Book Box Review and Unboxing: The Nocturnal Reader’s Box – May – Corporate Overlords

Well, after a whole lot of delivery company drama, my May Nocturnal Reader’s Box has finally arrived (yay!). I’ve been looking forward to this one since the twisted souls who put the box together every month dropped some hints about what would be included for May. (And those same evil people have been teasing the June box for about two months now, and I am actually  salivating)

So let’s get down to business. The featured book this month is Borne by Jeff VanderMeer. 

Here’s the Goodreads description:

In a ruined, nameless city of the future, a woman named Rachel, who makes her living as a scavenger, finds a creature she names “Borne” entangled in the fur of Mord, a gigantic, despotic bear. Mord once prowled the corridors of the biotech organization known as the Company, which lies at the outskirts of the city, until he was experimented on, grew large, learned to fly and broke free. Driven insane by his torture at the Company, Mord terrorizes the city even as he provides sustenance for scavengers like Rachel.

At first, Borne looks like nothing at all—just a green lump that might be a Company discard. The Company, although severely damaged, is rumoured to still make creatures and send them to distant places that have not yet suffered Collapse.

Borne somehow reminds Rachel of the island nation of her birth, now long lost to rising seas. She feels an attachment she resents; attachments are traps, and in this world any weakness can kill you. Yet when she takes Borne to her subterranean sanctuary, the Balcony Cliffs, Rachel convinces her lover, Wick, not to render Borne down to raw genetic material for the drugs he sells—she cannot break that bond.

Wick is a special kind of supplier, because the drug dealers in the city don’t sell the usual things. They sell tiny creatures that can be swallowed or stuck in the ear, and that release powerful memories of other people’s happier times or pull out forgotten memories from the user’s own mind—or just produce beautiful visions that provide escape from the barren, craterous landscapes of the city.

Against his better judgment, out of affection for Rachel or perhaps some other impulse, Wick respects her decision. Rachel, meanwhile, despite her loyalty to Wick, knows he has kept secrets from her. Searching his apartment, she finds a burnt, unreadable journal titled “Mord,” a cryptic reference to the Magician (a rival drug dealer) and evidence that Wick has planned the layout of the Balcony Cliffs to match the blueprint of the Company building. What is he hiding? Why won’t he tell her about what happened when he worked for the Company?

Sounds pretty cool, right? Oh, and did I mention that the book comes with a signed bookplate?

The second book is Normal by Warren Ellis

From Goodreads:

Some people call it “abyss gaze.” Gaze into the abyss all day and the abyss will gaze into you.

There are two types of people who think professionally about the future: foresight strategists are civil futurists who think about geo-engineering and smart cities and ways to evade Our Coming Doom; strategic forecasters are spook futurists, who think about geopolitical upheaval and drone warfare and ways to prepare clients for Our Coming Doom. The former are paid by nonprofits and charities, the latter by global security groups and corporate think tanks.

For both types, if you’re good at it, and you spend your days and nights doing it, then it’s something you can’t do for long. Depression sets in. Mental illness festers. And if the “abyss gaze” takes hold there’s only one place to recover: Normal Head, in the wilds of Oregon, within the secure perimeter of an experimental forest.

When Adam Dearden, a foresight strategist, arrives at Normal Head, he is desperate to unplug and be immersed in sylvan silence. But then a patient goes missing from his locked bedroom, leaving nothing but a pile of insects in his wake. A staff investigation ensues; surveillance becomes total. As the mystery of the disappeared man unravels in Warren Ellis’s Normal, Dearden uncovers a conspiracy that calls into question the core principles of how and why we think about the future—and the past, and the now.

Doomsday seems a bit close for comfort lately, but I’m always up for some speculative fiction! 

And now we come to the goodies! As ever we get a pin (velociraptor, sweet!), and this month’s box includes two bookmarks, one from The Dark Tower series and one from The Southern Reach trilogy, which was also written by this month’s featured author, Jeff VanderMeer. 

Also included was charcoal soap from  the Paper Street Soap Co., in “Tyler Durden” scent (I was a bit nervous at first, but it’s quite pleasant)

A journal (Yay! What? I don’t have a problem, I swear) in a Southern Reach theme

And, as always a lovely custom art print, this one from The Dark Tower (now framed and hanging proudly in my house)

But the last two items really made my day:

A set of Ingen branded socks (I still love rereading Jurassic Park!)

And (squeeeeee) a towel with “Don’t Panic” embroidered on it!

Which, clearly, will have to start traveling with me. You know, just in case.

So if you haven’t already, you really should go to http://www.thenocturnalreadersbox.com/ and check out The Nocturnal Reader’s Box for yourself. I have to say that by far, this is one of the most consistently satisfying book boxes I’ve tried. Can’t wait for next month!

