The Underclass by Dan Weatherer

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Finally, a revival of a genre long since done to death, so to speak. We all love a good zombie, let’s be honest, but when was the last time you found zombies interesting? Do you find yourself opting for a zombie movie just so you can relax and take your brain out for a while, or are you actually interested?

I have, for some time now, found Zombies to be a bit cut and paste. I mean, how much can you really do with the concept?

Well, Mr Weatherer has done the undoable. Not only is this a fresh and incredibly original look at Zombies but it tackles the subject of prejudice in society brilliantly. With relatable characters and a steady plot, The Underclass has taken zombies and revamped them. I mean, when was the last time you could relate to a zombie?

I personally think, the idea of living past your death, with you mind intact but your body slowly failing you and people turning their backs on you has to be much worse than not knowing anything about it other than a constant hunger for flesh and brains. I don’t know, maybe they’re both horrifying ideas but I think it’s probably the living who are worse off in that second one.

In this story we follow Meryl, Harry and Lee on their quest to find solace, coming across other characters along the way we see the prejudice in society as these people who were, only moments ago, contributing members of society, are suddenly shut out of the world, no longer good enough, The Underclass.

There is humour among the sadness in this story of friendship, love and loss. It’s a story of strength, hardship and the drive to survive as our characters battle their way through the unknown, trying to reach a place to belong and be accepted. This story challenges our perception of zombies perfectly and it’s great to see the story told from the other side of the coin.

I don’t want to say too much more and end up spoiling the plot for you, because this book deserves to be read, but I really did enjoy this one and I think you will too. It’s great to see a story like this surface every now and then. The characters are really well thought out, the character arcs work brilliantly, the plot moves smoothly and the imagery is great. This author has really out done himself with this one!

This has been a long time in the making, since a lot of publishers view certain subjects exactly the way I described above. Zombies and Vampires in particular are difficult to find a home for, so I’m really thankful to Demain Publishing for taking an interest in this one and letting the readers have this wonderful story.

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And He Came A-Smilin’ by Roy Bright (The Iscariot Warrior Book 4)

I am extremely excited to be sharing this with you today. Sadly I missed the release day which I was gutted about, that’s one problem with book blogging and having a busy lifestyle – time. It’s ok thinking you’ve got x amount of time to read something but invariably life will find a way to be in the way! However, I now have my review done and at the ready and I am super psyched to be sharing it with you.

You may remember I reviewed the entire Judas series in the space of a week back in July this year to celebrate Roy Bright Week. Well, he’s only gone and done it again! This is Book Four in the Iscariot Warrior Series and it does not let the side down.

Starting off with a SWAT team about to make a bust, the tone is set and it starts as it means to go on. As opposed to the more action based plot of the other three books, this one takes a darker and much more psychological route – something that I very much appreciated. I like a great range of genres when it comes to reading but when Crime and Horror come together, they become something else and I love the vibe that Mr Bright has going for this story.

Very much based around the main character Rosie Hendricks, there is a very apparent strong female lead here without it falling to “girl power” and all that stuff. It’s great if you want that but I find Mr Bright’s strong female leads to give a lot more to their story that simply the tone of women are better than men that too many writers and directors seem to favour. These are women with strengths you can actually aspire to. Rosie is very real, she’s emotional, she’s scared, she’s going absolutely out of her mind but she’s here for it and she’s riding the wave. That has so much more to it for me than someone gliding through the book unhurt because.. woman. If I had to compare this to anything I’d probably say it made me think of Nancy in Nightmare on Elm Street, she’s still scared and she’s got her weaknesses but she has the drive to survive and that’s the same with Rosie.

The imagery in this book is also fantastic, you can really feel like a fly on the wall throughout the book, and the character Akoman and his appearance really etch themselves into the back of your mind, pulling you into the story. I honestly don’t think this could have been written any better, and I think it’s an absolutely perfect addition to the story. It’s been a while since I’ve been this excited whilst reading a book, you just can’t help but keep turning pages.

The atmosphere is the final thing that really makes this story, it would be nothing without that. With likeable characters and fantastic imagery, it would be difficult not to get some atmosphere going, but Mr Bright really brings his A game when it comes to making this a truly creepy and often-times gory read. There’s a certain balance when writing a book like this, to ensure that you don’t over do things and I think that the balance is just right here. I should imagine that it took a lot of planning to get the pace right but it definitely paid off.

