My Top Ten Books Read In 2016

Welcome to Day Two of my annoying End-Of-Year Lists! Today I’m ranking the thirteen books that I read in 2016 (but it’s still a Top Ten as I didn’t really like the bottom three very much). As always, I rank things according to my own personal taste. For example, number 13 is a far better & more well-written book than 12 or 11 – I just enjoyed 12 & 11 slightly more. I’m also quite proud that I somehow managed to review them all (poorly, though – I suck at book reviews even more than movie reviews) so I’ve included the links to what I said about each.

So now, counting down to my very favorite, these are all the books that I read in 2016:

Three Not-So-Great:

13. Straight White Male by John Niven

12. The Girl On The Train by Paula Hawkins

11. The Death Cure by James Dashner

Top Ten Much-Better-Ones:

10. Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman

9. Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency by Douglas Adams

8. Heart-Shaped Box by Joe Hill

7. Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel

6. The End Of The World Running Club by Adrian J. Walker

5. Battle Royale by Koushun Takami

4. Mr Mercedes by Stephen King

3. The Bazaar Of Bad Dreams by Stephen King

2. 20th Century Ghosts by Joe Hill

1. The Colour Of Magic by Terry Pratchett

Can I just say that, while I highly recommend at least my top seven, I want to give a special mention to Joe Hill’s 20th Century Ghosts. I’ve now read several of his books after wanting to find out if he was as good as his father (Stephen King). I’ve really enjoyed all his books so far but, finally, 20th Century Ghosts is one that I really loved. As with all short story collections, some stories are much stronger than others. But the best ones are fantastic!

**See you for two more end-of-year lists over the next two days. Tomorrow I’ll be posting a list of My Top Ten Movies Watched At Home In 2016 then will end on Friday with My Top Ten Movies Released In 2016 (going by UK release dates). πŸ™‚

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20th Century Ghosts by Joe Hill (Book Review)

20th Century Ghosts by Joe Hill (short story collection)

What It’s About: (via Amazon)

Imogene is young, beautiful . . . and dead, waiting in the Rosebud Theater one afternoon in 1945. . . .

Francis was human once, but now he’s an eight-foot-tall locust, and everyone in Calliphora will tremble when they hear him sing. . . .

John is locked in a basement stained with the blood of half a dozen murdered children, and an antique telephone, long since disconnected, rings at night with calls from the dead. . . .

Nolan knows but can never tell what really happened in the summer of ’77, when his idiot savant younger brother built a vast cardboard fort with secret doors leading into other worlds. . . .

The past isn’t dead. It isn’t even past. . . .

My Thoughts:

I absolutely loved this short story collection from Joe Hill. I’ve read several Joe Hill books now & commented on my review for Heart-Shaped Box that, while I’m really enjoying his books, they still weren’t quite living up to his father’s (Stephen King – my favorite author). But I was determined that one day I’d read a Joe Hill book that I really do love. I’d say that 20th Century Ghosts is finally the one!

This collection is fantastic and the very best stories live up to King’s short stories. What was also great was that there were plenty that weren’t even within the horror genre, including some with brilliantly original ideas (such as in the story Pop Art – I’ve never read anything quite like that one). So I’ll review this one in the same way I reviewed his dad’s short story collection The Bazaar Of Bad Dreams – I’ll give a very brief opinion on each story then an overall rating & what my five favorite stories were. So here we go!

My Quick Thoughts On Each Story:

Best New Horror:

Yikes. This one was genuinely disturbing and one for true lovers of “horror”. I was a little worried, as this was the first story, that the rest of them would be as horrific (which wasn’t the case at all). But this is a brilliant piece of writing & one of the stories that I know I’ll remember the most from this collection years from now. Atmospheric & creepy, this story shows that Hill can write very effective horror.

20th Century Ghost:

I ADORED this story. I can tell you right now that this was my favorite but, of course, it was likely to be as it involved something very dear to me: a love of movies. I won’t get into details on the story to avoid spoilers but, as the title may suggest, it’s about a ghost haunting a movie theater. This story is perfect. I loved it so much! And what a relief to read this one, which made my heart happy, after the thoroughly disturbing one that started the book…

Pop Art:

Wow. This story is truly brilliant and utterly unique. It’s about a boy named Art. And he may pop. Why? Because he’s inflatable. This is some good shit. How is Joe Hill not a household name after writing this one?? Well, maybe it’s too weird for the mainstream but those who appreciate something a bit left of center may love this one.

You Will Hear The Locust Sing:

Another piece of amazing writing, this is Hill’s ode to Franz Kafka’s The Metamorphosis. Not my personal favorite but admittedly one of the better stories in this novel overall.

Abraham’s Boys:

Again, not a personal favorite of mine but this was an intriguing alternative take on vampire-hunter Van Helsing’s life.

Better Than Home:

This was a beautiful story about a loving father & son relationship. I can’t say I really related to it, especially as there’s a lot of baseball talk (Hill & his father clearly love baseball) but it’s a sweet & not overly-sentimental story I’m sure a lot of people would like.

The Black Phone:

A very King-like story about a kidnapped boy & the mysterious phone in the basement where he’s being kept. Loved the supernatural vibe. Fans of Hill’s dad will like this one.

In The Rundown:

A good story about a late teen/early twentysomething(?) boy beat down by life and about a woman going to desperate measures. But I have to admit I had to grab the book just now to remind me what this one was about so it’s clearly not one that stuck with me.

The Cape:

Definitely one of the strongest stories in the book, I thoroughly enjoyed this story of two brothers and a magic cape that allows one of them to fly. And I loved the turn the story took at the end. Another one that really displays Hill’s storytelling talent.

