“Gwendy’s Button Box”

Title: Gwendy’s Button Box
Authors: Stephen King and Richard Chizmar

 

If you had the power to destroy something, would you do it?

If no-one ever found out it was you, would you be able to resist pressing that button?

If someone had a box with unimaginable power, what should be done with it?

If you found out, would you tell anyone?

 

Gwendy’s Button Box is the first book I’ve read by Stephen King, an author I have been meaning to get into for years. I imagine that this short novella would serve as a nice introduction to Stephen King, compared to some of his much longer works. Gwendy’s Button Box is effectively a fable about power and control. With eerie overtones and an interesting concept, it was a quick read that packed a punch.

The story is set in the fictional town of Castle Rock in Maine. A few of King’s novels are set in Castle Rock and I find it interesting that this short story has links with some of his other works, despite the characters and events not necessarily crossing over. I find the fact that so many of his stories are linked in this way fascinating and these towns – the most famous being Derry, Castle Rock and Jerusalem’s Lot – almost seem to act as alternate/fantasy worlds in and of themselves.

But back to the story. Stephen King is perhaps most famous for horror writing and whilst this novel doesn’t necessarily contain any physical monsters, it is still a frightening tale because of its implications. A potential for destruction that is always tucked away but omnipresent. In a theme similar to several other works (think Jekyll and Hyde, The Picture of Dorian Grey, Lord of the Flies) this novel seems to explore the darker side of human nature and uses this as the source of horror. The monstrous element of this story is the hint of the brutality of human nature: human beings’ capacity for a hidden evil streak.

The novella is co-written with Richard Chizmar, an anthology editor and short story writer. Between both King and Chizmar, they have managed to create a short but eerie tale about the implications and consequences of humanity’s quest for power and also the unpredictability of human emotion and humanity’s capacity for making mistakes. Similar to Pandora’s Box, temptation takes the lead and we are left with several “what ifs” as the story reaches its bloody conclusion.

P.S. My music choice for this week is Burnt Norton (Interlude) by Lana Del Rey. This song is only short but I love it – the lyrics are based of a poem by T. S. Eliot. Hope you love it as much as I do!

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Alberto’s Lost Birthday BOOK REVIEW

Book: Alberto’s Lost Birthday
Author: Diana Rosie

 

This was an uplifting read, detailing the relationship between a young boy called Tino and his grandfather Alberto. Jumping between the settings of Civil War-era Spain and the present day, the novel manages to remain upbeat and positive in spite of some quite horrific scenes.

 

Alberto is an orphan and his grandson his horrified to realise that he has never had a birthday because he doesn’t know when he was born. This sets a quest in Tino’s mind to discover Alberto’s ‘lost’ birthday. The quest coincides with a difficult period of the family’s life and travelling across the country to find the birthday provides a welcome relief from Tino and Alberto’s difficult home situation.

 

Travelling across the Spanish countryside, the narrative switches between Tino and Alberto’s journey and memories of the past. Chapter by chapter, Rosie switches the narrative (and often the narrator) so that eventually a story builds up, where the past and present weave together to form a heartwarming, if bittersweet resolution.

 

I found Rosie’s writing to be both engaging and accessible and I found the concept of the novel incredibly fascinating. With a cast of loveable (and a few not-so-loveable characters) the story fits together beautifully. Touching on the themes of power, mortality, religion, history, conflict, memories and family, the novel is able to cover a great deal of ground in an accessible and enjoyable way. On the whole, it was a novel I enjoyed a great deal!

 

P.S. My song choice for this week is Paloma Faith’s new track, Crybaby. I think it’s got a great message & I also like the video. I feel it’s pretty dystopian and has some Handmaid’s Tale vibes. Enjoy 🙂

“A Posion Apple” BOOK REVIEW

TITLE: A Poison Apple
AUTHOR: Michel Laub

 

This was only a short book and acted as a series of short snippets of a life that has not been well lived. There are some pretty heavy meditations on life and loss and effectively detail how the narrator has struggled to get over the relationship with his first girlfriend, Valeria. This reflective novel shows how intense and passionate the emotions of young people can be and how those memories can take hold as we grow older.