One nice thing about this book is that the other characters don’t feel disposable. A common issue I find with characters who aren’t the main focus is that they can be really unlikeable, I like to relate to a character whether they’re going to be in the book throughout or simply for a chapter. Everyone feels quite real, and so that way when something happens to them you actually feel the threat, and that means you’re going to immerse yourself in the story more because you’re not distracted by intentionally (or not) idiot characters who you’re entirely supportive of the deaths of.

Absolutely well done on this one to Roy Bright, another job well done and a fantastic addition to an already wonderful series! Absolutely recommend, it’s probably best to have read the other books first, but due to the way this one is written, it’s not completely imperative that you have. You’re going to want to though if you read this one, you can’t just read a single Roy Bright offering.

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Three Jokers

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I recently read the story of the Three Jokers, this is an experience I would absolutely recommend to any DC, Batman or Joker fan because it really does explore the character more. The story is laid out across three books and is based on the idea that there may not be any one particular Joker, which lends a lot to the line “I like my past to be multiple choice”, perhaps it is, and perhaps it’s less about him not telling the truth as much as it’s because we’re looking at a different Joker than we were last.

Or, perhaps, given that we know the Joker is unhinged and criminally insane, what if he’s simply multiple personality and his different iterations are simply a range of his fragmented selves. That isn’t how the books tell it, but it’s an interesting thought – to me anyway.

Book One explores the death of Bruce’s parents and sees Barbara back in action after the events of The Killing Joke. We also see the return of Jason Todd in his iteration as The Red Hood following the events of A Death in The Family. Emotions are tested with our Characters in this one as their pasts are laid out for us, be that the death of Martha & Thomas Wayne, Barbara’s Trauma or Jason’s Death. It’s a very interesting starting point. We also see a clue from the Joker, by way of three men left out to be found wearing the red hood and having had the same chemical bath that the Joker had.

Book Two explores further the idea of many Jokers as our characters come across more evidence of people being subjected to the Joker’s deeds. This is the first time it feels like they’re in potential peril as they aren’t just fighting one man, but rather a hoard of victims. We also see Jason (The Red Hood) fall foul of Joker again as he is separated from the others. As this is one story, the events of the first book continue to unfold, we’re just looking at a different iteration of The Joker. This time the Comedian, which focuses on him having a family who are afraid of him.

Book Three comes to the story’s conclusion by revealing the many faces of the Joker and what he was trying to do, by abducting Joe Chill, the petty criminal who was imprisoned for killing the Waynes, the Joker actually shows his desperation and weirdly enough, his humanity. We already know that the Joker doesn’t need motive, he doesn’t care about people and will simply do what he feels like. This often makes him even more disgusting because of that fact that, as we have seen in previous books, he doesn’t even remember what he’s done to people because it doesn’t occur to him to do so. He doesn’t have any connection to the wrongs he’s done, once he’s walked away it is quite simply in the past as far as he’s concerned. However he reveals very clearly in this book that he cares deeply about being important to one person, Batman and he has a desperate need to be the pain that Batman feels.

What’s funny about this trilogy, is that the first two books made me absolutely hate the man. The sickening deeds, the cold cruelty he portrays, but the third book managed to tug at my heart strings a little bit for him. As well as showing him as the vile creature he is and solidifying the point that this man shouldn’t be seen as “dangerous and sexy” which I made in my previous reviews, it also paints him as a pathetic, shell of a man, a man who has lost everything and is desperate to mean something to just one person, even if it’s for all the wrong reasons. There is a strong hint in this story about who the real Joker is and which of his backstories is true, and I thought it was dealt with incredibly well.

I’ve tried not to include too many spoilers here because I really do think that it is best explored by reading it for yourself, the artwork is absolutely beautiful across all three books and the story is one of the best I’ve read. The Batman Universe continues to entertain and amaze me, and I love looking at all of the different angles that things can be shown from. It’s had more than enough time to get to this point of course, but the main thing to see here is that it’s not stale. There is so much left to explore even after all these years and that is when you know you’ve created something truly special.