Last Breath:

A very short story but, again, a truly original & unique idea. I’d love to see this one & a few others adapted for some kind of anthology film/TV show. This story would work really well on screen.

Dead-Wood:

This is another one where I just had to refresh my memory. Didn’t take long as it’s only just over one page! A good, weird little story that actually reminds me of a Tales Of The Unexpected episode I saw once involving plants “screaming”. Man I loved that show. I guess it’s a bit like The Happening too, though. Ugh – Sorry! I didn’t mean to compare that movie to Hill’s work. Hill’s work is much better…

The Widow’s Breakfast:

Another lovely story that doesn’t fall at all within the horror genre, this is about a kind widow & a homeless man in the 1930s. I easily remembered this one – I preferred it to the father/son story in Better Than Home. But both are great for non-horror lovers.

Bobby Conroy Comes Back From The Dead:

Joe Hill, you’re truly after my heart with your choices of settings in these stories! First we had the brilliant movie theater ghost story then, with this one, we have a “love story” on the set of George A. Romero’s 1978 Dawn Of The Dead! An all-time favorite film of mine (and by far the best zombie flick ever)!!! Loved this story. Loved it! Hill & I clearly like the same sort of stuff. Other than baseball…

My Father’s Mask:

A bizarre story with a fantastic vibe. Sort of made me think of Stanley Kubrick’s Eyes Wide Shut for some strange reason. But, like, a good version of that…

Voluntary Committal:

BRILLIANT story! The best in this book (and also my favorite alongside 20th Century Ghost, which has a slight edge for me only because it’s movie-related). I always feel bad comparing Hill to King but, yes, this one is very King-like and King’s fans will love it. It’s my favorite sort of story – one with a supernatural edge and very strong writing. I’d hazard a guess that this story is the favorite of most who read this collection. After this story and the four others I’ve listed below, I’m now indeed a firm fan of Joe Hill’s writing.

Scheherazade’s Typewriter:

A sneaky little story hidden within the Acknowledgments at the end of the book. Maybe I shouldn’t tell you that… It’s meant to be a surprise! Well, don’t miss out on this fun 3-page story – it’s well worth your time. As is this entire book. Fantastic work from Joe Hill! Now I can’t wait to read my new copy of The Fireman.

My Overall Rating For 20th Century Ghosts: 4.5/5

My Top Five Stories (in book appearance order):

20th Century Ghost
Pop Art
The Cape
Bobby Conroy Comes Back From The Dead
Voluntary Committal

**Hope you all have a great weekend and, for those who celebrate it, a very Merry Christmas! I’ll be back next week with a review of my final Blind Spot Movie (Akira), followed by four end-of-year lists of my favorite books & movies this year. I love end-of-year lists!!!! Hope to see all of yours too. πŸ™‚

My Blog’s August 2016 Recap

Happy September, everyone! I know I say this same sort of thing every month but I’m serious this time: When the hell did it suddenly become September?! Ahh… Back to school, after school clubs, no holidays & having no life. Not that I have a life any other month of the year anyway. Oh, and then it’ll be winter & I’ll moan even more. God I hate winter. Oh wow – I’m sounding so positive! Here’s a recap of what I posted in August…

POSTS

My Most Popular Post: Stranger Things Poster Art By Kyle Lambert. Holy shitballs – people love Stranger Things! I had a lot of comments on this post. I didn’t say much other than that I was watching it & that I liked the above artwork by artist Kyle Lambert. I did really enjoy the show & I want to see more. The hype was a bit much, though, and the “1980s” thing felt too forced sometimes. But, hell, I adore that decade so I’m not going to complain about that too much.

My Favorite Post: The Legend Of Billie Jean, Less Than Zero & Private School “80’s Quickie Movie Reviews” Post. Speaking of the 1980s, my favorite post was probably the one with my three short reviews of movies from my favorite decade. I’ll always love discussing & reminiscing about movies from this time period, even though I’m pretty much on my own when I do. This post got 5 comments & hardly any views. Ha! Don’t care – I’ll never stop posting about movies that no one under 35 has seen. (Btw – there were boobs in that post. Maybe it’ll get some views now…) πŸ˜‰

*Baby Dory is one of the most adorable things ever

MOVIES REVIEWED

My Most Popular Movie Review: Finding Dory

All Movies Reviewed (ranked best to worst):
The Legend Of Billie Jean
Pete’s Dragon
Finding Dory
The Book Thief
Lights Out
Swallows And Amazons
Less Than Zero
Paper Towns
Private School

MOVIES WATCHED

In Cinema (ranked best to worst):
Pete’s Dragon
Lights Out
Swallows And Amazons

At Home (ranked best to worst):
Carol
The Good Dinosaur
Fright Night (2011)
The Invitation
Pan

TOP TEN LISTS

Top Ten Celebrities With Color Names
Top Ten Madonna Songs
Top Ten Christian Slater Movies
Top Ten Tim Burton Movies

SEARCH TERMS

My Top Search Term: “Jennifer Connelly white top”. The pervy Googlers strike again! Okay, there’s the photo of said white top above. Various versions of this search term come up a lot – the photo is from the rather bad film Career Opportunities, which I reviewed HERE for my John Hughes Blogathon. The post also contains a pervy gif of Connelly suggestively riding a toy horse while wearing said white top. I apologize – I clearly encouraged the pervy Googlers with that post…

My Favorite Search Term: “film mit killer penis”. It’s my favorite this month because WTF is that? I can usually figure out why a search term brought someone to my blog but, nope, not this time. Were they trying to type “film WITH killer penis“? If so, I’m still pretty sure I haven’t written about a movie with a killer penis. Were they searching for the Tromeo & Juliet penis monster from my Class Of Nuke ‘Em High review? Eh. Maybe.

