of various superheroes – but the villainous Hood has eluded them, and is gathering the gems one by one. It’s up to the Avengers to stop him and save the world.

Guardians of the Galaxy Volume 1: Cosmic Avengers by Brian Michael Bendis

Guardians of the Galaxy

Guardians of the Galaxy Volume 1 by Brian Michael Bendis is one of the few Marvel comics I own, rather than one I’ve borrowed and I LOVE IT SO MUCH. The film came out on 31st July, and hopefully by the time this post is up I will have already watched it. The Guardians are a misfit band of criminals who are trying to do some good. There’s Star-Lord, aka Peter Quill, a half human prince who has defied his father; Gamora, a deadly green-skinned assassin; Drax, a ferocious warrior; Rocket, the result of a genetic experiment, and Groot, Rocket’s bodyguard/friend/transport. If you’re looking for a truly funny series to follow, this is definitely the one. Oh, and this particular story arc is fairly new and only has three volumes so far, plus an X-Men crossover, so it should be easy to catch up. Iron Man also features in this volume!

Ms. Marvel Volume 8: War of the Marvels

Ms Marvel

I’ve read a couple of Ms. Marvel volumes now, but I think Ms. Marvel Volume 8 by Brian Reed is my favourite so far. Karla Sofen (aka Moonstone) has taken over as Ms. Marvel after Carol Danvers’ death, whilst the story also follows a young lady called Catherine who shares many similarities with the aforementioned Carol (original Ms. Marvel). It’s a story of confused identities and split personalities, and whilst it suffers from the unfortunate typical trait of ‘fanservice’ (lots of skintight clothing and panty shots) that come with female superheroes, there are some really fun action sequences.

Are you a fan of The Avengers/Avengers Assemble? Do you have any recommendations to add? Are there any other TV shows or films you’d like me to cover?

Past Features

Turning Off The TV #22: X-Men

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Welcome to my regular Thursday feature, Turning off the TV! In this feature I recommend books similar to TV shows or films you may have enjoyed, both series and specific episodes.

The film this week is: X-Men.

X-Men: Days of Future Past

The X-Men film series is set in an alternate universe, where some people are born with superpowers. These people are known as ‘mutants’, and are often misunderstood and frequently mistrusted by ‘normal’ humans. The films follow the students and teachers of Xavier’s Institute for Gifted Youngsters, founded by Charles Xavier aka Professor X, as well as Professor X’s former friend and now adversary, Erik Lensherr, aka Magneto.

This doesn’t cover one particular film, but the series as a whole. And no, of course I didn’t pick the First Class poster just so I could have a certain Irish-German gentleman on my blog… I’m doing something a little different this time, and recommending my favourite X-Men comics, rather than novels people might enjoy if they liked X-Men. It just feels a bit silly when there are hundreds and hundreds of different storylines and arcs involving our favourite mutants. I just want to emphasise that all Marvel comics I have read have been out of order, and I’ve never had any issues following storylines. So if that’s a worry to you when starting any of these, it shouldn’t be!

Ultimate X-Men: Volume 1 by Mark Millar Geoff Johns

Ultimate X-Men, Volume 1

The Ultimate X-Men series is a modernised re-imagining of the X-Men, and Ultimate X-Men: Volume 1 by Mark Millar collects the first year of these comics. The team consists of Professor X, Cyclops, Jean Grey and Iceman, with Storm and Colossus as new additions from the original 1960s line-up. There have been several artists and story writers working on the ‘Ultimate X-Men’ series, which ran for eight years, from 2001-2009. I can only comment on this particular volume but I’d definitely recommend it as a good place to start, especially if you want some more modern-looking art.

Uncanny X-Men: Divided We Stand by Ed Brubaker & Mike Choi

Uncanny X-Men: Divided We Stand

The Uncanny X-Men storyline is the longest running arc of the X-Men series (since 1963), and Uncanny X-Men: Divided We Stand by Ed Brubaker and Mike Choi is one of my favourites of the series so far. It features Cyclops and Emma Frost as the leaders of the Xavier Institute. They’re called to San Francisco by Archangel, who has discovered something very strange – part of the city seems to be stuck in the 1960s! I really loved all the 60s fashion and colours of this one, and it was a pretty fun storyline. There is also a small arc with Nightcrawler (*BAMF!*), Wolverine and Colossus travelling through Russia.

X-Men: Worlds Apart by Christopher Yost & Diogenes Neves

X-Men: Worlds Apart

X-Men: Worlds Apart by Christopher Yost and Diogenes Neves is different from the other X-Men books I’ve read, in that it follows Storm, and Storm only. It’s always fun when characters that don’t normally get their own spin-off books get them, because it allows the reader to learn much more about their personality, origin story etc. Wolverine gets plenty of his own stories and I’m getting a bit bored of him to be honest… I’m not so big on the art style in this one, but I liked the story. Storm is Queen of Wakanda and married to the Black Panther, and sets out to investigate a mysterious murder. It was great to finally meet the Black Panther, who I’d only ever heard about!

Are you a fan of X-Men? Do you have any recommendations to add? Are there any other TV shows or films you’d like me to cover?

Past Features

Turning Off The TV #21: Memoirs of a Geisha

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Welcome to my fortnightly Thursday feature, Turning off the TV! In this feature I recommend books similar to TV shows or films you may have enjoyed, both series and specific episodes. This was a weekly feature, but will now be fortnightly, on alternate weeks with Fantasy Friday.