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Eat, Sleep, Control, Repeat by Sophie Mei Lan

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I actually knew this girl. That is, she was friends with my older sister and as such she used to include me in things and she watched out for me. We went to the same school, I once borrowed her clothes, she sat on my sofa the night Pop Idol came down to the choice between Will Young and Gareth Gates. I would hear her singing along to Enrique Iglesias with my Sister in the next room.

I never knew she was going through any of this, and over the years we all went our separate ways. It’s funny how life has a way of bringing people back together, because now, at 30 years old, I’m helping to admin her Facebook Group; Squats and Sparkles, a group where we promote Women’s Mental and Physical Health.

I remember very clearly when she was on Britain’s got Talent for her bellydancing. My whole family gathered in the living room to watch her audition.

This book was, in places, difficult to read, just because it’s very close to home for me having suffered some of the same Mental Health Issues as Sophie mentions here, our reasons or triggers may be very different but it’s an interesting feeling reading something you’ve done, described by someone else. It’s also terrifying what you can hide so well from other people when it should be glaringly obvious that something isn’t right.

In this brave and frank retelling of her life, Sophie tells us some of her most painful memories, things nobody should have to go through, and how she overcame all obstacles to be the woman she is today. She strives to help others no matter what is happening in her personal life and although she still struggles with anxiety and depression she is managing her mental health and maintaining her physical health which is fantastic to see.

The book isn’t written as a “walk a mile in my shoes” story, rather than that it’s simply an explanation that no matter what life throws at you, no matter how much it hurts or how many times it hurts, you can come through it and it doesn’t have to break you. Sophie remains one of the kindest people I’ve ever met and it was heart breaking to learn how much she hated her appearance when I grew up thinking she was beautiful.

It’s actually very interesting to read something like this when you’ve known a person, I grew up believing myself to be a very plain jane. My blonde hair, blue eyes and pale skin were only made out to be a wonderful thing when I visited a Spanish school. Students immediately flocked to those of us who, in England, blended into our surroundings. When I looked at Sophie I thought she was absolutely beautiful, not having such plain features as I did. So imagine my surprise to read that she was envious of not having pale skin and blonde hair!

I think something to be learned here is that no matter how much you think someone has it all, there will be things that you don’t know, insecurities you don’t see. Whilst I wasn’t directly Sophie’s friend in those days, I did spend time with her, and I didn’t see any of the pain she was going through.

This will have been an incredibly difficult book to write, and likely opened up wounds that Sophie had worked so hard to heal, but it’s also extremely valuable to Mental Health Awareness that these stories are heard. I am immensely proud to have known Sophie both when I was a child, and now as an adult. She is truly an inspiration.

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Baby It’s Cold Outside; Book Tag

This weekend I found two new blogs that I hadn’t read before, which was exciting, but also got the excitement of being included in a book tag! I’m almost certain my answers won’t be as good as theirs, but I’ll certainly give it a good old go!

The rules are as follows;

  1. Thank the person who tagged you and link to their post.
  2. Display the banner(copy and paste).
  3. Link to the original creator: erin @ Reading On A Star !
  4. Answer the questions!
  5. Tag however many people as you want!

So, I was tagged by Bookish Luna who has a lovely blog which I’ve been enjoying having a look at!

Snow Day – What’s your “comfort” book? 

I’m not sure I actually have a book I keep reading if I’m completely honest. I have so many books to get through at any given time that I just seem to be beholden to my TBR pile. I have read and re-read books a lot in the past, my copy of Sybil by Flora Rheta Screiber being probably the most well read book I own, so I guess we’ll stick with that one.

Snow Angels – What’s a book that you love so much you would want to be buried with it(a little morid, but…)? 

I’m fairly sure I don’t want to be buried with my books, much as I love them, but a very well written book which I’d heartily recommend is Let the Right One In by John Lindqvist it’s not very often I find a horror that I can’t stomach but I had to put this down and take a breather a couple of times.

Warm Socks – What’s a book that makes you feel warm inside?(The fluffiest, cutest romance you’ve ever read?) 