Here are my top search terms for the month:

BOOKS

I kept it in the King family with my selection of books in August!

Book I Reviewed: The Bazaar Of Bad Dreams by Stephen King

Book I Finished Reading: Mr. Mercedes by Stephen King

Book I Started Reading: 20th Century Ghosts by Joe Hill

BLOG PLANS FOR THE COMING MONTH

August was the first month where I didn’t manage to watch or review anything from my 2016 Blind Spot list. Too busy. Oh well – I promise I’ll still do 12 by the end of the year. I realized that I put three horror movies on my list so I plan to post reviews of all three in October (including Phenomena, starring Jennifer Connelly once again in a white top!). I’ll probably post the missing Blind Spot review in November. You all told me last month that it should be Zodiac so I’ll try to make that my November post & then Akira in December.

For September, I’m again going to take it easy on posts due to lack of time for blogging. I have more of my “lazy but fun” actor top tens already written & scheduled for the entire month (yay me!). Oh, and Music Video Friday is ready to go for the entire month as well. No one looks at those posts. Don’t care – I like ’em! πŸ˜‰ I’ll post reviews of movies I see in the cinema but I mainly want to spend September writing my horror movie reviews for my usual October Month Of Horror.

Upcoming Movies:

I missed out on lots of movies I wanted to go to in August (again, too busy). Not sure what I’ll manage of this month’s cinema releases but I’ll probably see Sausage Party this week. I think Kubo And The Two Strings looks good so we’re very likely to go to that one as a family. Not sure how I feel about Blair Witch – I’ll probably watch that at home if it gets halfway decent reviews since (shock horror!) I liked the original film. Does this ruin my movie blogger cred? I’d rather have a root canal than watch Bridget Jones’s Baby! The Girl With All The Gifts looks like my type of thing so I’ll attempt to make it to that one. Swiss Army Man sounds SO completely WTF that I HAVE to watch it eventually but I’m not sure if it’s worth a trip to the cinema.

Finally, I’m very much looking forward to Tim Burton’s Miss Peregrine’s Home For Peculiar Children. I read the book (which I reviewed HERE) and said while reading it that Tim Burton should make the film if they decided to adapt it. Such a perfect choice – I can’t wait to see what he does with it even though I wasn’t the biggest fan of the book overall.

Okay – I always end these with a music clip related to something I posted or watched in the past month. So I’m just going to go ahead & once again post the theme song from The Legend Of Billie Jean: Pat Benatar’s Invincible. Because it’s awesome. Enjoy the glory of 1985! πŸ™‚

Heart-Shaped Box by Joe Hill (Book Review)

Heart-Shaped Box by Joe Hill

What It’s About: (via Amazon)
Judas Coyne is a collector of the macabre: a cookbook for cannibals… a used hangman’s noose… a snuff film. An aging death-metal rock god, his taste for the unnatural is as widely known to his legions of fans as the notorious excesses of his youth. But nothing he possesses is as unlikely or as dreadful as his latest purchase, an item he discovered on the Internet:

I will sell my stepfather’s ghost to the highest bidder…

For a thousand dollars, Jude has become the owner of a dead man’s suit, said to be haunted by a restless spirit. But what UPS delivers to his door in a black heart-shaped box is no metaphorical ghost, no benign conversation piece. Suddenly the suit’s previous owner is everywhere: behind the bedroom door… seated in Jude’s restored Mustang… staring out from his widescreen TV. Waiting with a gleaming razor blade on a chain dangling from one hand…

My Thoughts:

This book got third place in my poll asking which book I should read next (I reviewed Neil Gaiman’s Neverwhere HERE & Terry Pratchett’s The Colour Of Magic HERE).

This is now the third Joe Hill book I’ve read and I’d say I’m definitely a fan & will continue to read all of his books. I love the sound of his book The Fireman – that’ll be going on my Christmas list this year (hint hint, hubby?). I’d have to say that both NOS4A2 & Horns are better than Heart-Shaped Box (I reviewed both of those books HERE) but this one was still an enjoyable read and I liked it more than NOS4A2.

The thing that worked for me the most was probably the fact that its main character is an aging metal dude. I love metal & I love metal DUDES! I think, deep down, I want to be one. In my next life, maybe I’ll be the next Ozzy Osbourne or something. There were some fun rock references thrown into the book here & there but it could’ve done with more of these. Judas Coyne is a great name for the character & Hill does well to make him a believeable old metal guy. I mean, he’s kind of a dick at first but that’s what you’d expect. This book didn’t have the same problem as NOS4A2, though, in that I didn’t really like or care about the characters very much in that one. This is a shorter book with a far more simple ghost story but I think that helped to give us more time to get to know Coyne, which is why I enjoyed this book more as I love good character development. The story is obviously important but, if it gives me characters I don’t care about, it then feels like a waste of my time.

As far as being scary, I can’t say that this one creeped me out but it’s rare that a book really does that to me anyway. It started out good but I found it less scary as the book went on. I think there was a bit too much of the ghost plus he was more creepy and mysterious at the beginning when we knew less about him. I don’t have any big complaints about the book but there was one element in the story that I would’ve liked left out. I found the conclusion okay, though, so that was good as I find that a lot of horror stories don’t seem to know how to end.

