Why so glum, chum? 5(ish) books to turn that frown upside down

We all have bad days. It starts raining on the way to work on the one day you’ve left your umbrella at home. The soup you made for lunch makes a break for it, leaking out of your bag, coating all your things with a mustard coloured tint and a lovely lentil aroma for days. An orange, sour-faced, racist, misogynistic, homophobic reality TV star is elected the next President of America. You know, little things like that, which tend to build up over the course the day until all you want to do is curl up in bed with a multipack of Maltesers and a cup of tea and hope that the sun will come out tomorrow (literally and metaphorically.) It is for these categorically awful days that I have compiled the below list of books, which always cheer me up without fail, and remind me that the world can be a beautiful, funny and wonderful place. And even when it’s not, you can escape into a book for a few hours and pretend that everything’s OK (the literary version of sticking your fingers in your ears and singing loudly and incoherently.) Wilful ignorance my friends! It’s the only way forward. I’ve even split the list up into various genres, in case you’re like me and enjoy a bit of variety with your escapism. Enjoy!

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TIE-IN TUESDAY: Night of the Living Rerun by Arthur Byron Cover

Remember back in the first Tie-In Tuesday post I compared the tie in novel to fanfiction? Well, this week we reach the dark side of that parallel, because this particular tie-in novel is like bad fanfiction, hampered by the same problems that drag down so many of its less dignified sister-form. It’s hard to know where to start with the negatives here, from the confusing plot, nonsensical pacing or almost complete lack of continuity with the Buffy television series and its characters.

Night of the Living Rerun is the third novel from the expanded Buffyverse; its plot revolves around the Master’s attempt to rise from beneath Sunnydale through repeating the ascension of a demon called the Despised One in witchhunt-era Salem. Cue reincarnation and visions ahoy for almost everyone.

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REVIEW: Chasing the Stars by Malorie Blackman

BEWARE – SPOILERS AHEAD

The day you buy your first teen fiction book is a BIG DEAL and I remember mine perfectly. Standing in Waterstones, eleven years old with pocket money in hand and my mum behind me inspecting what I was going to pick. My choice? Noughts and Crosses by Malorie Blackman. I then continued to read the subsequent three books in the series and loved them all. Much like Noughts and Crosses, Chasing the Stars is a dual narrative between Vee (Olivia) and Nathan. Two people who are from very different backgrounds. Noughts and Crosses is well known for its discussion on race which adds massively to the depth of the story, and Blackman does the same in Chasing the Stars however this time the big issue is class. In an interview with The Guardian Blackman said ‘I set it in 2164 … I thought about whether there would still be the same preoccupations with race. I would hope not. But I think there will definitely still be a class problem’, hence Blackman’s move towards class. Supposedly based on Shakespeare’s Othello, the story brings a modern day take on class, revenge, desire and manipulation.

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BOOK CLUB: The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson

For this month’s book club we decided to get into the Halloween spirit by reading Shirley Jackson’s The Haunting of Hill House. Regarded as one of the best 20th century ghost stories this story follows a group of paranormal investigators as they spend the summer in a supposedly haunted house with a dark past and begin to experience some seriously strange goings on.

As with last month’s book club we ended up with some wildly different opinions.

SPOILER WARNING: The following post contains major spoilers for the plot of The Haunting of Hill House.

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TIE-IN TUESDAY: Coyote Moon by John Vornholt

Welcome back to Tie-In Tuesday, where every other week I take a peek into the weird and wonderful world of TV tie-in novels. This time I’m looking at the second novel in the expanded Buffyverse, Coyote Moon by John Vornholt. Coyote Moon was published on 1st January 1998 while Buffy the Vampire Slayer‘s second season was airing on the WB, but is, like its predecessor Halloween Rain, set during its first. The plot revolves around a group of supernatural coyotes that come to Sunnydale alongside a travelling carnival staffed by unusually good-looking workers and their connection to an old mausoleum containing the remains of a former Wild West star…

SPOILER WARNING: The following review contains minor spoilers for the plot of Coyote Moon.

