The Stupidest Angel – A Heart-Warming Tale of Christmas Terror (Book Review)

The first, of two, book reviews of this week is currently one of my favourite Christmas holiday themed novels to read at this time of the year, The Stupidest Angel by Christopher Moore.

Arriving home late one night, convinced he’s now on the naughty list just a few days before Christmas, little Josh Barker witnesses Santa being murdered with a shovel. Christmas in Pine Cove is well and truly ruined, so Josh decides to do the only sensible thing he can do, pray for a Christmas miracle.

Unfortunately the only person around to hear Josh’s plea is the inept Archangel Raziel, who’s been tasked with the mission of this year’s Christmas miracle by losing at cards to the Archangel Michael. He has one job, bring Santa back to life for little Josh Barker, what can possibly go wrong? Rather a lot as it turns out.

Meanwhile, in walks down on his luck DEA pilot Tucker Case who surreptitiously sweeps Lena Marquez off her feet by lending a hand with her unfortunate problem, but his pet fruit bat, Roberto lands him in hot water with the authorities.

The authorities being local cop and supposedly ex-stoner Theophilus Crowe, investigating the sudden disappearance of Dale Pearson, Lena Marquez’s ex-husband, last seen dressed as Santa for the annual Caribou Christmas Party. His quiet chat with Tucker ends in stalemate.

When the residents of Pine Cove meet in the Chapel for the Lonesome Christmas party on Christmas Eve chaos rears its ugly head in a hunger for juicy brains.

 

Favourite Quotes:

“That Volvo was chasing a pine tree.” – Tucker Case. (p41)

 

Theo: “How do you know the ceiling is thirty feet tall?”

Molly: “From our wedding pictures. I cut you out and used you to measure the whole building. It was just under five Theos tall.”

(p48)

 

“If you think anyone is sane you just don’t know enough about them.” – Tucker Case. (p117)

 

The Stupidest Angel is a cracking Christmas tale, at 5 out of 5 stars, surrounding a useless angel who grants a young boy his holiday wish, unleashing pandemonium on an unsuspecting coastal California town.

Christopher Moore’s sense of humour mimics my own sarcastic and somewhat sadistic tones, which may explain why I love him as a writer and why his books never disappoint. The Stupidest Angel is one of many novels that take place in the town of Pine Cove and include numerous characters that have appeared in previous tales, however he never leaves you feeling like you’re missing something important if you haven’t read the previous books, meaning it can be fully enjoyed on its own as a dark Christmas horror imbued with laugh out loud comedy and “holiday quaintage”.

However I am a little confused about the lasagne made with noodles for the Lonesome Christmas festivities? Are lasagne noodles an American thing?

Anyhoo, please head the author’s warning before choosing whether or not to purchase The Stupidest Angel as it sums the story up quite nicely:

“If you’re buying this book as a gift for your grandma or a kid, you should be aware that it contains cusswords as well as tasteful depictions of cannibalism and people in their forties having sex. Don’t blame me. I told you.” – Christopher Moore.

You can pick up a copy of The Stupidest Angel from Amazon.co.uk here.

 

The Woman In Black by Susan Hill (Book Review)

The second festive book review for this week is creepy horror The Woman In Black by Susan Hill.

Arthur Kipps is a London lawyer recounting a true ghost tale from his past.

On a foggy London day in November Arthur is tasked by his boss Mr. Bentley to attend the funeral of Mrs Alice Drablow of Eel Marsh House to ensure that her estate and documentation are all in order.

During the church service and burial in rural Crythin Grifford, Arthur witnesses a gaunt young lady in black paying respects to the deceased, but his companion Mr Jerome acts a little strange when Arthur mentions her presence.

On Arthur’s first visit to Eel Marsh House, home of the late Mrs Drablow, isolated from the mainland by a low causeway, he once again witnesses the odd lady in black, perched amongst the headstones amid the ruins of the old chapel at the rear of the premises. The malevolent expression he witnesses upon her face begins to scare him, penetrating deep into his bones.