Suicide is a common theme within the novel and the narrator seems borderline-obsessed with the suicide of Kurt Cobain in 1994. The young couple were both massive fans of Nirvana and like with the ending of his relationship, this seems to have stuck with him in his older age. The narrative jumps around quite a lot, which I guess is indicative of the way thoughts and memories work. He is constantly switching thoughts and presents memories slightly out of order, leaving the novel feeling a little disjointed. I don’t think this is necessarily a bad thing, but I can appreciate how it could disturb the reading experience.

Despite its jumpy nature, a story did eventually build up over the course of the novel. Similar to other Latin American novels I’ve read (The Tunnel by Sabato, Son of Man by Roa Bastos as two examples) the novel is quite dark, melancholy and meditative. The novel is mainly set in Laub’s home town of Porto Alegre and I always enjoy reading novels that are set in unfamiliar places to me, but feel authentic.

On the whole I did enjoy the novel, despite its slightly disjointed narrative approach. It was a quick read and the small chapters were easily digestible and made the narrative flow, even if the story didn’t fit chapter-to-chapter.

P.S. My music choice for this post is “How You Feeling?” by Superfruit from their new album Future Friends – I absolutely love it!

 

Review of “Mister Creecher” by Chris Priestley

I borrowed “Mister Creecher” from the library. I’d previously enjoyed Priestley’s Tales of Terror series of books, so decided to give this one a go. It incorporated a lot of classical literary references (mainly from Frankenstein and Oliver Twist) but you didn’t need to get these references to enjoy the book. Being aware of these references just added a layer to the story.

The book was essentially about the forming relationship between street urchin and a ‘monster’. The friendship begins in dubious circumstances but grows into a strong friendship that has to face a lot of tests along the way. Themes of power and control, as well as trust and loyalty underpin much of the story, as we see the extent that men and ‘monsters’ will go to obtain love and power.

One of my favourite aspects of the novel was the light and shade in the main two characters. Billy, the boy, was by not a fully good character, but was not fully evil either. He was a very human character, with very human flaws. It was interesting to compare this to Creecher (the ‘monster’) and draws the age old question of what actually makes a monster monstrous? Priestley’s novel suggests that it is impossible to say, as there is light and dark in everyone. Creecher makes this point at various parts of the story.

All in all, the novel was an interesting take on two classic literary characters, both before and after their original stories. You did not need to know these references though, as the story was strong, independent of its sources. It’s a novel exploring the lighter and darker sides of humanity and the backdrop of pre-Victorian London/England fits the story just right. A well-crafted interesting read, the characters feel very human and there is a decidedly unpleasant twist towards the end.

P.S. My music choice for this post is Lana Del Rey’s new song with The Weeknd – ‘Lust for Life’. It’s the title song of her upcoming album and I’m really excited for it! Enjoy 🙂

Review of “Butter” by Erin Jade Lange

I’ve recently read a number of YA books and after my brother recommended it, I decided to read “Butter”. I found the concept quite interesting but felt like it could easily become very clichéd. However, I felt that it really worked and was gripped by the story. Lange’s writing style was easily accessible and I read the whole thing in just 2 days!

Essentially, the book is about an extremely overweight schoolboy who decides that he has had enough of dealing with his weight issues. However, a disturbing twist sees him making the decision to eat himself to an early grave, as opposed to trying to lose weight. The book deals with a number of themes, including: relationships with food, body image, bullying and the differences between online and real-life personas.

I thought that the decision to make the main character male was a refreshing choice and it was an interesting take on the theme of weight issues. The plot went a number of different ways and you were never 100% sure what the main character, Butter, was going to do next. For the most part, he was a relatable character and the issues he was dealing with (mainly how he is perceived by his peers) are accessible to everyone, even if you aren’t excessively overweight.

I also really liked the inclusion of online personas and found it interesting the ways in which Butter hid behind his screen. It was also an interesting exploration of how the real world differs so much from the digital world and again reinforces how easy it is to be deceived online.