Book Review: The Devil Crept In by Ania Ahlborn

The Devil Crept In by Ania Ahlborn

Jude Brighton is missing, and only his ten-year-old cousin, Stevie, seems concerned. Most of the town regards Jude as merely trouble, and write him off as a likely runaway. But Jude isn’t the first disappearance from the small town of Deer Valley, Oregon. Pets have long gone missing from backyards, and years ago another young boy went missing, found weeks later torn to pieces . . . The adults in town seem determined to avoid thinking about these mysteries, and it seems that Stevie may have to take matters into his own hands.

It has been a while since I’ve read a true horror novel, and I came away from The Devil Crept In with a renewed love of the genre. Ahlborn has an excellent sense of suspense, and fills the narrative with enough background menace to keep the reader on edge throughout the book.

In addition, Stevie, our narrator, seems to be suffering from some schizophreniform disorder, adding a delicious uncertainty to everything about the book. Stevie is the ultimate unreliable narrator, and we can never be sure if the things that happen are real, or a product of his mental illness.

Ahlborn is a rare female voice in a genre nearly completely dominated by men. Fans of Stephen King, Nick Cutter, Joe Hill and other giants of the genre would do well to read her work. Ahlborn is clearly able to set her own bloody stake near the top of the hill of horror writers.

Book Review: I am Providence by Nick Mamatas

I Am Providence by Nick Mamatas

Colleen Danzig is an aspiring writer of Lovecraftian fiction. While attending the biggest gathering for Lovecraftian literary types: The Summer Tentacular in Providence, Rhode Island, she finds the hardcore fans more than a little off-putting. When her roommate–a widely admired and equally despised writer named Panossian–is murdered and his face surgically removed, Colleen finds that she is the only one who seems to care about Panossian’s death. Deciding to start her own investigation, she delves into the underbelly of the Lovecraftian fandom, a place where racism and sexism merge with mystical thinking, and more than one convention goer seems to be searching for a book bound in human skin . . .

This is a meta-fiction, a Lovecraft book about Lovecraft folks. There are no cosmic horrors here, though, just the banal horror of truly terrible people. I do like the split narrative between the well-meaning and frustrated Colleen and the dead, decomposing, but still conscious Panossian, which did give the book a touch of Lovecraftian horror. the tone of the book is bitter and snarky, focusing on the trouble that arises when you have too many socially-backward folks in one place. Despite the occasionally sour-grapes-esque tone, Mamatas does bring forward some legitimate problems both with Lovecraft himself and with a subset of his fans (see previous: racism, sexism, etc.).

The plot of the book stumbles at times, switching viewpoints or segueing with little warning. In addition, the various secondary characters tend to be a bit one dimensional, which occasionally makes it difficult to keep these players straight.

The book is quite funny at times, but I would recommend it more for the serious Lovecraft fan, and not a casual reader.

Book Box Review and Unboxing: The Nocturnal Reader’s April Box: Trapped

It’s that time again! This month’s theme for The Nocturnal Reader’s Box was “Trapped,” and explored all the various iterations of that theme in horror literature.

First things first. The two books this month are:

Little Heaven by Nick Cutter (yay!) Here’s the Goodreads description:

An all-new epic tale of terror and redemption set in the hinterlands of midcentury New Mexico from the acclaimed author of The Troop—which Stephen King raved “scared the hell out of me and I couldn’t put it down…old-school horror at its best.”

From electrifying horror author Nick Cutter comes a haunting new novel, reminiscent of Cormac McCarthy’s Blood Meridian and Stephen King’s It, in which a trio of mismatched mercenaries is hired by a young woman for a deceptively simple task: check in on her nephew, who may have been taken against his will to a remote New Mexico backwoods settlement called Little Heaven. Shortly after they arrive, things begin to turn ominous. Stirrings in the woods and over the treetops—the brooding shape of a monolith known as the Black Rock casts its terrible pall. Paranoia and distrust grips the settlement. The escape routes are gradually cut off as events spiral towards madness. Hell—or the closest thing to it—invades Little Heaven. The remaining occupants are forced to take a stand and fight back, but whatever has cast its dark eye on Little Heaven is now marshaling its powers…and it wants them all.

And Suffer the Children by Craig DiLouie 

Suffer the Children presents a terrifying tale of apocalyptic fiction, as readers are introduced to Herod’s Syndrome, a devastating illness that suddenly and swiftly kills all young children across the globe. Soon, they return from the grave…and ask for blood. And with blood, they stop being dead. They continue to remain the children they once were…but only for a short time, as they need more blood to live. The average human body holds ten pints of blood, so the inevitable question for parents everywhere becomes: How far would you go to bring your child back?

I’ve been looking forward to Nick Cutter’s new book, and Suffer the Children sounds horrifying (not a big child fan to begin with).

In addition there was a ton of cool stuff, such as a Stephen King pin, and a Shutter Island matchbox . . . 

A chapbook called 120 Seconds of Light by JE Smith 

 A Lord of the Flies themed tote bag

A wicked cool and creepy 3D art print, 

And probably my favorite part of the box: a pint glass from The Overlook Hotel of The Shining fame. 

As always, I have nothing but praise for this box. The amount of stuff you get for your money is unreal,  and it’s so wonderful to find a book box not solely for the teenage set. Boxes go quick, but you should totally head over to their website and start up a subscription. 