Heart-Shaped Box did take a while to get going & at one point early on I wondered how Hill would fill a whole book with a basic “haunting”. I liked the direction the story later took, though, and I finished the second half of the book very quickly as I was eager to know what would happen. It’s just a shame that the second half of the book, which was more “exciting”, didn’t manage to also maintain the same sort of eeriness we had in the first part of the book.

I do think Hill stands on his own as a very good modern horror author but he will always be compared to his father and I’m sure he knows that & is used to it by now. I have to say that I’ve enjoyed his books so far but none have quite lived up to Stephen King’s books for me. I have yet to find the worlds created by Hill as fully immersive as those in his father’s books but I’d say that of most authors anyway so it’s unfortunate that he’ll always be compared to King. Compared to authors other than King, Hill is a new favorite of mine. One of these days, I’ll really love one of his books. I know it! I look forward to reading The Fireman to see if it’s the one. For now, I’m happy to just casually date his books. No being invited in “for coffee” yet!

My Rating: 3.5/5

Which Book Should I Read Next? (A Poll!)

Last Christmas (2014) I got a lot of books as gifts, which I worked my way through in 2015 (the only one of those that I haven’t read is A Game Of Thrones – I don’t have the energy to start that yet!). I did a Top Ten (okay, 14) of everything I read last year including reviews of each of those books HEREif you’re curious.

I have to say that I really lucked out last year – I absolutely loved several of the books that I read (especially Ready Player One and The Martian plus I read my first George R.R. Martin and Joe Hill books, which have me definitely wanting to read more by those authors). This last Christmas, though, I got no books. However, I got a load of vouchers! So what did I buy? Books! They’re in the above photo, including some I’ve had for years but still not read.

I mainly stick to reading Stephen King most of the time. And, okay, I admit it – I read way too much Dean Koontz. I’ve just always loved horror and the supernatural when it comes to books but for some reason have barely explored the genre I love above all others: sci-fi. I like fantasy as well but have read very little of it (I do adore The Hobbit & The Lord Of The Rings).

I think, with sci-fi, I’m scared of it. I don’t have a science-y mind. Those books are for smart people! The technical gobbledygook in Star Trek: The Next Generation confused me enough as it was (god I loved that show). Maybe it’s why I like sci-fi comedy when it comes to reading (The Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy is my favorite book ever). So I thought it was time I try some new authors. The first two books I picked up were a Neil Gaiman & a Terry Pratchett. Look at me! Expanding my horizons and shit!

I’m in the middle of reading Stephen King’s The Bazaar Of Bad Dreams at the moment but I thought it might be fun to do a poll asking everyone which book I should read next. It’ll give me an idea of what’s the most popular. I would also love it if people would like to recommend any other authors, especially in the sci-fi and fantasy genres. Or horror & supernatural… The one thing I never really like is “crime” novels, though – the Patricia Cornwell was given to me and I don’t know if I should read it or not. Any fans of hers here?

Enough of my blathering – here’s the poll. You can choose up to three. And feel free to discuss any in the comments – I love a good book chat. πŸ™‚

My Top Ten Books Read In 2015 (and mini-reviews!)

Happy New Year, everyone! Wow – I’ve read a record 14 books in 2015! (That’s a lot for me. Hey, I’m a movie blogger – not a book blogger). πŸ™‚

I’m really bad about getting around to doing book reviews so I’ve only reviewed a few of these (I’ve included links to the full reviews I have done). For the remainder, I figured I’d just do some very short mini-reviews right here right now. And, as my regulars know, my Top Ten lists rarely contain ten things so it seemed stupid to ignore four books when I’ve only read 14.

So here are My Top Ten (14…) Books Read In 2015, counting down to my favorite:

14. The Gospel According To Drew Barrymore by Pippa Wright

I believe this is what they call “chick lit”? Which isn’t very “me” but my hubby picked this up for me based on the title since he knows I’m a fan of Drew Barrymore. I thought that was very sweet & thoughful of him! πŸ™‚ Anyway, I really liked the concept. Through flashbacks, we watch the relationship develop between two (40ish?) best friends. They’re very different from one another but we see how they bonded over Drew Barrymore movies at various points in their lives (such as E.T. & Poison Ivy). Unfortunately, the book just isn’t very good. I didn’t like one of the women and the Drew Barrymore gimmick really did feel like nothing more than a gimmick – the references to her felt awkward & forced. It was a good idea but without that gimmick, you’re left with two characters I really didn’t give a crap about. My Rating: 2/5

13. Florence & Giles by John Harding

I grabbed this from the library as I’d been wanting to read it for a while based on The Times quote on the front cover: “Imagine The Turn Of The Screw reworked by Edgar Allan Poe”. It sounded like it would be all gothic & atmospheric but it was pretty disappointing. A young girl in the late 1800s must protect her younger brother from a sinister & otherworldly new governess after the mysterious death of the previous woman who cared for them. The girl (and narrator if I remember correctly??) isn’t allowed to read but teaches herself & reads loads of books in secret. It’s caused her to develop a strange sort of language of her own and having to read the book with all her odd words took some getting used to (and was slightly annoying). The girl also isn’t that easy to like and the book is extremely slow until finally picking up in the final half. It was a good story but not a very fun read. I actually think it could make for a great film if the right people were involved. My Rating: 2.5/5