On the whole I really enjoyed this book. It’s probably not for everyone but I thought it was an accessible and interesting read. It presents very serious issues with a weirdly comic slant and I found the character of Butter to be mostly likeable and I was rooting for him throughout the book.

 

 

PS. My song choice for this post is another one from my birthday albums. It’s a track called ‘Arrow’ by Rag ‘n’ Bone Man. I like the effects in the song & I think it’s a hidden jam of his debut album. Hope you enjoy it too! 🙂

 

Getting Back On Track…

So, it’s been a while, but I’d not realised how long. Over 2 months have passed and I’ve really let this blog fall by the wayside…

However, I’m still writing reviews to post up & I’ve started doing a little bit more creative writing too, which is great. There’s still a lot to do, but the intent is there and I just need to get back into the habit of things. I’ve recently discovered that is so much easier to break habits that make/keep them and it’s so easy to just sit back and leave it to the next day. I’ve now got a small back catalogue of posts, so hopefully if I keep ahead of it I can post more regularly. I fully intend to stick to my initial goal of 3 posts a week (Monday, Thursday & Friday) but this may well drop to 2 or 1. The key is to keep writing and keep pushing forward with it.

Recently, I’ve been reading a few teen/young adult books from the library, so that’ll probably be the next few reviews. I’ve also finished the Blue Exorcist anime series (which was amazing!) and finally watched my first Studio Ghibli film, so they will probably feature in upcoming posts. There’s so much I want to read and watch, and there’s so much to do. I end up doing nothing though, so this is something to work on.

Apologies for the waffle in this post, but I just wanted to post something to get the ball rolling again. A new post will be up on Saturday and hopefully I’ll be able to keep up with this blog moving forward. 🙂

My song choice for the week is ‘Hard Times’ by Paramore, which is off their latest album (that I got for my birthday). Different kind of sound but I really like it. Hope you do too! 🙂

I Finally Watched Home Alone…

So, I have a confession to make… I’ve never seen Home Alone…

Well up until last Saturday anyway. A lot of people were pretty shocked I’d never seen it before and when it came up in work just before Christmas I was told to watch it straightaway. Three months later and I finally have!

I’ve never been great at watching non-animated films (still “real people films” in my head!) and there are a lot of ‘classics’ I’ve never seen. It’s not necessarily I don’t want to watch these films. It’s more the fact that when I do get round to putting a film on (which isn’t very often) I’m much more likely to opt for something animated, explaining why I’ve seen certain films (Coraline and Brother Bear are two that spring to mind) countless times over.

So at the grand old age of 22, I decided to finally watch this classic Christmas film for the first time, on a Saturday night towards the end of March… Either super late or ridiculously early, depending on how you look at it. But you know, the  timing doesn’t really matter to me. The other year we watched It’s A Wonderful Life (also for the first time) towards the end of January. We used to start writing our Christmas lists in July. And being perfectly honest I would quite happily watch films like The Grinch at any point throughout the year. It’s never an inappropriate time for Christmas films, music or festivities, just saying!

Here are 5 initial thoughts I had on the film:

1 ~ I enjoyed it on the whole. There were funny moments, heart-warming bits and a happy resolution which is always nice in a film, particularly a festive one

2 ~ As a character, I actually found Kevin really irritating. I did feel sorry for him at points but on the whole he really got on my nerves, although not as much as his older brother Buzz!

3 ~ The attempted house robbery was cleverly put together and amusing but why wasn’t it mentioned at all afterwards? I thought there’d be some big “Kevin’s A Hero” bit at the end or something, but guess I was wrong!

4 ~ It is worth worthing, just maybe not all it’s hyped up to be. Sorry for any mega fans out there. Over the years, it’s just been built up and it would be difficult for it to live up to such high expectation.

5 ~ I am considering watched the second one, maybe in another three months time?! Home Alone 2 in June sounds perfect! 😛

6 ~ Final point: the house is so nice! I know there’s about 15 of them living there, but still it’s enormous.

 

P.S. Christmas related post = Christmas music! I decided to go for one of my favourites: Kelly Clarkson’s version of ‘O Come, O Come Emmanuel’. Ignore the time of year and just enjoy!