Dragons and Jetpacks

Dragons & Jetpacks: Books of the Month, October 2015

DJ16

Dragons & Jetpacks is a science fiction and fantasy bookgroup, based on Goodreads. The group is open to all, all that is required is a Goodreads account. We read two books a month, one fantasy and one sci-fi – the second week of each month is when members make suggestions, and the third is used for voting. We’re always happy to meet fellow fans of the genres, so you’re more than welcome to join the group!

DJ_SF
Ilium

Goodreads

The Trojan War rages at the foot of Olympos Mons on Mars—observed and influenced from on high by Zeus and his immortal family—and twenty-first-century professor Thomas Hockenberry is there to play a role in the insidious private wars of vengeful gods and goddesses. On Earth, a small band of the few remaining humans pursues a lost past and devastating truth—as four sentient machines depart from Jovian space to investigate, perhaps terminate, the potentially catastrophic emissions emanating from a mountaintop miles above the terraformed surface of the Red Planet.

DJ_F
Theft of Swords

Goodreads

There’s no ancient evil to defeat or orphan destined for greatness, just unlikely heroes and classic adventure. Royce Melborn, a skilled thief, and his mercenary partner, Hadrian Blackwater, are two enterprising rogues who end up running for their lives when they’re framed for the murder of the king. Trapped in a conspiracy that goes beyond the overthrow of a tiny kingdom, their only hope is unraveling an ancient mystery before it’s too late.

And our special Halloween read…

NOS4A2

Goodreads

Victoria McQueen has a secret gift for finding things: a misplaced bracelet, a missing photograph, answers to unanswerable questions. On her Raleigh Tuff Burner bike, she makes her way to a rickety covered bridge that, within moments, takes her wherever she needs to go, whether it’s across Massachusetts or across the country.

Charles Talent Manx has a way with children. He likes to take them for rides in his 1938 Rolls-Royce Wraith with the NOS4A2 vanity plate. With his old car, he can slip right out of the everyday world, and onto the hidden roads that transport them to an astonishing – and terrifying – playground of amusements he calls “Christmasland.”

Then, one day, Vic goes looking for trouble—and finds Manx. That was a lifetime ago. Now Vic, the only kid to ever escape Manx’s unmitigated evil, is all grown up and desperate to forget. But Charlie Manx never stopped thinking about Victoria McQueen. He’s on the road again and he’s picked up a new passenger: Vic’s own son.

Have you read any of this month’s picks? What did you think?

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Review

Review: The String Diaries (The String Diaries #1) by Stephen Lloyd Jones

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4 out of 5 stars | Goodreads

I received a copy of this book for free from the publisher, in exchange for an honest review.

A quotation on the cover of this book claims that it is too terrifying to read late into the night. Now I’m a bit of a wimp when it comes to horror films and television, or even video games, but not normally books. With books, you can imagine scenarios exactly how you want to.

That technique did not work with The String Diaries.

It’s been a long while since a book seriously creeped me out. This got to the point that I had to stop reading it for several days whilst my flatmate was away, because I couldn’t read it in the evening knowing that I would be alone in the flat that night. It was that bad. The idea of Jakab, the antagonist, being able to take on the appearance of anyone at all, replacing the lives of Hannah’s friends, relatives, neighbours, her closest loved ones, without her knowing, was truly terrifying. Give me monsters, demons, whatever – human beings are the scary ones.

The String Diaries is set in various locations, across several generations. From present day Wales and France, to 1970s Oxford (these chapters mentioned my workplace, so I heartily approved!), to nineteenth century Hungary, the story weaves its way through the lives of one family and how one man has hunted them over the generations. Initially, I did not enjoy the chapters set in Hungary as much, but as they built up Jakab to be this terrifying character and demonstrated just what he was prepared to do, I found myself more and more enthralled. And despite spanning several generations and countries, the book felt almost claustrophobic to me, as if I were the one trapped in a cabin on a Welsh mountainside, rather than Hannah.

I enjoyed The String Diaries a lot more than I expected – and I also did not expect to feel that terrified by it! To me that shows that Stephen Lloyd Jones is a great writer, although the ending of the story felt a little like a deus ex, and left me unsure as to how the series could progress. However, I would definitely recommend this one if you’re looking for something scary, or something that incorporates folklore.