12. The Shock Of The Fall by Nathan Filer

My favorite books to read are always horror, sci-fi or fantasy (which will be obvious when we get to the top of my list) but I do try to sometimes read bestsellers or ones that have awards slapped on their covers (like this one) which are probably bullshit half the time anyway. This is an example of a book that was pretty good and plenty of people probably liked it but, like the previous book, it just didn’t really work for me. Oh! I also judge books by their covers and this has a good one. And I was intrigued by the back cover (which I’ve grabbed here from Goodreads): “I’ll tell you what happened because it will be a good way to introduce my brother. His name’s Simon. I think you’re going to like him. I really do. But in a couple of pages he’ll be dead. And he was never the same after that.” See? Sounds interesting. This is a book where you’ll easily find out what it’s about if you read anything whatsoever about it but if you like knowing nothing other than what’s on the back cover, skip over this next part. SPOILER: This book is about mental illness (schizophrenia) and told from the viewpoint of the young adult (Matt) who is suffering from it. It’s a fairly unique book & I’d recommend it if it sounds to you like one you’d like. I have to say it’s actually a better book than my next two choices but, as always, I rank mainly by my level of enjoyment & I found myself not really wanting to pick this one up much so it took me quite a long time to finish. My Rating: 3/5

11. The Maze Runner by James Dashner

I admit to enjoying Young Adult books, especially as the current trend seems to be YA books that are dystopian and/or post-apocalyptic. I love dystopian and/or post-apocalyptic! I don’t normally do it this way around but I saw The Maze Runner movie first and I liked it so decided to read the books. Well, I’ve read the first two so far and will continue in order to see how they end but I’ve certainly read far better YA books. I also get the feeling that the story is going nowhere plus the author has a strange writing style that many people don’t seem to like. I’ve reviewed this & The Scorch Trials in full if you want to click on the links. My Rating: 2.5/5

10. The Scorch Trials by James Dashner

This & The Maze Runner are pretty interchangeable but I suppose I’ve put this higher as reading it was a bit more enjoyable since I didn’t see the movie first so didn’t know what would happen. Meh. Yeah. Again, not the greatest book… I just like the overall concept, which is why I’m continuing with the series. My Rating: 2.5/5

9. The Unlikely Pilgrimage Of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce

Not to be all snobby as I certainly don’t read many “worthy” classics or anything but this looked like one of those supermarket books you see old ladies reading on the bus. Well, I suppose it kind of is but, screw it, I AM an old lady on a bus! The basic story is simple: Retired Harold Fry decides to make a pilgrimage by foot across most of England to visit an old work colleague & friend named Queenie, who has written him to say that she is dying. It was a slow read to start but I was fairly hooked as Harold got closer & closer to reaching his destination. As you may expect, Harold goes on a “journey of self-discovery” during his long walk and this was the best thing about the book and was handled quite well. Something becomes obvious pretty early on but it made me want to keep reading to find out exactly what happened & how. My Rating: 3/5

8. The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

I’ve just finished this book and I can see why some people have told me that they really loved it. I wanted to like it a little more than I did. I’ll say that Zusak did a great job developing some rich characters that I very much cared about. Liesel, a young girl in WWII Germany, is the central character and I liked her strong will. Even better, though, were the characters Liesel loved most (her foster parents and best friend plus two other important characters I won’t mention to avoid any spoilers). Unfortunately, despite some great characters, I felt something that I can’t quite put my finger on was “missing” from this book. I think the problem was that it was narrated by Death (as in, The Grim Reaper). It’s a better “gimmick” than the Drew Barrymore thing above and I didn’t mind it at first but, in the end, I think it actually got in the way of what was a good enough story without any gimmicks. Also, the ending felt rather abrupt & rushed after this long journey that we’ve just gone on with all these characters (it’s a pretty thick book). It was a good book & I’m interested in seeing the movie now but I wish it was higher on this list. My Rating: 3.5/5

7. Tank Girl by Jamie Hewlett and Alan Martin

This is the second (of two!) graphic novels that I’ve read (the other being Watchmen). Wait – is this a graphic novel? It’s more of a collection of several comics… I think?? Is there a difference? This sort of thing is something I have NO knowledge in but I have to say that I did enjoy Tank Girl. She’s a cool character and I really appreciated the (inappropriate) humor (it took me a while to read it all as I had to keep putting it away someplace where my young daughter wouldn’t grab it). I mean, Tank Girl has sex with a kangaroo. Whaaaat? It’s pretty damn bizarre but it’s fun and I was entertained. I suppose I should watch the horrible-looking movie that doesn’t appear to resemble the comic much now? Or… Should I not?? My Rating: 3.5/5

6. NOS4A2 by Joe Hill

I read my first two Joe Hill books this year & I have to say that, so far, I may end up almost liking his work as much as his dad’s. This one seems to be a favorite but I enjoyed the other book more and found that I didn’t really care that much about the characters in this. But it’s a good & very original story. You can read my full review at the above link. My Rating: 4/5

5. Revival by Stephen King

Stephen King is and always will be my favorite author so I’m going to put a book of his fairly high on any list. I’ve not yet reviewed this one but I will try to do a full review soon as it’s a King book so I’ll keep this short. For now I’ll say that this isn’t one of his best (it probably ranks somewhere in the lower middle for me if I were to do a list of all the King books I’ve read). I find that I’m quite often a little  disappointed with how King’s books end and this one has the same problem of starting out great but then kind of fizzling out at the end. I’ll say that King once again draws a very detailed picture of small town American life which I can always relate to in his books and what makes me love his work so much. I was very much drawn into this small town where a young boy and tragic preacher reside. I just wish these two main characters had remained as interesting in the second half of the book as they grew older (the book spans many years). Well, I enjoyed it anyway – read it if you love King. I enjoyed it more than his son’s NOS4A2 but will admit that Hill’s book was probably a little better than this one. My Rating: 3.5/5