As the spooky events at Eel Marsh House continue, Arthur decides that one day in Crythin Grifford is more than enough and vows to return home to London leaving Mrs Drablow’s estate in the hands of someone else, however the bright sunshine chases away his troubles and despite the unease emanating from the town’s residents he soon changes his mind.

Determined to see the task through Mr Kipps returns to Eel Marsh House, accompanied by Samuel Daily’s dog, Spider and once again the spooky events return as the ghost haunts the isolated house and its surrounding town.

Rescued by Samuel Daily, Arthur believes his terrible ordeal to be over as he embarks on a brand new period of his life with wife Stella, alas it is not.

 

At 3 out of 5 stars The Woman In Black is a creepy winter’s tale and traditional gothic ghost story that strikes hard at our deepest fears, chief amongst them, isolation. It is the pent-up anger and rage that drives a malevolent spirit to exact revenge upon the innocent.

A short novel that can be read within the space of an afternoon or evening and while creepy in a number of places it doesn’t quite pack enough punch to be truly scary. Get your copy of The Woman In Black from Amazon here.

 

However the film, released in 2012 and directed by James Watkins (who’s  film debut was the fantastic horror Eden Lake),  starring Daniel Radcliffe of Harry Potter fame is a much more terrifying depiction at 4 out of 5 stars, although a bit different to the book. You can pick up a copy of the movie from Amazon here.

The Wolves of Midwinter by Anne Rice (Book Review)

As mentioned in my review of Anne Rice’s previous ‘Wolf Gift’ novel, I chanced upon this werewolf series while researching festive themed novels for the Christmas season. Despite my dislike of its predecessor, and mostly because this is the book which I initially intended to read in the first place, I persevered with the series and read ‘The Wolves of Midwinter’, which is Anne Rice’s gothic Christmas novel and follow-up to ‘The Wolf Gift’.

The story continues on directly from The Wolf Gift, and follows Reuben Golding and the pack of ‘Morphenkinder’ that has taken up residence inside the large, antiquated, coastal house known as Nideck Point.

With Yule, or Christmas to you and me, fast approaching, the Morphenkinder are preparing all kinds of fabulous and entertaining events to celebrate the ancient Pagan festival of Midwinter.

 

Having found The Wolf Gift to be a rather dull, drab and monotonous novel, with very little plot of real significance, it was with a lot of reluctance that I decided to give the sequel a chance to impress.

As it happens I was right to be pessimistic of The Wolves of Midwinter. Its numerous characters are still lifeless and flat, the tone still dull and monotonous in nature, and with even less substance to back up the narrative.

The entire novel is really a detailed description of old winter festivals, and a play-by-play account of all the intricate preparations that are made to create the extravagant parties and celebrations that mark the period of Midwinter, a special time in the lives of the werewolves.

The Wolves of Midwinter is a very long-winded novel, which could have been thinned down by the removal of numerous repetitive dialogue and descriptions which only served to bring down the overall tone of the book. Instead it stretches out in an almost meaningless narrative, far beyond the realms of necessity. As a result I would rate The Wolves of Midwinter at 1 out of 5 stars.

 

However, if you just love werewolf stories and/or are a big fan of Anne Rice’s work, then you can pick up a copy from Amazon here.

 

See also:

The Wolf Gift Chronicles: Book 1 – The Wolf Gift

 

A Winter’s Tale: The Breathing Method (Book Review)

The second of this week’s festive reviews is quite fitting for this cold, wintry, snowy Thursday evening here in Scotland, it is The Breathing Method by Stephen King.

The Breathing Method is the final novella in Stephen King’s short story collection ‘Different Seasons’. It takes place at a ‘Gentleman’s Club’ on a snowy Thursday night just before Christmas in New York City. A man named Emlyn McCarron recounts a tale called ‘The Breathing Method’ in front of six of his fellow club members. It is a tale of birth, a brutal but wonderful accomplishment.

In 1935 a young unmarried woman finds herself ‘in a scrape’ but endeavours to go through with the situation with as much poise and composure as possible.  Dr. McCarron provides the young lady with a pamphlet on useful information related to ensuring a healthy delivery, which includes the breathing method, nowadays known as the Lamaze Method.