Challenges

Challenge: A Decade Of Award Winners

A Decade of Award Winners

I’m always up for new challenges, as well as finding some great new science fiction and fantasy – so why not combine them? I’ve decided to challenge myself to read the past decade of award winners for the following awards: Hugo, Nebula, British Science Fiction Association, Mythopoeic, Locus Science Fiction, Locus Fantasy, British Fantasy Society, Campbell Award, PKD Award, Clarke Award, Locus First Novel, Stoker, Locus Young Adult, Shirley Jackson Award, David Gemmell Legend Award and David Gemmell Morningstar Award. And using the fantastic website Worlds Without End, I’m going to keep track of my progress here! I’m aiming for this challenge to be an ongoing one, with no strict deadline, and I am counting books read before the creation of the challenge. I will cross a book off if I attempted it but did not finish – after all, this is about trying out celebrated fiction, and if I don’t enjoy it then I won’t make myself read it. If you want to join in, let me know!

2014

2013

Promise of Blood by Brian McClellan Doctor Sleep Ancillary Justice by Ann Leckie

2012

2011

Jack Glass by Adam Roberts The Night Circus The Wise Man's Fear

2010

2009

The Graveyard Book Blood of Elves The Windup Girl

2008

2007

Emissaries from the Dead by Adam-Troy Castro His Majesty's Dragon Wintersmith

2006

2005

2004

Review

Review: The Dagger in the Desk (Lockwood & Co #1.5) by Jonathan Stroud

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4 out of 5 stars | Goodreads

I received a copy of this book for free from the publisher, in exchange for an honest review.

I’m never sure about reviewing novellas and short stories. Sometimes I don’t feel I have enough to say about them, or that I will have developed enough of a sense of the book in such a small number of pages. Luckily, I am already familiar with the universe of Lockwood & Co having absolutely loved the two books written by Jonathan Stroud so far, and The Dagger in the Desk just leaps straight into the action.

What I didn’t realise until after I’d read the book is that it was written over six days, with help from members of the Guardian newspaper’s children’s website, who voted on the name, location and the ghost. My initial thought, before reading this, was that it would most likely appeal to the target audience even more, due to being set in a school. It’s definitely something that would have appealed to me when I was younger, having to miss school due to a haunting!

Despite the very short nature of the book, Jonathan Stroud proves that he is a master storyteller by building up the tension in only a few pages. What I’ve always found surprising about this series is that despite being aimed at Middle Grade and above, it is actually genuinely creepy in some places – and this novella was no exception. Even though the case is over and done with rather quickly, Stroud provides some eerie moments and a memorable ghostly foe.

The book was even shorter than expected, with a handy guide to the ghouls Lockwood, George and Lucy encounter through the series, as well as a sample of The Screaming Staircase. Definitely worth checking out for fans of Lockwood & Co who just can’t wait for book number three – such as myself!

Review

Review: Revival by Stephen King

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5 out of 5 stars | Goodreads

I received a copy of this book for free from the publisher, in exchange for an honest review.

Revival was a lovely surprise from the people at Hodder, who actually sent me two copies of the book – so I passed one onto a friend, and we ended up reading the book at the same time. It’s always fun being able to discuss a book with someone who is also reading it, or has just read it. I don’t know if this is what motivated me to pick up my reading speed (read in three days, compared to how it’s been for most of my time during my Masters so far, that is SUPER quick), or whether it was just because the book completely and utterly drew me in.

At first, Revival didn’t feel like your usual Stephen King novel. It didn’t quite have that sense of sheer creepiness, only perhaps a slight sense of unease. And then suddenly, one horrific event, told in full King style gory bits and all, turned it all around. It jumped back and forth in time, throwing shocks in my face and then only explaining them chapters or hundreds of pages later.