4. Horns by Joe Hill

I suppose Joe Hill’s NOS4A2 is a slightly better book than Revival and also Horns but I read this one first & actually enjoyed it the most of this father/son trio that I read this year. It’s weird, especially as it gets to the end, and not everyone would like it but it was quite refreshing to read something so totally unique & unpredictable. You can read my full double review of this and NOS4A2 at the above link. My Rating: 4/5

3. Tuf Voyaging by George R.R. Martin

This is the first and only George R.R. Martin book I’ve ever read and I loved it! I got the Game Of Thrones book last Christmas but haven’t yet had the energy to embark on that massive journey so when a woman I work with brought in a bunch of books that she was getting rid of, I was excited to see this standalone Martin book so I could see what his work was like. I can only compare this to the Game Of Thrones TV show but I’d have to say it’s quite different from that. This is sci-fi comedy! I’ve read very few books in this genre but one happens to be my all-time favorite book (The Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy) so this one was perfect for me and I enjoyed it immensely. I suppose I also owe this one a full-length review at some point… I’ll just say that, although Martin’s books are clearly popular, I had no idea of what a great writer this guy really is and it has me definitely wanting to read more of his stuff. I’ll also admit this: I’m a casual reader & clearly like light & easy entertainment. My vocabulary is limited (as evidenced by my so-called “reviews” πŸ˜‰ ) and I’ve never had to look up so many words for their definitions while reading a book as I did while reading this. (Not tons, maybe six or seven words). But that’s awesome – I don’t have to do that with my YA books! This guy truly has a great way with words and his characters (especially Tuf) felt so alive. And it was actually funny! After watching Game Of Thrones, full of so much tragic death, I wasn’t sure what to expect of a sci-fi comedy from the same author. Plus the story itself had me hooked. Loved it. Can anyone recommend any of his other work? My Rating: 4.5/5

2. The Martian by Andy Weir

I can’t believe I never had a chance to watch this film considering how much I loved the book! Oh well – I’ll catch it at some point. I did at least review this book in full so I can keep this short. I guess I really do love my sci-fi comedies (although this is more sci-fi than comedy but I loved the central character’s amazing sense of humor). I find very few books to be perfect (I’m almost always disappointed with the endings) but I really can’t fault this one in any way other than it ending too abruptly. But I suppose that’s because I was enjoying it so much. The Martian is easily now an all-time favorite of mine and I highly recommend it. My Rating: 5/5

1. Ready Player One by Ernest Cline

I’m so disappointed in myself for not getting around to reviewing this yet even though it’s the very first book I read after receiving it for Christmas last year. Thanks to anyone who has actually read this (really long & rambling) post! I’m sorry to do this to you now at my number one but I’m not going to say much about this one. Yet. It deserves a full-length review from me as it’s my favorite book in a very long time & nothing could be more “ME“! This was written for Eighties-loving geeks like me by an Eighties-loving geek and I absolutely adored it. I had so much fun reading this one. I hope the movie does it justice! My Rating: 5/5

Horns (2013) Review

Horns (2013)

Directed by Alexandre Aja

Based on Horns by Joe Hill

Starring: Daniel Radcliffe, Max Minghella, Joe Anderson, Juno Temple, Kelli Garner, James Remar, Kathleen Quinlan, Heather Graham, David Morse, Sabrina Carpenter

Plot Synopsis: (via Wikipedia)
Horns is an American dark fantasy horror-comedy film directed by Alexandre Aja, loosely based on Joe Hill’s novel of the same name. Daniel Radcliffe stars as a man who is accused of raping and murdering his girlfriend (Juno Temple) and uses his newly discovered paranormal abilities to uncover the real killer.

My Opinion:

Okay, so I watched this movie after reading the book because I of course wanted to see how they’d adapt such a weird story (you can read my review of the book HERE). I know that movies are rarely as good as the books but they did a pretty poor job with this adaptation. It started out pretty good, too, so it was disappointing that it fell apart.

Yes, we have Harry Potter playing Ig, a guy who grows Devil horns. And has sex! NO! Do NOT have sex, Daniel Radcliffe! That’s just really disturbing – you’re a little kid. And Juno Temple… is it just me or is that girl annoying? I suppose she wasn’t too bad in this, though, as she was kind of how I pictured Merrin. She’s famous because her dad (Julien Temple) is famous. Can we just talk about his music documentary/music video work instead? That’s far more interesting than Horns. My husband told me he likes it more when I go off on a tangent, like when I “reviewed” Primer and ended up talking about Weebles. Really?? Surely people find that annoying! Just Google Julien Temple if you don’t know him – besides things like his Sex Pistols documentaries, he directed far more music videos than I realized (videos for Judas Priest, The Rolling Stones, Neil Young, Depeche Mode, etc etc, and that David Bowie movie Absolute Beginners). Oh, and check out my chat with Hard Ticket To Home Video’s Brian of Billy Idol’s White Wedding video HERE (which wasn’t directed by Temple – I’m just whoring my Music Video Friday posts that only I & two other bloggers like). πŸ˜‰

Right! Horns. I think the movie captured the love story between Ig & Merrin pretty well, which was good as that’s what I liked the most about the book. But it did a terrible job with all the other characters. As always, I won’t spoil the story but the two other biggest characters are probably Ig’s brother Terry & Ig’s friend Lee (who couldn’t look more different from how he’s described in the book). Their stories were changed quite a bit and they got no character development at all in the movie. I hated the changes as they didn’t really seem like the type that were necessary to save on time or whatever (I let some changes slide as I know it’s hard to squeeze a long book into a short movie). For those seeing the movie only, I think you’ve totally missed out on most of the characters’ motivations for doing the things they did.

