Merry Christmas and Take Care!

flitwick christmas hogwarts

Hello lovely people. I just wanted to wish you all a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year, and make an announcement.

As you probably have noticed, I was quite inactive last month. Balancing full time studies and general life with making the kind of thought-through content that I strive for has proven really stressful. And as much as I hated to realize it, something had to give.
Since I’m an ambitious little geek, and have LOVED to write and share my zombie survival tips, favourite books and love for various fandoms on here, it was a hard decision. But I’m not superhuman (another harsh truth for me to handle ;_;) so I had to lower my expectations on myself a bit.

Geek by joh will go into hiatus for a while, maybe a few months, maybe a year. There may be the occasional book review or hype-post but nothing regular or scheduled, so if you don’t want to miss them I recommend you click the follow button. I will still be lurking (LIKE A NINJA pahaha) and reading the blogs of the awesome people I’ve come in contact with through this project.

Thank you all for being amazing and making my first try at blogging such a great experience. ^^ I’ll see you around!

see you in the future

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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

Until Dawn – First impressions

Hayden-Panettiere-Poster-Until-Dawn
Gloom and doom. Let’s do this.

In the outro of my LoTR fan’s Fall To-Do List I mentioned a great weekend involving scary games. And one of these games has stuck in my mind so adamantly that I really want to share my impressions of it with you guys.
I’m talking about new survival horror game Until Dawn.

Haven’t you always thought that you would be so much smarter than the characters of *insert name of any major, stereotypical horror movie*?
I used to think so too but now I’m not so sure anymore. Turns out making the right choice can be seriously complicated.
(Except if your choice is to instantly disagree to crap ideas like spending a weekend on a haunted mountain with a convicted criminal on the loose in combination with no cell phone reception. That would have been a good and simple choice.)

Heading up to the cabin. I'm feeling good about this decision.
Heading up to the cabin. Feeling real good about this.

I will admit straight away that I did not touch the controller. That is still out of my league because the terror is real. But I was part of the decision-making and  watched intently for about five hours so thus I feel qualified to tell you what I think of the game so far. xD

Until Dawn allows you to step into the classical horror movie tale of teenagers isolated in a cabin in the mountains. The wealthy Washington family has built their luxury cabin on a mountain that is sacred to a native american tribe, and now an unidentified lunatic is set on bloody, excruciating revenge.
You alternate between playing as the different teenagers, who are a rather dramatic and bitchy crew let me tell you, and chose how they react in different situations and what they say.

The  game’s biggest unique selling point, in my opinion, is how one tiny action or dialogue choice heavily impacts how the game plays out- the butterfly effect. This is what really drew me in and kept me in the room even after shit hit the fan and I started screaming on a regular basis.
I had to know what happened because of the choices we made, and see if we could avoid the next death through smart play.

Which alternative will get someone killed in the next chapter? So much pressuuuuuure
Which alternative will get someone killed in the next chapter? So much pressuuuuuure!

An interesting feature interacting with the butterfly effect was the totems. Tying in with the native american theme, you can find and pick up totems lying in the snow or in dark corners of the cabin. These can for example warn about Death or Loss or give Guidance. The visions of possible events add another level to the butterfly effect, will you create that very destiny in your efforts to avoid it? The atmosphere is one of constant doom looming and frankly, I was exhausted after a couple of hours trying to cheat death and get everyone through the night and off that damn mountain.

Phew, yellow totems offers guidance.
Yellow totems offer guidance.

In between acts, we get to visit the shrink. I don’t yet know if he will turn out to be a real person or just a figment of your imagination. But he is very creepy.
This moody and gloomy character is modeled after and brilliantly voiced by Peter Stormare (swede high-five!).
For the record I think it’s awesome how it is possible to merge the film and game medium like this, letting professional actors lend their voices and even their mimicry through motion capture – another big name doing a wonderful job is Hayden Panettiere as Sam.
Anyway, Stormare’s shrink starts out semi-friendly and helpful, but soon things take a sinister turn and I have a feeling that these sessions will get very dark, very soon. I am also pretty sure that this is a clever way for the game to mold itself after your personal fears and preferences, while also giving tantalizing clues as to what will happen next.

Dr Hill is in.
Dr Hill is in.

You can’t write about Until Dawn without mentioning the graphics, because they are ah-mazing, as you can see from the screenshots I’ve included above. It’s a new, fresh game and it looks the part. Apart from a few dodgy freeze frames on too-toothy smiles when a new character is introduced, the game is eerily life-like. The snowy woods, the log cabins, the people, the gore– everything looks almost too real for me to able to cope with. And my guesses are that I’ve by no means seen the worst of it yet.

If you have nerves of steel, or back up from several friends including one that can handle the steering, I highly recommend trying out Until Dawn. I NEED to know how it ends! And then I would like to figure out how to get things to end better. Arrrgh.

/Joh