Whilst definitely a unique story that explores how one small incident can change so many lives, for better or for worse, as well as being a pretty thorough character story, I felt that Revival didn’t quite deal what was promised. The blurb claims that “This rich and disturbing novel spans five decades on its way to the most terrifying conclusion Stephen King has ever written”, and whilst I agree that it is rich and disturbing, it was definitely not a terrifying conclusion. It was, quite frankly, just very, very odd. Odd is something that Stephen King does very well, but apparently not this time. Everything was over a little too quickly, and overall it just didn’t satisfy me.

Despite that, I am more than happy to give this book a five star rating. The build up of the story, the characters (particularly the protaganist, Jamie), the tension – definitely all worth it. I had a lot of fun trying to guess what Jacobs was up to, and what Jamie’s part in it would be. And whilst it’s not creepy and horrific in the style of The Shining, for instance, it is yet another fine example of why Stephen King is so popular – boy, can he write.

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?

Misc.

Horror October: Horror Books Read This Year

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For today’s Horror October post, I wanted to share the books I’ve read this year that fit the theme – some are horror, others more thrillers, others just plain creepy!

Doctor Sleep (The Shining #2) by Stephen King

Doctor Sleep

Doctor Sleep is definitely one of my highlights of the year! I’d been anticipating this sequel to The Shining ever since I first read about it, before the cover was even released. Hodder sent me a review copy earlier in the year, and it was definitely worth the wait. If you’ve already read The Shining then hurry up and read this!

Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn

Gone Girl

Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn is not so much a traditional horror, it is really a thriller, but it shows just how horrific humans can be to each other. It’s hard to say much about this book without giving anything away, so I won’t! I’m looking forward to seeing the film of this one too.

  • My rating for Gone Girl: [simple-rating stars=”four-stars”]

The Three by Sarah Lotz

The Three by Sarah Lotz

The Three by Sarah Lotz was an interesting read. It was told entirely from interviews, newspaper articles and other sources of media. Unfortunately its format meant I had no connection whatsoever to any of the characters, and the ending was just incredibly frustrating.

The Quick (The Quick #1) by Lauren Owen

The Quick by Lauren Owen

The Quick was also another unique novel: wonderfully Gothic and rather slow paced. I took a while to read this one for various reasons so I think it might need a re-read at some point, but I enjoyed it a lot. I also had the privilege of meeting the author, Lauren Owen, in April, and definitely made a fool of myself. Oops.

Red Moon by Benjamin Percy

Red Moon by Benjamin Percy

Red Moon by Benjamin Percy had me super excited – it was a werewolf novel with a twist and had such wonderful reviews. Unfortunately, I just couldn’t agree with them. The writing was wonderful but the story just felt… lacking. Also it promised me a good scare and just didn’t deliver!

Midnight Crossroad (Midnight #1) by Charlaine Harris

Midnight Crossroad by Charlaine Harris

Midnight Crossroad by Charlaine Harris was another disappointment. I really love her Southern Vampire Mysteries series (or the True Blood books if you prefer), even if the last few just felt like a chance to make some easy money. So I was hoping a new series would be a new start, and whilst Midnight Crossroad wasn’t bad, there was nothing special about it.

The Coldest Girl in Coldtown by Holly Black

The Coldest Girl in Coldtown by Holly Black

The Coldest Girl in Coldtown by Holly Black is another one that’s had great reviews, but I just didn’t get along with. Too many vampires and falling for the bad boy, ugh… The concept of the Coldtowns was original, but vampires? So overdone right now… It does have one of the most horrific opening scenes I’ve ever read though.

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

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

Leviathan Wakes by James S.A. Corey is hard to explain in terms of the horror genre without giving away some big plot points. I definitely wasn’t expecting the horror element when I started reading it, and it’s definitely a memorable part… I read it with my Goodreads book group and it was pretty well received!

The Screaming Staircase (Lockwood & Co #1) by Jonathan Stroud

The Screaming Staircase (Lockwood & Co #1) by Jonathan Stroud

The Screaming Staircase by Jonathan Stroud is one of my stand-out books of the year. I wasn’t expecting to love it so much, but it pulled me right in. It may be aimed at younger readers but it is SO amazing. Think a mix of Sherlock and Supernatural, with teenage protaganists.

Have you read any of these books? What did you think of them? Do you have any horror recommendations based on what you’ve read this year?