And Heather Graham couldn’t have felt more out of place! They changed & made her role far bigger than it was in the book and I’m afraid to say that she came across as quite desperate in this & her acting was just embarrassing. It makes me sad to say that – I kind of like Heather Graham. I’m assuming she was told to act in that way, though, as Wikipedia oddly describes Horns as a horror comedy, which I don’t think is at all accurate. There are a couple small dark comedy moments but don’t watch it expecting a dark comedy – it’s a supernatural murder mystery horror. It’s a very unique & original story so I suppose that’s just Hollywood trying to give it a simple classification.

Despite my complaints, I did like this movie okay. I’m going to be picky as I liked the book but, trying to look at it as someone who hasn’t read the book would, I think it’s a decent enough film. It does try a little too hard to be “cool” but I think that’s pretty common for movies aimed at twentysomethings. Yes, like Joe Hill’s books are very much aimed at a younger generation than those older fans of his dad’s (Stephen King) work, this movie very obviously knows its specific target audience. Which is fine – I’m sure a lot of now-adults who grew up with Harry Potter love this movie. I think Daniel Radcliffe will have been chosen for this very reason & he’s much better than I was expecting – I ended up having no issues with him playing Ig (I read on IMDB that Shia LaBeouf was originally going to play Ig. Yuck – can you imagine?! That would’ve been a huge mistake!). Also, the movie’s soundtrack is pretty good. It was out of place half the time & far too obvious sometimes (such as using Personal Jesus) but I’m not going to complain at a soundtrack including David Bowie even though the song Heroes worked much better in The Perks Of Being A Wallflower (plus David Bowie is currently the “artist you must include in your soundtrack to make your movie seem cool“).

Summary:

Horns is a decent enough horror movie if you’re looking for a different sort of story that you’ve not seen in a thousand other films (that’s usually my biggest complaint with horror movies such as Mama). Don’t get the wrong idea when I say it’s aimed at twentysomethings who grew up with Harry Potter – it’s a dark film & very much a “horror”. I was surprised when looking up the director’s other work (The Hills Have Eyes remake, Mirrors, Piranha 3D(!), and the ultra-violent Switchblade Romance which has been on my list to watch for the blog every October but I still haven’t because I’m a wuss). Well, Horns is less extreme than any of those. I far preferred the book, of course, but at least they got the central love story right in the movie even if they made a mess of everything else. I’d actually recommend only watching the movie with this one if you’re not much of a book person – you’ll enjoy the movie more that way. If you are a book person, definitely read the book first.

My Rating: 6.5/10

Here’s a Julien Temple video! This song is stuck in my head now. Judas Priest – Breaking The Law:

NOS4A2 & Horns by Joe Hill (Book Reviews)

I finally read my first two Joe Hill books this year. His father, Stephen King, has been my favorite author for years and I can be a little stuck in my ways so I wasn’t overly excited at checking his stuff out as I already had a favorite horror author & didn’t need another one. I figured there was no way he could top his dad’s stuff anyway.

It must suck being compared to your famous parents all the time but it’s impossible to ignore the fact that Stephen King is his father, especially when he’s gone into the exact same field as his dad with these two books. Well, neither of these books topped his dad’s work for me but they were still really good. Okay, I’ll admit that they top some of his dad’s not-so-good books but they’re not as good as King’s very best. Those here who have read & recommended these two books to me may be surprised at which one I liked more, though, and I’ll try to explain why. Let’s talk about them! πŸ™‚

NOS4A2 by Joe Hill (aka U.K. title NOS4R2)

What It’s About: (from the back cover)
Young Victoria McQueen has a gift for finding things. All she has to do is ride her bike through the Shorter Way Bridge and she’ll come out wherever she needs to be… it’s an ability she keeps secret because no one would understand it. Until she discovers she’s not the only one with a special gift.

Charlie Manx takes children for rides in his 1938 Rolls-Royce Wraith with its NOS4R2 vanity plate, driving them away from their families, their homes, even their own humanity. When they reach their destination they’ve changed, utterly. They’ve become Charlie’s children: as unstoppable and insane as Manx himself.

Only one kid ever escaped Charlie Manx: Vic McQueen. But the end of that nightmare was just the beginning of their life-and-death battle of wills… a battle that explodes a quarter century later. Because now Manx has taken Vic’s son. And Vic McQueen is going to get him back. Or die trying.

My Thoughts:

**I first want to say it’s weird that this book is called NOS4R2 in the U.K. but I’ll use A2 for the review. I just wanted to share this story: I got this book from my husband & my daughter was curious about it. Obviously, it’s a nasty horror book not for kids so he told her it was about “C-3PO & R2-D2 on a quest to find a nose for R2, everyone’s favorite little droid“. Too cute.** πŸ™‚

This book is definitely the better of these two, which I’m sure most everyone would agree with. I never read any book reviews online other than from a few bloggers I follow but I’m pretty sure I remember them saying this one was better… Although it contains one of the two topics I normally avoid in books & movies, children being harmed (rape being the other thing, which is in Horns), I did enjoy the book and found it to be an interesting & original story. I mean, it’s supernatural – I can handle “horror” and murder & all that stuff in the supernatural realm but I’m not the type you’ll ever find reading a “true crime” type of story. I don’t know – I can’t explain it. Maybe I’m weird. Or I suppose I can only handle evil when it’s not something that could happen in real life. But I do love the supernatural and this book has plenty of that. My favorite bits involved the main character, Vic McQueen, riding her bike through a covered bridge that only she can see in order to find things that people have lost.

