Black Dog – Neil Gaiman, illustrated by Daniel Egneus

31199023In a quiet English village, legend tells of a black dog that appears in the darkness. If you see him, you die. Shadow Moon has been on the road for a long time so, when he meets a nice couple at the pub in this village, he gratefully accepts their offer of a room to stay in. However, when the man collapses on the way home, Shadow realises that this village is harbouring a dark secret.

Black Dog follows Shadow Moon, the main character from American Gods, so although it does work as a standalone novella and doesn’t follow on directly, it would be helpful to read American Gods first for context.

The book is very short but you can really tell what a remarkable writer Neil Gaiman is because it’s incredibly atmospheric and tells a complete and engaging story with barely any scene-setting, character development, or build-up.

I read the version illustrated by Daniel Egneus and the illustrations really made the reading experience special. The pictures are dark and abstract and complement the story beautifully.

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Moira Ashe: Kindred Spirits – Brendon Bertram

40898924.jpgHaving been exposed as a werewolf and forced to abandon her life in Quinn, Moira Ashe flees to Trident Bay in the hope of finding transport across the sea. Denied by every ship in the port, she turns to Caspian, the chieftain of Trident Bay, who enlists her help in defeating the legendary Terror of Trident Bay. Caught up in an uprising and a surprising romance, Moira’s plans to escape go awry and the risk of her identity being discovered increases.

I enjoyed this book immensely, as I did the first. It is short and sweet with an action-packed and fast story. As this is the second book in the Moira Ashe series, I would say it is important to read the first book: Enemy Within. They flow directly into each other and a lot of the plot and character development would be missed if you dove straight into book #2.

Surprisingly, in this one, there was somehow time for there to be a couple of dull parts. In such a short book, I didn’t know this was possible, but the parts where Moira was learning how to fight with an axe and, frankly, the romantic and sexual aspects were pretty boring.

Although I didn’t love the romantic angle of the story, I very much enjoyed the political plotline, with the peasant uprising and the secret committee meetings. They added an extra layer to the story on top of Moira’s general escape plan and fight against the Terror.

This is a great series, very fast-paced and quick to get through.

I received a copy of this book from the author in exchange for an honest review.

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Moira Ashe: Enemy Within – Brendon Bertram

39738891Werewolves have been sighted in Abalon. With a full moon approaching, the king is worried, and sends Lincoln Clarke to find help. In the corner of a dark tavern, he finds Moira Ashe, an experienced werewolf-hunter. Reluctantly, she agrees to let him join her on a hunt to learn how to deal with these beasts. But Moira has her own secrets to protect, and letting Lincoln tag along might not be the best of ideas.

This is a very short book and therefore very quick to read. The story gets straight to the point and is action-packed. It is unusually short for a fantasy adventure story. Although in many ways this was a nice change, there were some points where the story felt too vague and underdeveloped. It could certainly have benefited from more character development.

Despite this, the scene and the story were set up very well and, as the first part of a series, it didn’t matter that the full adventure was not covered in this one book. I was certainly left wanting more.

I received a copy of this book from the author in exchange for an honest review.

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Weight – Jeanette Winterson

40118697.jpgWeight is a re-telling of the story of Atlas and Heracles. Heracles, when trying to complete his trials, seeks help from Atlas who carries the world on his shoulders. During his temporary relief from the weight of the world, Atlas begins to question, does it even need to be carried?

I was not already familiar with the story of Atlas and Heracles so I didn’t have expectations of this retelling. I love mythology (Greek gods in particular) so was keen to read something new.

Overall, I really enjoyed it. It’s very short (150 pages), and a very fast read. Winterson’s writing style is clear and engaging, and the story felt fresh.

The only thing I wasn’t keen on was the, frankly, vulgar sexual references. The abrupt mentions of rape and masturbation were unexpected and pretty grim. I’m not used to rape being referred to so casually. However, this is a story about Greek gods, who typically did pillage and rape whomever they wished, so – in fairness to the author – it’s entirely in place here.

Weight is part of a collection from Canongate, called The Canons. After reading this one, I am already looking into reading some of the other myth re-tellings by other authors in the collection.

I received a copy of this book from publisher in exchange for an honest review.

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The Beginning of the World in the Middle of the Night – Jen Campbell

34527740.jpgThe Beginning of the World in the Middle of the Night is a collection of twelve magical, mysterious and unusual short stories, featuring a coffin hotel, spirits in jars, and replacement hearts.

Now, I liked this book. I’ve never read a book of short stories before (and to be honest, I’m not really sure it’s my thing) but this was a good first experience. ‘Short stories’ felt like a bit of a stretch; the twelves in this book are actually more like snippets – short chapters of something bigger. The open-ended nature of the stories added to this, because they felt sort of unfinished. In some cases this was frustrating, but in all cases it made me want to read more.

Each story was weird and whimsical, with a dark and slightly sinister vibe. I enjoyed some more than others, (my favourites were Jacob and Aunt Libby’s Coffin Hotel) but they were all good.

Interesting, snappy, and thought-provoking, I would definitely recommend this one.

I received a copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

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I Remember Beirut – Zeina Abirached

20901532This short graphic novel tells the story of Zeina Abirached’s life growing up in Beirut while Christians and Muslims divided the city in war. It is presented as a collection of memories, collecting shrapnel, getting a taxi to school because the buses refuse to make the journey, and seeking refuge in other countries from time to time.

The artwork is very simple, and all in black and white. The style of drawing helps to make the story understandable and enjoyable, and there is very little text at all (although not in a way that makes the story difficult to follow). This is my favourite graphic novel that I’ve read so far, because it is very to-the-point and not at all self-indulgent or full of irrelevant ramblings like others that I’ve read.

Although the story has the potential to be quite upsetting, graphic details of war are not included, making this an easy read. It is short and straightforward, but the details of a regular life in a place split by war are still moving and poignant.

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Wicked Children: Murderous Tales From History – Karen Maitland

31122419This short book is essentially an advertisement for Karen Maitland’s other works. She is known for medieval thrillers, a lot of which contain really evil children.

Wicked Children is made up of three parts: one explores some of the real-life cases of children abusing their power and committing acts of murder, which inspire her own characters. The information about these cases is interesting (provided you have at least some interest in evil children and murder) and really quite shocking. The stories of children getting people hung or burned at the stake for witchcraft by pretending to have been cursed or possessed are truly intriguing. But sadly, that’s about as good as Wicked Children gets.

The second section is also quite interesting – a brief list and description of some medieval poisons and cures. However, the final part is simply sample chapters from two of Maitland’s novel (hence, an advert).

What’s there is interesting, but it’s very short. I wouldn’t pay for it.

Necroville – Daniel Parsons

Necroville3-1In this short story, a group of friends visit Necroville – a kind of theme park where the aim is to survive the night while actors dressed as zombies try to ‘kill’ you. All is well, until an actual zombie outbreak happens and the game turns into a real fight to the death.

Daniel Parsons has a nice writing style and the premise is great. It’s a shame the story is so short because it would be nice to have more development of the plot, characters and reasons behind the zombie outbreak. A fun quick read.