Book Box Review/Unboxing: Nocturnal Reader’s Box (March): Lost in the Woods

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I’m loving this subscription box so far! This is my second month with The Nocturnal Reader’s Box, and I couldn’t be happier! This month’s theme was “Lost in the Woods,” and the box was crammed full of great spooky/woodsy stuff!

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The books featured this month are In a Dark, Dark Wood by Ruth Ware and The Devil Crept In by Ania Ahlborn, two books that I’ve really been looking forward to reading.

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From the Goodreads description for In a Dark, Dark Wood:

In a dark, dark wood

Nora hasn’t seen Clare for ten years. Not since Nora walked out of school one day and never went back.

There was a dark, dark house

Until, out of the blue, an invitation to Clare’s hen do arrives. Is this a chance for Nora to finally put her past behind her?

And in the dark, dark house there was a dark, dark room

But something goes wrong. Very wrong.

And in the dark, dark room….

Some things can’t stay secret for ever.

And for The Devil Crept In:

An unforgettable horror novel from bestselling sensation Ania Ahlborn—hailed as a writer of “some of the most promising horror I’ve encountered in years” (New York Times bestselling author Seanan McGuire)—in which a small-town boy investigates the mysterious disappearance of his cousin and uncovers a terrifying secret kept hidden for years.

Young Jude Brighton has been missing for three days, and while the search for him is in full swing in the small town of Deer Valley, Oregon, the locals are starting to lose hope. They’re well aware that the first forty-eight hours are critical and after that, the odds usually point to a worst-case scenario. And despite Stevie Clark’s youth, he knows that, too; he’s seen the cop shows. He knows what each ticking moment may mean for Jude, his cousin and best friend.

That, and there was that boy, Max Larsen…the one from years ago, found dead after also disappearing under mysterious circumstances. And then there were the animals: pets gone missing out of yards. For years, the residents of Deer Valley have murmured about these unsolved crimes…and that a killer may still be lurking around their quiet town. Now, fear is reborn—and for Stevie, who is determined to find out what really happened to Jude, the awful truth may be too horrifying to imagine.

How can you not be excited by that?!

In addition to the two books, there were a bunch of fun goodies to complete the woodsy theme:

Included in the box was a “Campfire Story Champion” hat, a wooden bookmark, some looseleaf tea and tea ball (yay!), a para-cord bracelet with a compass and knife, a Sasquatch air freshener (smells like pine, not Sasquatch, thankfully!), a pin, and a spooky poster.I am amazed by all the stuff they can fit into one box!

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In all, I’m very happy with the variety and quality of this subscription box. The book selections have been wonderful, and their monthly themes are just so much fun! They’ve already announced the theme for April: Trapped! If you want to sign up for this box (and I highly recommend that you do), visit The Nocturnal Reader’s Box to sign up. I hear that April’s boxes are going quickly, so sooner is definitely better than later!

Book Box Review: Nocturnal Readers Box – “Paranoia”

This book box subscription is exactly what I have been looking for! It is surprisingly hard to find a decent sci-fi/horror subscription box that is not YA focused.

Each box contains two books, one new release and one older release, a custom-designed wearable, an art print, and assorted other goodies. Each box is also based upon a theme. February’s is “Paranoia.” (The March 2017 theme has just been announced: “Lost in the Woods” check it out here).

The featured book is Under a Watchful Eye by Adam Nevill. From the Goodreads description:

Seb Logan is being watched. He just doesn’t know by whom.

When the sudden appearance of a dark figure shatters his idyllic coastal life, he soon realizes that the murky past he thought he’d left behind has far from forgotten him. What’s more unsettling is the strange atmosphere that engulfs him at every sighting, plunging his mind into a terrifying paranoia.

To be a victim without knowing the tormentor. To be despised without knowing the offence caused. To be seen by what nobody else can see. These are the thoughts which plague his every waking moment.

Imprisoned by despair, Seb fears his stalker is not working alone, but rather is involved in a wider conspiracy that threatens everything he has worked for. For there are doors in this world that open into unknown places. Places used by the worst kind of people to achieve their own ends. And once his investigation leads him to stray across the line and into mortal danger, he risks becoming another fatality in a long line of victims . . .

Even the description is anxiety-inducing!

Perhaps my favorite thing in this box was seeing Silence of the Lambs when I took Under a Watchful Eye out of the box. But wait! That gorgeousness was actually a box, and inside I found a copy of Bret Easton Ellis’ American Psycho!

Extra goodies included sunglasses with “Don’t Follow Me” emblazoned on the sides, and a branded case, a beautiful journal with a quote from Phillip K. Dick embossed on the cover, and American Psycho-themed videotape pin, and a bookmark and art print featuring the monsters under your bed.

In all, I’m incredibly happy with this book box! This is my first experience with Nocturnal Readers, and I am thrilled! I can’t wait for the March box!

If you’re interested in subscribing to the Nocturnal Reader’s Box, click here.