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SPOOKY SUNDAY: Something Wicked This Way Comes by Ray Bradbury

For today, on the eve of Halloween I feel I’ve saved the best til last. I first bought Something Wicked This Way Comes last year with the intention to read it for that Halloween, however I found myself taking too long reading my previous book and ended up saving it for this year instead. So I had a year’s worth of anticipation built for this book and I’m glad to say it lived up to my expectations.

Something Wicked This Way Comes features one of the most famous examples of the creepy carnival as it rides in to town the week before Halloween and two boys, Jim and Will, try to protect the town and ultimately themselves from its malign influence.

SPOILER WARNING: The following review contains minor spoilers for the plot of Something Wicked This Way Comes. 

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SPOOKY SUNDAY: Fangland by John Marks

For this, the penultimate Spooky Sunday, I read Fangland by John Marks which earns the not entirely complimentary honour of being the weirdest book I’ve read this year by far. Fangland is a sort of modern retelling of Dracula which follows Evangeline Harker, an associate producer on America’s biggest news programme as she goes to set up an interview with a mysterious man rumoured to be the head of crime in Eastern Europe and disappears in Transylvania. The book then splits between Evangeline’s experiences and those of her colleagues back in America as strange things begin to happen in their offices.

SPOILER WARNING: The below review contains moderate spoilers for the plot of Fangland.

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Review: Closed Casket by Sophie Hannah

The Belgian is back!

Hercule Poirot is one of the most memorable literary detectives of all time. Poet Sophie Hannah has taken on the character in her new Agatha Christie style Poirot series. Her new Poirot story, Closed Casket, sees the Belgian detective solve a bizarre and brutal murder in the house of children’s author Athelinda Playford. Taking on such an iconic character is never going to be easy.

And I’m not about to make it any easier. See what a die-hard Christie fan has to say about this Poirot revival.

Major spoilers under the cut!

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PLAY REVIEW: 1984

A few weeks ago I had the pleasure of seeing the play 1984 which is currently on at the West End, and I thought I’d write a (not-so) lil’ review about it. What is more apt for a spooky scary October post than an adaptation of a world famous novel that looks deep into the heart of human autonomy and oppressive governments who can control your inner most thoughts, fears and desires? Let’s get cracking!

SPOILER WARNING: There are some minor spoilers for the plot of 1984 in the below as well as a major section at the end. Continue reading

TIE-IN TUESDAY: Halloween Rain by Christopher Golden and Nancy Holder

I have a confession to make: one of my absolute favourite genres is the tie-in novel. Essentially published fanfiction, I love these books because they tend to be quick, easy reads that allow me to spend time with characters I already love in the fictional universes I enjoy. While tie-in novels have to abide by the rules of canon, they are then free to go wherever they want without having to worry too much about the long term consequences of the plot. This leads to the exploration of supporting characters who rarely draw sole focus on-screen, a deeper look at character’s backstories, and, in some instances, the creation of straight-up alternative universes. Moreover, as the reader’s imagination tends to have less constraints of budget and technology the villains and set-pieces are often far more ambitious than anything that could be attempted in the source material. To celebrate the awesomeness of this oft-ignored genre I’m devoting at least one Tuesday a month to the review of a tie-in novel, starting with Halloween Rain, the first book in the expanded Buffyverse.

I remember reading Buffyverse novels on loan from the library over ten years ago, back when I was super-obsessed with the show. (I mean it – I had Buffy duvet covers.*) I recently started a re-watch of the series that will hopefully take me from beginning to end, something I’ve never quite managed before. As I’m a major completionist, I’ve decided to read the novels in publication order along with the show. Sadly, the local library no longer has a shelf dedicated to the exploits of Buffy and her pals, but most of the Buffy oeuvre is available cheap and secondhand from Amazon. Halloween Rain is handily collected in the second of a series of omnibus editions published in 2011, the covers of which feature more blood spatter than possibly the entire seven seasons of Buffy proper.

SPOILER WARNING: The following article contains some minor spoilers for the plot of Halloween Rain.

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