Not being a massive fan of Romance there’s not many that would fit the bill for this one, but I very much enjoyed The Tattooist of Auchwitz by Heather Morris. Helped by the fact I’ve visited the Auchwitz and Birkenau camps during a holiday to Poland, I was able to really immerse myself in this retelling based on the true story of Lale Solokov and his wife Gita.

Hot Cocoa – What winter-themed novels have you previously read? 

The Horror Collection – White Edition compiled and edited by Kevin J Kennedy is a great, creepy festive read, and I’ve got a whole month of Christmas Books coming up in December so I’ll be discovering a lot more this year. The Wassailers by Em Dehaney is also a good winter themed book which I’m intending to pick up again as the festive season looms, but those aren’t novels so I’m looking forward to the fact I’ve picked out festive novels this year.

Sledding – What’s a book with the best plot twists? Who’s an author that always keeps you on your toes? 

Roy Bright kept me pretty firmly on my toes with his Iscariot Warrior series! The series follows Judas Iscariot as he works for the angels to protect a child named Charlotte from demons hell bent on her destruction.

There’s also The Other Side of the Mirror by Lex H Jones, a crime noir which was so good I read it in a single sitting! Now that one keeps you guessing.

Ugly Sweaters – What’s a book with the ugliest cover?

I’m pretty sure it’s intention but Nicholas Tillemans’ The Torture of Girth is probably the ugliest book I own, to the point my Husband has even pointed it out. It is, after all an extreme horror.

Movie Marathon – What’s the last book you binge read?

Armand Rosamilia’s Make Pretend, I couldn’t put it down. The book contains 21 stories from all different stages in his writing career and one of them is 40 years old. He recently released it on his Birthday (yesterday) so it’s a great time to grab a copy as you’d be giving him a Birthday present at the same time.

Letter to Santa – What’s a book that’s on your wishlist this year? 

Not so much this year, but Lex H Jones has his first short story collection coming out in January 2021 and I could not be more excited! Jones is my favourite author, so I grab at everything he writes as it comes out. There’s just something about the way he writes that makes me sit down and shut up, and let me tell you – that’s an acheivement.

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Release Day Review: Make Pretend by Armand Rosamilia

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Armand Rosamilia hails from New Jersey and currently residing in Florida, with 150 titles under his belt and currently available for consumption, he has covered many genres including, horror, zombies, contemporary fiction, thrillers and more. Mr Rosamilia’s goal is to write a good story and not worry about what genre it fits into. He also runs two very successful podcasts on Project Entertainment Network; Arm Cast: Dead Sexy Horror Podcast and The Mando Method Podcast.

Today is Mr Rosamilia’s 51st Birthday, but it’s also the Release Day for his newest offering; Make Pretend.

Make Pretend is a collection of short stories collected from the author’s career, and not necessarily in chronological order. This makes for a really nice variety of not just subject matter, but also writing style.

I really enjoyed reading this collection, it was a great way to get to know the author outside of happening across a story in an anthology. It’s also a brilliant way to get a grasp on the range an author has when they collect stories from throughout their career and not just the last however many months they’ve been organising a collection for.

The Book starts out with a piece from Tim Meyer who gives us a heartfelt introduction to the book and to Armand Rosamilia himself, sharing with us his experience of knowing Armand and also getting us good and ready for story time once we get to the book. Following this there is a foreword by the author explaining a bit about himself and where he came from, and how he got to be the Armand we know today.

All of these stories are good in their own right, there is not a single one amongst them that I hated reading or felt was too long, but I do have favourites. Some of which, I didn’t know were going to be favourites until the very last line. There are twenty one stories in this book, but I’ll be writing about my favourites. I’m sure other reviewers will choose different ones as this collection is a really good all rounder, so you should get a good grasp by reading lots of blogs – something I heartily recommend!

First up I absolutely loved The Wolf who cried Boy, as it happens I was actually a big fan of the Boy who Cried Wolf growing up so the title immediately hit me with a sense of nostalgia. The story itself was an interesting switch around and worked really well. Simply done but really well done and a story with an ending that hit home with a simple but cutting line from one of the characters.

Next I’ve picked out Dirty Deeds; The Stakeout. It’s nicely written and is mostly based around two men in a car so its an easy to follow story. The dialogue between the two is well written and quite realistic, as well as having an air of those dramas you watch on TV. It’s a nice read basically, and I really liked the way it ended. I haven’t really found many stories that end in the way this did and I liked it a lot, you feel like a fly on the wall.. or.. on the back seat as it were.