‘The breathing method was supposed to help the mother focus her attention on the job at hand and to cope with the pain by utilising the body’s own resources.’ – Dr. McCarron. (pg 528)

The young lady in the tale was the type of woman for which the breathing method was invented for, alone and independent, and Dr. McCarron recommended it to her as a means of easing her delivery.

After one particular appointment Dr. McCarron experienced what can only be described as a sort of spooky sensation or precognitive knowledge that chilled him through to his bones. The breathing method was a contributing cause to the accident that was to come and the main reason for what happened next.

 

The Breathing Method is a chilling tale of what the body can really achieve when the mind is persistent enough to endure whatever is necessary to reach the end result. In this case a healthy child being born, despite the unlikely circumstances.

Stephen King’s Different Seasons collection also bears host to another three novellas which have all been converted to the big screen with varying degrees of success: The Shawshank Redemption, a prison break story, starring Tim Robbins and Morgan Freeman. Apt Pupil, the Nazi Thriller starring Ian McKellen, and finally the coming of age tale The Body, which went on to become one of my favourite movies of all time, Stand by me featuring child star River Phoenix. I believe an adaptation of The Breathing Method may also be in development however I’m not holding my breath.

Despite being one of my least favourite novellas in this collection even though it has a rating of 4 out of 5 stars, The Breathing Method is a disturbingly festive story which truthfully depicts the difficulties encountered by unmarried pregnant women in those less accepted times.

You can get a copy of Different Seasons from Amazon here.

 

See also:

The Body – Stephen King

The Wolf Gift by Anne Rice (Book Review)

I’ve been a little busy lately studying a couple of online training courses for business, so unfortunately it has been a while since I last posted a book review. However, since we are approaching Christmas, I am going to try and post a couple of festive themed reviews each week.

The first of these is The Wolf Gift by Anne Rice, part one of her Wolf Gift Chronicles Series. Technically, this isn’t really a Christmas themed story, but the sequel The Wolves of Midwinter is, and it seemed a little silly to read the second novel without knowing what happened beforehand.

 

Reuben, a 23 year old reporter for the San Francisco Observer is researching an article on the old Nideck house, which the owner’s niece Marchent is putting up for sale. The woman’s uncle, Felix Nideck, mysteriously vanished twenty years before after leaving for an archaeological dig in the middle-east, but now the authorities have finally submitted to having the man’s estate dissolved. During his visit Reuben falls in love with the large, antiquated, coastal house and decides to buy the property himself.

During the night Marchent’s drug addicted brothers break into the property and attack them. Marchent quickly succumbs to the many stab wounds that her brothers have inflicted upon her, but Reuben survives long enough to be rescued and taken to hospital. As he recovers from his wounds Reuben begins to notice his body subtly changing.

After being bitten by the wolf that saved his life at Nideck Point, Reuben is a changed man, struggling to find answers to the numerous questions surrounding his transformation.

 

I chanced upon The Wolf Gift while researching festive themed novels for the Christmas season. The follow up ‘The Wolves of Midwinter’ is Anne Rice’s gothic Christmas novel and as the story continues on from its predecessor, I thought it imperative to read The Wolf Gift and familiarise myself with its back story.

Unfortunately it’s just another werewolf novel with very little plot. I thought it had a nice beginning, if a bit slow in places, but as I progressed on through the story I gradually found my attention sliding. The Wolf Gift took a long time for me to read, about 12 days in fact, which is a strong indicator of its monotonous nature and long-winded story. If I’m being honest I was tempted to give up reading it before I’d even made it halfway, but persisted on out of morbid curiosity.

In truth I am really disappointed in The Wolf Gift as I felt that it had a really good premise, the internal struggle between morality and animal instinct, and the human desire to understand where the ‘gift’ came from and for what purpose. However I feel that the dull overall tone and lifeless characters let it down, I had no empathy for Reuben’s struggles. As a result I can only rate The Wolf Gift at 1 out of 5 stars. However for fans of Anne Rice, you can pick up a copy of The Wolf Gift from Amazon here.

I hope The Wolves of Midwinter will offer a more entertaining read, however I’m not very optimistic in my expectations. That review should be posted next week.

