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review SPOILER ALERT! 2018-02-20 00:34
The Magic Cottage by James Herbert (2017 Review)
The Magic Cottage - James Herbert

The Magic Cottage by James Herbert
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Top Read 2017 * * * * *

Tired of the hustle and bustle of the city of London, young couple Mike and Midge are determined to find a home that offers them a brighter - and quieter - future. Much to their delight, that perfect home comes in the form of Gramarye; a breathtaking, isolated cottage that appears too good to be true. Eager to move right in and settle down, they soon experience the enchanting wonders Gramarye has to offer, along with the sinister ugliness that lurks just beneath its surface.

(WARNING: this review contains spoilers.)

I genuinely didn't expect to discover such a hidden gem when I selected a book at random from my shelf. Having never picked up a Herbert novel before, I was soon stunned by the sheer beauty of the story, which included the subtle, yet increasingly unnerving horror element that primarily lingered in the background. I could be considered a nick-picky reader, or downright pessimistic; someone who doesn't dish out top ratings all too often because even the tiniest things can impact my enjoyment, so it's a surprise and a special occasion when I find something that ticks all the right boxes. And tick all the boxes it did, and then some. This one will stay with me for several reasons, the foremost being quite personal. I know very well the longing for the perfect home - somewhere that brings happiness and contentment. Gramarye in itself sounded like my dream cottage; it simply fascinated me with its extraordinarily close ties to nature, and the magic that enveloped its walls.

I quickly became attached to Mike and Midge, and rooted for their relationship throughout the entirety of the book. Both had their flaws; Mike could be selfish, whilst Midge infuriatingly stubborn, but I found them to be more relatable due to these faults. When they were on the verge of separation, I actually felt something; a sort of dread that perhaps a happy ending wasn't in store. That's the thing about this genre; happily-ever-afters aren't a certainty, there's just so much potential, and I couldn't stop my mind from racing. Of course, there were the side characters, and each and every one had their part to play. Val, in particular stood out, especially when she displayed such bravery and loyalty to her friends in the end.

The plot itself wasn't non-stop scares or gore, but rather a slow progression of laying down the foundations, and setting the tone, before the explosive finale. I can't say this way of storytelling works for everyone, but I found myself completely immersed, and never did I believe it to be stale. Herbert truly struck me as a writer that favoured the development of his characters, and of making the reader truly care for what's happening. I daresay it's so much better than cheap thrills that ultimately mean very little.

I really do need to mention the descriptive writing, and how it truly conveyed what Herbert wanted it to. There's a particular scene that takes place in the loft of Gramarye, involving Mike and a large number of bats. Don't get me wrong, I adore bats and have no fear of them, but I don't think I've ever been as disturbed when reading before - it almost made me feel a bit sick. Such in-depth detail that worked together extremely well, resulting in the magical moments positively feeling magical, and the eerie moments giving a clear sense of unease. This is what writing's really about.

Lastly, I should probably include that I actually cried at a certain point in this book. I'm usually not such an emotional reader, where I shed tears often, but I really loved that squirrel.

I'll never forget Rumbo.

Notable Scene:

The pink, hunched thing grew in size, frail shape glistening in the light of the torch. The tiny body oozed out, smoothly and wetly, taking form - an unsightly form - discharged from the womb like an oval blob of pink topping squeezed from an icing bag, to plop onto the mother bat's stomach, caught there and suspended by its life-chord. The mother immediately wrapped wings and pouched tail around the newborn, its head striving upwards and tongue flickering out to cleanse the sticky flesh body.

© Red Lace 2017

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Source: redlace.reviews/2018/02/20/the-magic-cottage-by-james-herbert-2017-review
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text 2018-02-18 23:55
Reading progress update: I've read 293 out of 467 pages.
Eye On the Struggle: Ethel Payne, the First Lady of the Black Press - James McGrath Morris

a depressing part of the book, but of course Ethel Payne was there, covering it all, experiencing it first-hand: Martin Luther King's assassination, and Resurrection City disintegrating. Ethel wonders if the Dream could ever be real.

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review 2018-02-18 22:06
Lullaby Road
Lullaby Road - James Anderson
I enjoyed this novel more than I had anticipated. As Ben traveled along the desert highway in his big rig, I met some of the interesting individuals he regularly encounters as he makes his deliveries. Ben has been driving the desert for around twenty years, and although the scenery hardly ever changes the individuals, the weather, and the drama that makes up are hardly ever the same.
 
As Ben fills up his truck to begin his day, he finds that someone has left something for him at the pump. It turns out that this something is a someone, a boy who looks to be about 6 years-old. Pinned to his shirt is a note asking Ben to take care of him for the day, from a man Ben hardly knows. Confused and now stuck with company, Ben takes the boy who is now accompanied with a dog, into his rig and gets ready for a long day on the road. He’s stopped again by a close friend who shoves a baby bag and an infant in his rig. I started to wonder what type of person Ben was, a pushover or a person with a big heart who helps people out all the time? With a full rig, Ben now has to decide whether to call off this full day of deliveries or does he take everyone with him as he makes his deliveries with the winter weather outside becoming nastier by the minute.
 
I got to know Ben as his mind wanders over the highway, his thoughts taking in the years he has traveled this countryside. The individuals he has met, the relationships that have been maintained, the ones that have been forgotten, and the ones that he has lost. As he makes his regular deliveries he looks out for his customers, some more carefully than others. There are rules of the road and I liked how not everyone respected one another yet there was this bond that put everyone on the same page.
 
I thought Ben tried to keep to himself, yet he was there to make sure no one took advantage of others who had no voice. I think Ben tried to think he was a loner but he had friends, he had others who thought highly of him and would come to his aid if he needed it. He had a big heart but I don’t think he wanted others to know it. I really enjoyed this novel. I liked the drama on the road, I liked the countryside and the characters. I will continue reading this series but I need to go back and read the first novel in the series to see what I have missed.
 
I received a physical copy of this novel from a Goodreads Giveaway, thank you!
I also received a copy of this novel from Crown Publishing and NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. Thank you!

 

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text 2018-02-18 19:12
Reading progress update: I've read 254 out of 467 pages.
Eye On the Struggle: Ethel Payne, the First Lady of the Black Press - James McGrath Morris

1967: Ethel gets the call, and is off to Vietnam.

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text 2018-02-18 17:04
Reading progress update: I've read 216 out of 467 pages.
Eye On the Struggle: Ethel Payne, the First Lady of the Black Press - James McGrath Morris

Ethel Lois Payne, journalist and world traveler, Civil Rights Activist and proud woman wordsmith. watch her meet Martin Luther King Jr., Thurgood Marshall, Eisenhower, JFK, Nixon, LBJ. trips to Bandung, Indonesia, Ghana and many African countries, Italy, Germany, on and on. what a great story!

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