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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 22:31
Reading progress update: I've read 100%.
Pet Sematary - Stephen King

Probably one of the saddest endings in King's work IMHO. Revival still is the scariest. Pet Semetary doesn't pull any punches. You get the sense something drove this family to it's end, but also you feel frustrated because Louis wouldn't listen. Nice tie ins to Cujo, Salem's Lot, and the other Bangor books. I'm in the mood to reread Needful Things and The Dark Half now. The Dark Half is a book that sticks with you since that character is referred to in two other King works and you find out about his bad end. 

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text 2018-02-18 17:19
Reading progress update: I've read 55%.
Pet Sematary - Stephen King

I forgot how dark this book was. There really is no happy ending here. Just things spiraling from.wlrse to worse things. I do wonder if King will ever have a sequel to this one or refer to the characters in his other books?

 

We have Louis and Just doing what they can to prevent Ellie from realizing her cat Church has died. Jud tells the story of the other burial ground past the Pet Semetary where burying anything that is not a dead pet seems to bring nothing but terrible things. We also have references to a Wendigo here and it reminds me a bit of "Bag of Bones."

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text 2018-02-18 12:42
Reading progress update: I've read 5%.
Pet Sematary - Stephen King

Wow took way too long to post a update. Be on GR for the day posting updates.

 

I'm supposed to go to the movies, but feeling under the weather so think I'm going to cancel and stay home in bed til I feel better. I don't think I'll enjoy sitting for a movie if I have to keep running to the bathroom after 20 minutes.

 

Laying in bed with black out curtains and blinds closed helps set the mood. I only read Pet Semetary once and it scared the crap out of me as a kid. Here we go. 

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review 2018-02-18 02:03
The Dark Net by Benjamin Percy
The Dark Net - Benjamin Percy

I knew nothing about this book when a friend recommended it.  In fact, when I opened to the first page, I expected a story steeped in the technological complexities of the dark web with some subtle social commentary on the value of anonymity on the internet and a cyberpunk vibe.  In fact, based on the synopsis, I first tagged it as a “sci fi” read on Goodreads.

 

Instead, I found a creepy horror story set in Portland, Oregon that uses technology as a backdrop for demons who want to open a portal to hell.  Not that technology and the dark web don’t play a part in the story because they do, particularly in the final third of the book.  I can’t imagine anything more ominous than demons who are technologically savvy!

 

Interestingly however, the main character is completely technologically challenged.  A journalist who lives for the story, I found Lela a slightly unlikeable character.  Although I loved her “sidekick” - her dog, Hemingway.  The cast of characters is rounded out with Lela’s blind niece Hannah who is outfitted with a prothesis called “Mirage” that allows her to see in a unique way, a formerly-corrupt televangelist now going by the name of Juniper and a mysterious woman who may (or may not) be immortal.

 

I really enjoyed the first part of the book as we meet all of the characters and start to get a glimpse of the horror to come.  The epilogue is fantastic - I love where the author took the characters.  I also really enjoyed the setting - I’ve had the pleasure of spending enough time in Portland on business that I recognize many of the landmarks, streets and of course, the truly amazing bookstore, Powell’s.  If I have a criticism, it’s that there are a lot of characters to keep up with in a relatively short book (my edition is 253 pages including epilogue).

 

If you enjoyed Andrew Pyper’s The Demonologist or Joe Hill’s NOS4R2, you should consider picking this one up.  It has the same creepy flavour and end of the world overtones, but be prepared for a faster pace and less character development.

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