Top 3 Creepy-Crawly Reads

Long dark days were made for creepy books. Just be sure to turn the lights on before you start reading, I actually feel a bit tense after just writing the reviews below. Good going Johanna.

Starting from third place:

3. “Bird Box” by Josh Malerman

bird box

Something bad is happening. At first, there is just the occasional story in the news or on the radio about weird things happening to strangers very far away. The kind of stories that are easy to shake from your mind. Then, whatever is happening comes closer. People seem to be going… mad, in lack of better words. Family members, lovers and passerbyes violently turn on each other, all over the world.

The one thing all the horrific attacks have in common is that before they happened, the attacker saw something. The stories have suddenly become very real and soon survivors have to deal the only way they can: through holing up inside barricaded houses or hiding spots and never looking out.

“In a world where you can’t open your eyes, isn’t a blindfold all you could ever hope for?”

Composed of flashbacks from the past and snippets from the present that gradually meet to reveal the full story, Birdbox is an elegant but straight-forward read. Regardless of what the cover says, the story is a bit cliché, but I am really fascinated by this kind of unseen, waiting horror– the complete helplessness that comes from it.
I always found it scarier to not know exactly what you are dealing with, and this is just the kind of subtle, survival-focused horror tale I delight in. Even if I’ll need to have the lights turned on for a week after.

2. “Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children”
by Ransom Riggs

Miss Peregrines home for peculiar children

This is such a cool book! Mixing narrative with haunting vintage photography, this is a strange and spine-tingling read.
One thing I enjoyed is that despite the creepy photos and the dark plot, which I’ll get to in a moment, Jacob is very much an average teenager. His character is thoughtful yet easy-going which creates a good balance between the impossible and everyday life.

We hadn’t spoken since the day he nearly shoved me off the roof, but we both understood the importance of maintaining the illusion of having friends.

I don’t want to say too much about the plot for fear of ruining the suspense for you. But this is the gist of it:
After a tragedy strikes his family, sixteen-year-old Jacob is on the hunt for the truth of things. And something is on the hunt for him. He journeys to Wales where he discovers the ruins of “Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children” and finds his answers, but also many more mysteries.

I have not yet read the sequels but I have heard that they are really good as well, so that’s nice (as Shirley from Community would say). ❤

1. “White is for Witching” by Helen Oyeyemi

white-is-for-witching

A dream of a tale– confusing and sharp, beautiful and foreboding. I wasn’t even sure I liked it at first, but I’ve never been able to forget it and the prose is exquisite.
I think this is the kind of book that you either love or hate. If you are interested in books about mental illness and philosophy plus have a taste for the gothic and intellectual– I definitely suggest you give it a go. However, it is not for people who enjoy a story told from the beginning straight to the end and appreciates clarity and order.

I know of witches who whistle at different pitches, calling things that don’t have names.

White is for Witching tells of a haunted house, and of the Silver family who has inhabited it for centuries. Of loss, sorrow, lust, bonds and broken minds. Mostly, it tells of the young Miranda Silver who has gone missing, and her twin brother Eliot who is searching for her.

That was it for today, let me know if you’ve already read any of them or if you would like to! What are you favourite creepy books?

/Joh

Top 3 Non-Cringey YA Fantasy Books

I am a big fan of Young Adult books when they merge with the fantasy genre. But, it can be an absolute pain to navigate these waters if you, like me, are sensitive to overly flowery language and awkwardly described sexual tension. Maybe I used to be too young for it and then fast-forwarded to being too old. Anyway:

Below are three books whose existence there’s at least a possibility that you might have missed. They all have the ingredients of what I think makes a great YA book: easy and enjoyable to read, cool hero/heroine, danger and romance- but  handles the genre with a little more style than the average Twilight-wannabe.