Stairs to the Ocean was a very interesting story which grabbed me. It reminded me of the early horrors I watched, again a simple concept with limited characters but it worked very, very well.

Do you Read Gutter Bane? Has to be my favourite story in the book. I was sold the moment I saw the title. In the Mouth of Madness is one of my favourite films ever and all I wanted to do after seeing it was read the books in the film. The books that don’t exist, much to my disappointment. The second I saw this title I was excited as the name Sutter Caine flashed into my mind. The story is a fabulously creepy story and the ending does not let it down. If you buy the book for nothing else, buy it for this story. You’ll see why I loved it.

The Toymaker was one of those where I didn’t know I loved it until the end of the story, it’s very well written and I connected with it very well so it wasn’t a case of not enjoying it until the end but it does absolutely end the story well and I liked it a lot more than I was expecting to.

In all, it’s a great read and it’s the perfect tool to get to know the author without investing in one particular story. This book has a range of genres within it and therefore plenty for you to check out before you decide on your favourite style and go with a bigger story. I would absolutely recommend checking it out because there is something for everyone in it, and also, it’d be a great Birthday Gift to the Author, especially if you left a review.

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Looking Through the Window at Life.

This is a word for all of the people out there who feel alone. Those people who have never quite made it into any groups they’ve tried to align themselves with. Sometimes, it can feel like there is something wrong with you. There isn’t. Cherish your individuality.

I’m one of those people who can feel alone in a room full of people, to look at me you might not know it. Looking through photos you’ll see me in groups, you’ll see me at events, that big wide mouthed laugh making me appear to be the life and soul of what’s going on. Miss Popularity, right?

Today I’ll tell you about the stuff you don’t see. I’m here to tell you that I don’t fit half as well as I might sometimes look like I do. I’m on the outside looking in, analysing everything I say in case it’s the wrong thing. Feeling guilty if something I say doesn’t hit quite right. Do you know, I still think about things I said when I was 15 years old? I can be quite happily doing something when I get hit with a punch of guilt in my stomach for something I said as a child, to people I don’t even know today.

When I make a friend, I cherish that person. I don’t have that many, even though I have a lot of acquaintances I just don’t seem to connect with people like you’re supposed to. I care far too deeply, and I react terribly when things go wrong. I internalise it, all of it. If someone doesn’t like me, I look at what I could do to improve. Growing up I could have killed myself trying to be perfect.

I never quite felt like I was good enough, and like all younger siblings I felt like I was very much in my Sister’s shadow. It never occurred to me that she had her own struggles, despite her disability she always seemed to glide through life so much more effortlessly than me. Far more Academic than I was, I felt that I was the thick one. I could not wrap my head around things in the way she could. She was incredibly talented on stage too, with aspirations of going to Rada to become an Actress. Sadly, that didn’t happen but she is running her own business successfully and is living with a house full of  animals, just like she always said she would.  My Sister, through all her struggles is the sort of person who when one door closes, she will get another one open even if she’s got to use a crowbar. Me on the other hand, well if something changes unexpectedly.. I’m likely to just have a meltdown.

I was picked last when groups were being formed at school, especially for things like PE, and if I join a class at the Gym I’m still picked last today. Not because I can’t do things, just because I’m the one who isn’t there with a friend, and because I don’t push myself into conversations with those who do, I remain without partners. Instead, I look for the newcomers, those in the same boat as myself and adopt them for partners. It’s nobody’s fault really, and it doesn’t actually make you an outcast even if it makes you feel like one.

I put myself through hell to be perfect, I tried to change everything about myself just to fit in, mostly to the detriment of both my mental and physical health. I liked being a little abstract and alternative, so growing up I was a goth but even if I’d dressed like everyone else I knew I couldn’t ever be a part of the world I was watching. I’m the girl who says the wrong thing, the one who isn’t quite pretty enough or thin enough, I don’t wear enough make up or I wear too much and even at one point my eyebrows were the wrong colour (I’m a natural blonde and my eyebrows have always been brown). I was even asked by an ex-boyfriend years after we broke up how I managed to get fat because when I was involved with him, I was struggling with bulimia. During school I was even nicknamed Tragedy by a small group of boys.