 

See Also:

The Wolf Gift Chronicles: Book 2 – The Wolves of Midwinter

SLITHERS by W.W. Mortensen – Book Review

SLITHERS is the second horror suspense novel from Australian author W. W. Mortensen. It is considerably shorter than his debut, EIGHT, however the guy sure knows how to tell a good story. It is fast-paced and engaging, keeping the reader turning page after page in an effort to find out where the plot is heading.

 

Tobe West and a few of his friends are driving along a dark, almost deserted rural road, on their way to a party hosted by Tobe’s cousin, Teesh. However, upon encountering a couple of hitchhikers the group make the decision to stop and offer their assistance. A short time later the group are involved in an unexpected accident which strands them in the middle of nowhere. As the situation goes from uncomfortable, to strange, eerie and finally grossly disturbing, the group must face the disturbing situation head on, if they want to make it home alive.

 

I loved all of the horror, supernatural and science fiction elements of SLITHERS, and was pleasantly surprised that the story wasn’t quite what I has expected, but hooked me nonetheless. I don’t really feel comfortable going into detail about this novel, as I want to avoid spoilers, but put simply it is a story that you are best just reading for yourself, blind without knowing what to expect.

However, it draws some similarities from one of my favourite Stephen King horror novellas, The Langoliers. Those familiar with that story, will probably enjoy SLITHERS, while for those new to either one, I couldn’t recommend them both enough.

I give SLITHERS the full 5 out of 5 stars for its unique and engrossing story, unexpected twist, and my inability to put the book down until I was finished reading the entire thing. Mortensen knows how to reel the reader in, and keep his novels interesting, without filling them with irritating fluff. He gets to the point quickly and directly, and I cannot wait to find out what new adventures his future novels have in store for us.

Head over to Amazon to get your copy of SLITHERS now.

 

See Also:

EIGHT: Terror Has A New Species

EIGHT by W.W. Mortensen – Book Review

Happy Halloween everyone!

Today I would like to share one of my favourite, creepy horror novels with you. EIGHT by W.W. Mortensen.

 

Tagline: ‘Terror Has A New Species’

 

Archaeologist Ed Reardon is following in his grandfather’s footsteps, searching for the remains of a lost civilisation amid the heart of the Amazonian jungle, which he hopes will contain a mysterious object; a source of sustainable, renewable power that will revolutionise the energy industry.

Intrigued by Ed’s recent find, his former partner and entomologist, Rebecca Riley, along with a team of scientific researchers joins Ed at his base camp in the jungle, but to everyone’s horror, what they actually uncover is a fascinating new species of animal, not at all happy at being disturbed.

 

Favourite Quotes:

‘Deep in the Amazon, the solution to the global energy crisis has been found; a mysterious source of power set to end our dependency on oil.’ – Quote taken from the opening paragraph of ‘EIGHT’, by W.W. Mortensen (location 1 on Kindle)

 

“There’s a school of thought that at some point in human evolution, spiders may have posed a genuine threat; our ancestors were likely programmed to fear them. That fear may have lodged in our psyche and been passed on through the genes, the reason as to why so many people are anxious of them.” – Rebecca Riley. (location 893 on Kindle)

 

Review: 

EIGHT is the debut novel from Australian author W. W. Mortensen. It is the type of action packed horror story that I absolutely adore, full of expertly researched scientific facts and interesting information, it is also overflowing with such horrifying creatures that will scare you to your very core, arachnophobic or not.

EIGHT is extremely long, for a debut novel, however with the aid of great writing, short chapters, and fast-paced action you don’t really notice, it will hook you so deeply into its web of intricate storytelling that you will find yourself completely engrossed, unable to tear yourself away from it, for hours on end.

 

At first, EIGHT bore a striking resemblance to another scary spider infused novel that I had read recently (odd considering my arachnophobia), ‘The Hatching’ by Ezekiel Boone. However, while I loved both novels, Mortensen’s was certainly the most riveting read, with a rating of 5 out of 5 stars.

Head over to Amazon to get your copy of EIGHT now.

 

See Also:

SLITHERS