3. “Tithe – A Modern Faerie Tale” by Holly Black

tithe a modern fairytale

Nobody does edgy, YA urban fantasy like Holly Black. Think bleak suburbia, grunge outfits, hopeless infatuation, grim death and fairies. Yes, fairies. But these are about as far from Tinkerbell as you can get. These are cruel, powerful and poised, especially the nobles.

A mortal had woven it, a man who, having caught sight of the Seelie queen, had spent the remainder of his short life weaving depictions of her. He had died of starvation, raw, red fingers staining the final tapestry.

The story really begins when Kaye finds an injured fairy knight in the woods on her way home from a party gone sour.
He has been shot and she pulls the iron-tipped branch out of his chest in exchange for three questions. His name is Roiben and he is beautiful, mysterious and emotionally tormented. Ka-ching. (Hey, I never mentioned unpredictable as criteria for the list.)
After this, Kaye is drawn into the bloody politics of the Seelie and Unseelie Court, and also discovers a  truth about herself that changes everything.

Kaye is just the kind of self-sufficient heroine I go for- street smart and not that easily impressed. And to this day she has me thinking that a smudged eyeliner applied without a mirror probably would look totally cool on me as well. Hint: It never does.

A detail I absolutely adore is that the chapters start off with a short quote or poem from another book- sometimes beautiful, sometimes insightful and sometimes foreboding. Major style points. (Y)

2. “Graceling” by Kristin Cashore

graceling-kristin cashore

If you enjoyed the Hunger Games you will probably love this one as well.
In Cashore’s world, some people are born with so-called Graces. These manifest themselves through a certain skill and the mark of the Graced: different-coloured eyes.
Katsa has been born with the Grace of killing and is forced to work as a thug and executioner for her uncle, Lord Randa.

She hates her situation but believes that she does not deserve anything better. In an attempt to somehow make amends, she has formed a secret council who tries to counteract the cruel regimes of the warlords.

On a mission for the council (to free an old, peaceful lord who has been kidnapped) she encounters a fighter who actually matches her skill in combat. Almost, anyway. Intrigued, she takes him out but spares his life.

When the strange young man shows up at Randa’s court and starts asking questions they find a common mystery to solve– who could possibly have gained anything by kidnapping the old nobleman? Unaware of that they are on their way to unraveling the most chilling secret in seven kingdoms they set out to find some answers.

“Lady Katsa, is it?”
“Yes, Lord Prince.”
“I’ve heard you have one eye green as the Middluns grasses, and the other eye blue as the sky.”
“Yes, Lord Prince.”
“I’ve heard you can kill a man with the nail of your smallest finger.”
She smiled. “Yes, Lord Prince.”
“Does it make it easier?”
“I don’t understand you.”
“To have beautiful eyes. Does it lighten the burden of your Grace, to know you have beautiful eyes?”

Katsa is very similar to Katniss personality-wise (not on purpose, the books were released the same year) with her hard practicality and matter-of-fact attitude. She is simply put badass but still real and vulnerable.

The book is funny, thrilling and very fast-paced. I adore this kind of supernatural skills that still has limitations to work around, no matter how powerful. And the antagonist is one of the most disgusting and cold villains I’ve yet to encounter.

1. “A Great and Terrible Beauty” by Libba Bray

a great and terrible beauty- libba bray

Maybe best described as a modern, snarky “Pride and Prejudice” set at a boarding school for young ladies. With the addition of magic, lots more girl power and things that go bump in the night.

Felicity ignores us. She walks out to them, an apparition in white and blue velvet, her head held high as they stare in awe at her, the goddess. I don’t know yet what power feels like. But this is surely what it looks like, and I think I’m beginning to understand why those ancient women had to hide in caves. Why our parents and suitors want us to behave properly and predictably. It’s not that they want to protect us; it’s that they fear us.

It is the first book in a trilogy I’ve read numerous times and highly recommend, especially if you enjoy historical fiction as well as fantasy. The language is pleasantly balanced between 19th century-light and just telling a good story the straightest way, and the characters are wonderfully complex and relatable.