I’m the queen of bad coping mechanisms, unfortunately for me I internalise everything. If something happens I don’t tend to blame the person who has been involved, my first thought is against myself and that is where I’ve always held the responsibility.

So if you’re reading this and thinking it sounds like you, please don’t hurt yourself trying to appeal to people who you feel don’t notice you. The chances are that all those things you think they think – they don’t, and even if they did that is not your problem. Don’t let anyone hold that power over you and dull your sparkle because you matter more than any of it. Do things for you, look after yourself and enjoy the things you enjoy because at the end of the day there is nothing wrong with you. I’ve always thought I must be a terrible person, and I’ve treated myself worse than ever treat another person even if they were my worst enemy. So if you take away anything from this article, know that you are not evil, you are good enough and you matter.

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Pyreburg by Ben Brown

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Some of you may have noticed I actually advertised this book to be on the blog in October, and that’s why I didn’t advertise what I had planned for this month. I hate letting people down and unfortunately after the year that has been 2020, moving house, two pet deaths in the space of 2 months and a workload from hell in my day job, it just didn’t happen. I ended up burned out and feeling like a failure last month and whilst I am certainly not making excuses for being disorganised, it is extremely difficult to sit and read a book when you feel like you have to do 100 things a minute to keep your head above water.

I am very pleased to report that after some much needed self care and a lot of words with myself, I am back on my A game and very pleased to present Ben Brown’s recent release: Pyreburg.

I first happened across this book when Ben tweeted about the cover on twitter, quite a simple design but one that really stuck in my mind. I, along with other Twitter users, gave my opinion on the cover and followed the progress of the book. I became increasingly interested in what the book was going to be about, and each time I saw trees and birds whilst out and about walking the book came to mind. When it was finally ready for release Ben asked if I would like to read it. I grabbed the opportunity with both hands, however, I couldn’t read it in time for the release and it kept getting away from me. This is no fault of the book, but it took me absolutely forever to read because I was so distracted and disorganised due to a lack of routine. I have to mention that, because I’m sure someone is reading this saying “but she was reading that weeks ago”, yes I was, and again, it’s not the book’s fault.

At the beginning, I thought this was going to be a kind of X File story. The book began with all the markings of one, and I wasn’t really expecting to come out of it knowing much more than I went in. Our main character is John Matherson, an investigative journalist who is trying to get to the bottom of what he thinks is a serial killer case. Right off the bat there’s something supernatural about this story, but that often doesn’t mean it will be. I did feel like I’d heard this story before but I think it’s just that a lot of stories encompass the same sort of dark and gritty feel with this kind of subject.

The author does not shy away when things might become uncomfortable, as this case involves child death. It’s always nice to read something where the author doesn’t shy away from his own work. Many authors try to write things like this but kind of skirt around the subject of harming children and more recently, also women. I find film very much the same much of the time, but I have noticed that changing back slowly and it’s really needed. I mean imagine where we’d end up if we carried on pretending women and children don’t get hurt in say, a Zombie apocalypse. A monster is a monster, it’s not going to care what category you fall under if it’s hungry is it? Anyway, I digress.

This book has some incredibly well developed characters, and the imagery is superb. Many times I felt like a fly on the wall and even when this book seems a bit “out there” with some of the things it throws at you, it’s entertaining. I enjoyed it very much, there are some things I will say however, which may involve spoilers. So I’ll leave that until a little later, make it as spoiler free as I can manage and also mark it so that you have time to turn around and leave.

Much of this book reads like a crime thriller, and that is very much what it is I suppose. The character thinks he’s looking for a Man who kills women & children, the townsfolk seem to think it’s a little more. In this essence it’s very Wickerman (the good one), as people turn their backs on him for poking around in their business. The small town vibe is brilliant and brings about feelings of nostalgia from old films. It’s got all the cliches and little touches that these older stories have and I think that’s what I liked so much about it. Despite up to date technology it’s very old school in the way it plays out.

Now, here are the spoilers, so if you haven’t read it yet and you don’t want spoilers go away and read it then come back for my take on the latter parts of the book.