The film this week is: Memoirs of a Geisha.

Memoirs of a Geisha

In 1929 an impoverished nine-year-old named Chiyo from a fishing village is sold to a geisha house in Kyoto’s Gion district and subjected to cruel treatment from the owners and the head geisha Hatsumomo. Her stunning beauty attracts the vindictive jealousy of Hatsumomo, until she is rescued by and taken under the wing of Hatsumomo’s bitter rival, Mameha. Under Mameha’s mentorship, Chiyo becomes the geisha named Sayuri, trained in all the artistic and social skills a geisha must master in order to survive in her society. As a renowned geisha she enters a society of wealth, privilege, and political intrigue. As World War II looms Japan and the geisha’s world are forever changed by the onslaught of history. (from IMDB)

Yes, it’s another one that was originally a book (by Arthur Golden) – but it’s hard to avoid films that aren’t adaptations these days! Plus I really enjoyed this film (and the source material). The cinematography is just gorgeous, allowing the viewer to see all these beautiful shots of 1930s Kyoto, Japanese costume, culture and traditions. Plus you can’t beat that wonderful soundtrack composed by John Williams.

If you want to read more about geisha…

Geisha of Gion by Mineko Iwasaki Autobiography of a Geisha by Sayo Masuda Geisha by Liza Dalby

Geisha of Gion by Mineko Iwasaki and Autobiography of a Geisha by Sayo Masuda are both biographies of genuine geishas. The first tells the tale of a city geisha, the latter of a ‘hot springs’ geisha. Both accounts are brutally honest and strip away the shiny exterior and rub off all the beautifully applied makeup. Geisha by Liza Dalby is the account of the only non-Japanese geisha, presenting the life from a different viewpoint to the first two books.

If you want to read more about Japan…

Shogun by James Clavell The Tale of Genji by Murasaki Shikibu Beauty and Sadness by Yasunari Kawabata

Shogun by James Clavell is a HUGE sprawling epic story of the shogunate of Japan, and the rise of Westerner Pilot-Major John Blackthorne from a disdained foreigner to a samurai. I started reading it a couple of years ago on an excavation, but only got halfway through (there wasn’t too much time for reading) and still have to finish it. It’s definitely one you have to put everything else aside for, but from what I’ve already read, definitely worth it. The Tale of Genji by Murasaki Shikibu is often called the world’s first modern novel, and was written by a noblewoman in eleventh century Japan. It follows the life of Genji, the son of an ancient Japanese emperor, although it ends very abruptly and it is still not agreed whether this was intentional. A more modern Japanese classic, Beauty and Sadness by Yasunari Kawabata was first published in 1961 and follows a man who reunites with a lover of years ago, and how their different relationships can affect others.

Are you a fan of Memoirs of a Geisha? Do you have any recommendations to add? Are there any other TV shows or films you’d like me to cover?

Past Features

Turning Off The TV #20: Trainspotting

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Welcome to my regular Thursday feature, Turning off the TV! In this feature I recommend books similar to TV shows or films you may have enjoyed, both series and specific episodes.

The film this week is: Trainspotting.

Trainspotting

Renton, deeply immersed in the Edinburgh drug scene, tries to clean up and get out, despite the allure of the drugs and influence of friends.

I’m aware that this was in fact based on the book Trainspotting (Mark Renton #2) by Irvine Welsh, but the film has such a cult following that I thought it would be a good one to cover.

Last Exit to Brooklyn by Hubert Selby Jr.

Last Exit To Brooklyn by Hubert Selby Jr.

Whilst it’s set in New York, rather than Glasgow, Last Exit To Brooklyn by Hubert Selby Jr. similarly follows the stories and lives of several people – a drug addict, a transvestite, a criminal and more. It is a very honest description that doesn’t hide anything, and was apparently banned in the UK in the 1960s! Which has to make it worth reading, right?

Junk by Melvin Burgess

Junk by Melvin Burgess

I read several Melvin Burgess books as a teenager, and I was always struck by the sheer brutal rawness of his writing. Junk by Melvin Burgess is the story of two teens who fall in love with each other – and heroin. Maybe it’s a shocking idea for a book for teenagers – but it’s not like this sort of thing never happens, and literature aimed at young adults should tackle topics like sex and drugs.

A Scanner Darkly by Philip K. Dick

A Scanner Darkly by Philip K. Dick

A Scanner Darkly by Philip K. Dick is a typical PKD book – weird, a bit trippy and very clever. It is about an undercover narcotics agent called Bob Arctor, who has to indulge in the very drugs he is trying to bust, in order to fit in. However, he is soon informed of a new lead within the drug ring – a man by the name of Bob Arctor. It’s a pretty harrowing portrayal of what drugs can do to the mind, and definitely worth a read.

Junky by William S. Burroughs

Junky by William S. Burroughs

A dark account of a drug addict in 1953 New York, New Orleans and Mexico City, Junky was William S. Burroughs first novel. It was a risky move during a period of anti-drug hysteria, but it paid off – the book is now considered a modern classic.

Are you a fan of Trainspotting? Do you have any recommendations to add? Are there any other TV shows or films you’d like me to cover?