I run after her, not really giving chase. I’m running because I can, because I must.
Because I want to see how far I can go before I have to stop.

Gemma Doyle has been raised in India, and is angry at her mother Virginia for keeping her away from London and an actual life. When they are at the market place, once again bickering, two men approaches Virginia and tells her that “Circe is near”.
Her mother blanches at this and tries to send Gemma home immediately.
So Gemma stomps of, infuriated, but doesn’t get far before a pressure comes over her and she falls into a vision where she sees her mother plunge a dagger into herself to prevent being taken by a horrifying, dark spirit. When Gemma comes to and runs back, she finds her mother dead with the dagger from the vision deep in her chest.

Gemma is finally sent to London, but for all the wrong reasons. There she is to attend the imposing Spence Academy for Young Ladies and must cope with both her grief, the Victorian strictness and Mean Girls a la 19th century.
And then there are the visions that she keeps having of three girls in white– warning her that Circe is coming for her.

The two things I love most about the Gemma Doyle Trilogy is firstly how insightful they are, about friendship and secrets and loneliness and not feeling good enough. And secondly that Bray is constantly entertaining, her sarcastic humor in perfect counterpart to the 19th century setting.

What do you feel? I’ve never been asked this question once. None of us has. We aren’t supposed to feel. We’re British.

Haha, I’ll shut up now. Giving book tips always makes me a bit too enthusiastic, please pretend to not notice how the reviews got longer and longer towards the end, hehe.
I think I want to do more posts like this, maybe one on the quirkiest fantasy I’ve read? Oh, or my favourite zombie books! Yes, yessss! (<–really poor Palpatine-impression.)

Thank you so much for reading, I hope you found at least one of them a bit interesting. See you next week!

/Joh

Geek read (Autumn Special) – Neil Gaiman Top 3

Forestwander.com
Autumn means an overpowering need to snuggle up with good books and hot tea.

I was going to write something about how autumn is the optimal season to read in but then my mind went “oh, oh, remember how cozy it is in winter when it’s snowing!” and “but in summer you’re on vacation and can indulge for daaays”. So let’s settle for that autumn is lovely to read in, just like the other seasons (but maybe just a liiittle better?). I’m rambling.

Anyhow, seasonally appropriate or not I wanted to share some lovely reads from the rock star of the fantasy genre- Neil Gaiman.

The man himself.
The man himself.

I have been reading and adoring his books since I was half my current size (which might impress you if you saw me). Here are my top 3 through the years, and let me tell you it was not easy to choose. 🙂

3. Stardust

stardust-neil-gaiman-geekbyjoh
My favourite cover of Stardust. Unfortunately the copy I own has the movie poster on it. No further comments.

Delightfully turning all what we expect from a fairy tale on its head, Stardust’s plot looks the part of a classic “hero journeys to a fabled land to retrieve a fallen star and win a fair maiden’s hand“. But there the similarities end. Stardust is a wondrous and quirky ride of a story, at times humorous and at times melancholic.
The hero is young, awkward Tristan Thorn, who thinks himself hopelessly in love with the village belle Victoria Forester. Attempting to woo her despite her obvious disinterest he vows to bring her the star they see falling one night, landing beyond the Wall bordering their village. The Wall keeps things in, and it keeps things out.

So there are two problems with his quest. One is that no one goes beyond the Wall. Second, the star is not a lump of space rock but a woman called Yvaine.

First the light in the sky was no bigger than the moon, then it seemed larger, infinitely larger, and the whole grove trembled and quivered and every creature held its breath and the fireflies glowed brighter than they had ever glowed in their lives, each one convinced that this at last was love, but to no avail And then — There was a cracking sound, sharp as a shot, and the light that had filled the grove was gone.

Or almost gone. There was a dim glow pulsing from the middle of the hazel thicket, as if a tiny cloud of stars were glimmering there.