Have you gone?

Last chance!

Ok, so in all honesty, and without wanting to make it sound like I didn’t enjoy it (because I absolutely did!), I did feel there was a perfect opportunity for it to end before it actually did and I think only because it was such a perfect ending in my own head, it then felt a bit long. I felt it could have ended when The Lollipop Man as the townsfolk called him had been driven into the caves. Then we’d have had a kind of “how did it end, will he come back” vibe that so many of these old stories left you with. The sort that had my mother as a teenager sleeping with all manner of monster deterrents (she isn’t a horror person, bless her).

It didn’t end there, and the parts that explained the origins of the Character Lord Cazacu were actually really very interesting and enjoyable. For people who like every inch of their stories to be tied up with a nice little bow, this is utterly perfect, it takes you through the story from start to finish, explains everything, has a wonderfully descriptive section about what this character looks like, and even finishes off with an epilogue about what happened after the story ended.

Like I say, it’s not actually a criticism. I think largely the fact I had been reading it whilst burned out didn’t help the feeling of longness. It’s not a long book so don’t let that put you off, it’s just the way it hit me at the time of reading.

I would recommend the book, I think it’s something that a lot of people would absolutely love, for me it feels like a story that should have been on screen, I don’t know whether the author originally had it as a film idea, but I do think it’d make a good nostalgic film to add to other small town horror movies. I liked the vibe very much.

At the very end of the book there’s a very nice note from the Author which you should check out. It’s a really sweet look at a certain part of the book and what inspired it.

So all in all, grab it, try it, if it isn’t for you then try something else but I think this book has a bit of something for everyone, personally. I can’t see too many people disliking this one at all.

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A Death in The Family

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Continuing my education of the Batman mythos, I recently read A Death in The Family. This one is the story of Jason Todd, Batman’s sidekick known as Robin. Now, if anybody is reading this thinking they’ve got confused because that’s not Robin’s name, you’d be sort of correct. The original boy wonder was Dick Grayson, part of the Flying Graysons which was a circus act and upon the death of his parents Bruce Wayne took him in and trained him as Robin. The appearance of another Robin confused me as well since I wasn’t really up on the Batman mythos at the time – I believe I first learned about Jason Todd when I was watching DC Titans on Netflix and absolutely spammed my friend with questions.

So, Jason, was taken in as a runaway living on the streets, again by Bruce Wayne after the death of his Mother and this is his story.

As always I loved the artwork on this book, and the fact it wasn’t a glossy comic but was on paper made it smell absolutely divine! I don’t know about you but I get a real kick out of smelling that old paper book smell and it adds a whole new layer to the reading experience.

This book is also a great example of that shading thing I mentioned on my Killing Joke article. Where I mentioned the colours on Batman’s outfit being that way so you could see the detail, and this is actually a fantastic opportunity to show you some examples of that! Not only is it done with the suit in this book, but it’s also used on the hair. So if anybody did ever think “that can’t be right they’d have just printed it black” then take a look at people’s hair. With the exception of the Joker whose hair is obviously Green, the black haired characters have a blue shading on theirs, like so;

Batman’s Outfit
Bruce’s Hair

This book also shows Joker for the vile creature he is and I actually found myself reacting to him more this time around than in The Killing Joke. Alright, in that book he did some really unforgivable stuff to Barbara Gordon, but in this one when that action is mentioned he’s so completely blasé about it that it’s bile inducing. That’s what I love about the Joker’s character, he’s unapologetically evil. He doesn’t even remember half of what he’s done because he simply doesn’t care, see here;

Joker talking about Barbara Gordon’s attack

Jason is given a box of things which a neighbour saved from his parent’s house after he ran away and he finds that his mother’s name doesn’t match the woman who raised him, Catherine. Instead there is a smudged out name beginning with S. This causes Jason to do some digging and track down three women who could possibly be his mother and that’s when his adventure starts. One by one, Jason tracks the women down and is reunited with Batman during his quest.

Once again, Joker proves himself to be the evil creature he is when he meets Jason during the reunion with his real Mother. However, in my opinion, his Mother proves herself to be far worse than even the Joker. Maybe it depends how you look at it, but her actions are far more unforgivable than the Joker’s are. My reasoning for this is that this is her child, ok so she didn’t raise him but she had a chance to know him that she never thought she’d get and even if you ignore the emotional bond that should stop her from betraying him, the Joker is at least a criminally-insane maniac. This is the sort of behaviour you expect from him.