The bridge and Vic as a child are in the first half of the book, which I found to be much stronger than the second half. I suppose it depends on what you prefer but I thought Hill did a better job setting things up in the first half of the book. Vic was a sympathetic child with a difficult life and it reminded me of the way in which Stephen King develops such rich characters and an overall setting that’s so real that it feels like you’re going to set down his book & then open your front door to find you’re in Castle Rock. I could so easily picture Vic’s “Shorter Way Bridge” and thought this book was on its way to being pretty damn fantastic at first. Unfortunately, as I often find with a lot of King’s work as well, it loses its way a bit halfway through as the action picks up and we see much more of the character of Charlie Manx. Like I say, though, it depends on what you want from a book and I’m sure many people prefer the second half – I just found myself losing interest in Manx’s story and found the book a little longer than was necessary.

I know I keep bringing up Stephen King in this review but that’s because NOS4A2 feels so much like a King book. Indeed, if you love King like I do, this is the Joe Hill book I’d recommend to you of these two. I think my main complaint is that it’s too similar to his dad’s work. We already have a Stephen King and he’s great so I don’t really want another one of him. I think that’s a big part of the reason why, although NOS4A2 is more well-written and has, I suppose, the more “accessible” storyline (as far as strange & supernatural stories go), I enjoyed Horns more. Horns is utterly bizarre and I can see why it would maybe be the less popular of these two but I felt like I was reading a book by a whole new author I’d never read before. I liked that!

NOS4A2 is a good book, though, so don’t let my somewhat negative-sounding review keep you from reading it if you think you’d like it. I just happened to read a King book (Revival) as well as this & Horns all within a few months of each other so I’m going to be comparing them all in my mind. I’ll be honest, though, and admit that this was better than Revival was overall, although I preferred a storyline that didn’t involve a child “murderer” (of sorts…). I can see why this is the Joe Hill book I’ve seen recommended the most.

My Rating: 4/5

Horns by Joe Hill

What It’s About: (from the back cover)
Once, Ig lived the life of the blessed: born into privilege, he had security and wealth and a place in his community. Ig had it all, and more – he had the love of Merrin Williams, a love founded on shared daydreams, mutual daring, and unlikely midsummer magic.

Then beautiful, vivacious Merrin was gone – raped and murdered, under inexplicable circumstances – and Ig was the only suspect. He was never tried for the crime, but in the court of public opinion, he was and always would be guilty.

But now Ig can hear people’s deepest, darkest secrets and means to use this ability to find whoever killed Merrin.

It’s time for a little revenge. It’s time the devil had his due.

My Thoughts:

I won’t talk about Stephen King in this review. Promise! Because this book doesn’t feel like a Stephen King book. Horns is, well, pretty damn bonkers. It’s a bit all over the place as well & seems to lack focus. Plus it gets pretty seriously “What the fuuuuuuck?” at the end.

Geez, I’m making it sound so good! Well, it’s not one that everyone will like but I enjoyed it quite a bit despite its obvious flaws. And there’s no being evil to children in this one! There’s a rape, however. I think Hill handles that bit alright (it’s not gratuitous from what I remember) but he makes the character of murdered Merrin far too “perfect” and the “ideal girlfriend”, which didn’t feel real. I didn’t exactly find any of the characters very well developed in this one beyond Ig and maybe his brother somewhat. I think I just really liked the story and the fact that I’ve never really read another one quite like it. I also have to say that I really liked the love story. That’s pretty typical of me – screw shit like The Notebook & give me a fucked-up love story instead!

I think I’ll keep this one short as I’ll probably be discussing it a little more when I review the movie next week. I can tell you now that the film adaptation started out so good then ended up so bad. What a disappointment! I suppose it was a difficult one to adapt, especially near the end when it gets so weird but they changed too much with certain characters.

As for the book, the characters are a little too one-dimensional but, hey, when you’re dealing with a guy sprouting Satanic horns out of his head, the purely good vs purely evil thing works out okay. I gotta say that Hill & his father must have a pretty low opinion of humanity – when Ig sprouts his horns & starts hearing people’s deepest & darkest thoughts, it seems that everyone is a complete asshole deep down if not a complete psycho. Normally this would annoy me (it’s why I actually hated King’s Under The Dome – those people were awful) but it somehow works in Horns. The main focus anyway is the love story between Ig and Merrin and then Ig’s desire to find her killer. It’s sort of a “revenge” story and I often like those. Especially a revenge love story.

Yeah… I’ve only just now realized why I liked this – it reminded me of The Crow (the movie), which I adore. I want a supernatural devil-man or a dead crow-man to avenge my death! That’s totally romantic. (The Crow is much better, though).

Oh shit – I mentioned Stephen King in this review after I promised I that wouldn’t. Oops.

My Rating: 4/5


(It was also a little too weird having Harry Potter playing Ig)

Hey, everyone – it’s October tomorrow so I’ll be starting my October Horrorfest! I figure I can’t skip out on reviewing any big new non-horror releases for a whole month but, besides a couple of things like The Martian, it’ll be ALL HORROR, baby! And it’ll be truly horrific as I’ve unfortunately ended up watching a load of shit in preparation, which wasn’t my intention.

I’m going to stick with my little routine and have Tuesdays be my own IMDB Top 250 reviews (horror movies only) and Thursdays be Top Ten Lists (all horror-related of course). But I’ll be skipping Music Video Friday as there isn’t much I could do beyond Michael Jackson’s Thriller but, hey, my music video posts get no love anyway. Well, I love ’em! πŸ˜‰ So, see you all tomorrow for my first Horror Top Ten of the month. πŸ™‚