And there was a voice, a high clear, female voice which said, “Ow,” and then, very quietly, it said “Fuck,” and then it said “Ow,” once more.

As you can tell, the language is vivid, poetic and dryly humourous at the same time. Few authors, in my opinion, can create a language that is so easy to read and yet not at all childish, and I find it a joy to read.

The object that caused Yvaine to fall from her night sky was a strange amulet, and soon she and the amulet is searched for by our lovesick Tristan, mighty princes and evil witches alike. Tristan finds her first and the rest is for you to find out. : D

Do NOT confuse the book for a written version of the movie. While I don’t hate the movie (and especially not you Michelle Pfeiffer), it is way less edgy and whimsical and a lot more soppy and stereotypical.

2. American Gods

american-gods-neil gaiman-geekbyjoh
If you like deep, bleak, awesome stuff- go grab a copy of “American Gods”.

If Stardust is at least partly a sweet fairy tale and can be enjoyed by kids and adults alike, American Gods is definitely intended for grown ups. This is intellectual fantasy at it’s finest. I find the idea behind this book so intriguing: where do forgotten gods go? When the ones who believed in them die or move someplace new and forget their roots, do their old gods die too? And what if the gods don’t want to be forgotten?

I am not a religious person, but I love mythology. This books weaves together myth and religion, present and past, fiction and cold hard reality in an intelligent and riveting way.

“You got to understand the god thing. It’s not magic. It’s about being you, but the you that people believe in. It’s about being the concentrated, magnified, essence of you. It’s about becoming thunder, or the power of a running horse, or wisdom. You take all the belief and become bigger, cooler, more than human. You crystallize.” He paused. “And then one day they forget about you, and they don’t believe in you, and they don’t sacrifice, and they don’t care, and the next thing you know you’re running a three-card monte game on the corner of Broadway and Forty-third.”

For us readers, it all begins when Shadow is being released from prison. Shadow is a big man, silent, and maybe not very talented at making good choices. But that is all behind him now and all he thinks about is going home to his wife Laura and turning over a new leaf. The day before his release he receives the news: Laura is dead. As his world crumbles he is approached by an odd, charismatic old man who calls himself Wednesday. He conveniently enough has a job for Shadow.

American Gods is raw. There is violence, regret, betrayal, sex and death– but if you can handle Game of Thrones (I need a lot of closed-eye-time for that. I’m sensitive okay) then it is nothing to worry about.

I think that while not as dreamy and charming as many of Gaiman’s other works, and frankly a more tedious read, what brings me to award it second place is how unique, grim and thought-through it is. If you, like me, are a mythology-enthusiast you will find yourself hoarding clues and going wide-eyed at “coincidents” with character names and actions. Maybe the name Wednesday already gave you a clue as to who Shadow is dealing with?

Time flies when you are reading ridiculously long book reviews no? No? >.> Here’s goes number one!

1. Neverwhere

neverwhere-neil gaiman-geekbyjoh
Disclaimer: I do not endorse storming the sewers looking for a way into London Below. But I fully sympathise with the impulse.

Style-wise Neverwhere lands somewhere in between the easy-going Stardust and the mature American Gods. This is brilliant urban fantasy– haunting, creative and bustling with life. It is also highly entertaining.

Neverwhere takes place in London and tells the story of Rickard Mayhew, a young businessman with a lovely but quite demanding girlfriend. On their way to meet up with her influential boss they stumble unto a gravely injured, tattered girl. Her name is Door and to his girlfriend’s dismay, Richard helps her and brings her home.

The next morning Door has mysteriously disappeared , and so has the life Richard knew and kind-of-sort-of-liked. He seems to have ceased to exist. No one can see him, hear him and his bank cards are being declined. He has been claimed by London Below– the city beneath the city, inhabited by creatures of shadow and magic and those who have fallen through the cracks.