Then you get this absolutely beautiful piece of artwork which is pretty gut wrenching at the same time, and it brings to mind the scene in the Batman Vs Superman movie, where you see Jason’s outfit following the events of this book set on display. A nice little nod from the film there and I wonder how many picked up on that.

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The Killing Joke

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The Killing Joke is the darkest story in the Batman Universe that I’ve read and I’d be kind of surprised to come across a darker comic in that universe to be honest – although I’m happy to be corrected. I read it recently, having built a bit of batman knowledge up.

The first thing I’ll say is that the artwork is lovely, really nicely put together and a bit nostalgic, because at the time of printing it was more expensive and also quite difficult to print the detail they needed in the dark colours, so instead of a black suit, Batman ended up Grey and Blue (side note on that in a minute) but they shaded him to give the impression of a black suit. Very much the same as there’s a lot of orange in this one, that will be because of the cost of the colours at the time. It’s like when you read a manga and everything is detailed but the people in the background you’re not supposed to be looking at are almost stick figures – you know what I mean.

So here’s the side note, a lot of people think Batman had a grey and blue suit, around the 1960s, he didn’t. Batman has never had that suit in reality. It was a case of the colouring of the comics. He did, however, have that suit in the Adam West TV Series and it was intentional. This gave off the impression of the comics and captured him in the way that people had seen him on paper. That’s why it was used, and why so many people think that’s how the suit started out.

And that’s why many batman outfits look like this one, expertly modelled by my Dad at my 18th Birthday Party;

So, if you didn’t know that, you’ve learned something and you’re very welcome. Now, moving back to the artwork and the comic itself, it’s just lovely and in the true fashion that I’ve become accustomed to with DC’s Batman Comics it hammers home the feeling in every single cell.

This one I found particularly telling of Batman’s character, the way people react to him particularly when he’s mad shows that whilst they’re working with him they do not like the idea of being the one to cross him. Yet, as human nature insists, they do it anyway. Check it out;

Another piece of artwork here that I particularly enjoyed was this depiction of the Joker, I love this image, the full force of his evil etched into his face, the expression there is really powerful and again very telling of his Character. It makes me laugh how many girls want to be Harley Quinn, how many want to be Joker’s girl – if you knew what this guy is like – which I don’t know how you missed it, you would know he’s not sexy. Yes, ok, if you think for example that you’d like to crawl into bed next to Jared Leto I can understand that you might think he’s a bit nice looking but the man is pure evil and he doesn’t even need a motive. He’s not taking you out and showing you off and you’re not even anything special. You’re his plaything and you’re not the first, and you won’t be the last Harley Quinn. That, my friends, is the Joker and that comes over beautifully in this story. Joker does things, because he can and because he feels like it. Here’s the artwork;

This one actually is the first time I’ve thought of the new Joker movie featuring Joaquin Phoenix as being anywhere near a part of the Batman Universe. When I watched it, I thought it was ok as a stand alone but I was in the “Not my Joker” crowd. I didn’t see how this rendition of him showed any of what I knew about the Joker but actually, having read this story, this is that Joker (well, somewhat but it’s definitely what Phoenix was channelling in his performance).

This gives a bit of backstory to him that we don’t necessarily need but it’s nice to have, however, and this goes for the Joker movie also, it’s not really necessarily how it happened. Much like the “Don’t take anything for granted” line in Jim Henson’s Labyrinth – delightfully given to us by that lovely little worm, Joker has his own line which meets with the same idea. He states simply that he likes his past to be “multiple choice”.

You don’t ever know where you are with the Joker, and you never will. That’s the point of him and how he works, and this story really highlights that. That’s what I love about his character, it’s so complex and layered that you’re always learning something new about him.

This story is pretty brutal in what he does, but it really does show what he’s about and the artwork is fantastic. If you’re a DC fan, you’ve no doubt heard about The Killing Joke, but if you haven’t read it you definitely should. Just keep in mind that this isn’t Mr Nice Guy.

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