He hopes to set everything back to normal by finding the person he suspects was responsible for the change: Door. Who is conveniently being hunted down by the legendary assassins Mr Vandemar and Mr Croup.

Mr. Croup turned out the lights. “Oh, Mister Vandemar,” he said, enjoying the sound of the words, as he enjoyed the sound of all words, “if you cut us, do we not bleed?”

Mr. Vandemar pondered this for a moment, in the dark. Then he said, with perfect accuracy, “No.”

Other than having that wonderfully creepy villain-duo and a lot of other equally colourful characters, the setting of Neverwhere is engrossing. I love the real London, and London Below is that with extra icing. For example, in Earl’s Court subway resides an actual Earl and his posse and Knightsbridge (Night’s bridge) is a crossway of living darkness and terrible power.
The way London Below exists underneath and in parallel with normal London and the fact that Richard is just a normal guy gives me that “Harry Potter-discovers-the-wizard-world / Narnia”-vibe. It feels realistic enough to imagine it could have been me. (Only it wasn’t. Insert sound of a heart breaking.)

Neverwhere’s balance between chilling and playful, humoristic and dark, everyday life and the utterly bizarre is what earns it the number one spot and why I think it is a perfect autumn read. 😀 (That and the matter of me being the worst anglophile in Sweden. Hehe.)

/Joh

Geek read – “Name of the Wind”

The french cover of Name of the Wind, by Marc Simonetti. Such feels. Much art envy.

Patrick Rothfuss’ fantasy debut from 2007, Name of the Wind is, simply put, the best book I have ever read. Yes, I did just claim one favourite book in a world were Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter and… everything by Neil Gaiman exists. Here are some reasons why:

It is clever. The fantasy books involving science and philosophy and keen observations of humanity can be a bit tricky to find- this, in my humble opinion, is one of the best.

It is funny. Makes you giggle on the train-funny, which can be a bit awkvard really. +5 hilarity.

It is absolutely goddamn beautiful. Rothfuss has a way with words that makes me want to print out every other sentence and stick them on a t-shirt or something. Or on my skin. Might very well do the latter, come to think of it.

Other than that, the characters are charming and believable, the same goes for the world Rothfuss has created for them. And if you are a musician you will fall in love with how songs and melodies and chords are described so well you can practically both feel and hear them.

So what of the plot? Name of the wind is basically a fictional autobiography of a young, red-haired man named Kvothe. He is a killer, a musician, a trouper, an orphan and an arcanist- not necessarily in that order. We first meet him after he has gone into hiding, leading a quiet life as an innkeeper in a backwater village. For some reason the world has turned dark, creatures of myth and nightmare are walking the waking world and war is brewing. Kvothe seems to think it is by his doing. And so, he is waiting to die.

These are the first lines I read, from the back of the cover, many years ago:

“I have stolen princesses back from sleeping barrow kings. I burned down the town of Trebon. I have spent the night with Felurian and left with both my sanity and my life. I was expelled from the University at a younger age than most people are allowed in. I tread paths by moonlight that others fear to speak of during day. I have talked to gods, loved women, and written songs that make the minstrels weep. You may have heard of me.”

It still gives me goosebumps, haha. Anyways, go check it out! And if you have read it, tell me who your favourite character is in the comments, I’d love to know! 😀

/ Joh

Geek by Joh

So. Hi.
I am the Joh mentioned. I have a Bachelor’s in Game design and graphics, and a Master’s in both General Escapism and Telling Your Mom You Can’t Pause.
I play hunter in WoW, I main support in LoL and I basically always pick the fire-type starter pokemon. I will scream and throw away the controller if someone makes me play Dying Light, Amnesia or L4D though. Working on that.
Here I’ll be writing about games I like (and dislike), books, zombies and all things geek and wonderful. 😀
I hope to see you again!

Jinx- making supports wanna play AD since 2013.
Jinx- making supports wanna play ADC since 2013.