April 2020 Reading Wrap Up – Part One [Books]

April 2020 1JanuaryFebruaryMarch Part 1March Part 2

I am not doing great at getting these up in a timely way. Ah well. April was another month in which I finished a lot of books, which means this is going to be another two parter. April also saw me complete my 2020 Reading Goal, which was set at 50. I’ve now increased it to 75. And it seems May is a bit of a reading slump month for me. So far I’ve finished 5 books this month, which is still good for me but I doubt it’ll exceed the 18 I read in April.

Doctor Who, The Tenth Doctor Adventures, Volume 1

doctor who tenth doctor adventures

My Review

2020 is the year I started listening to audiobooks. After a rocky start with DisneyWar, I’ve found myself enjoying them a lot, especially full cast productions. The Tenth Doctor Adventures contains three stories starring my favourite doctor and Donna, who though not my favourite of the companions, is still one I really like. This audio production was absolutely great to listen to, and I look forward to checking out more in the future.

Dead Daughters – Tim Meyer

dead daughters

My Review

Poltergeist Press are an absolutely fantastic indie horror publisher, putting out great books. Dead Daughters was slightly more thriller than horror for me, but I still really enjoyed this one. It’s got an intriguing premise and interesting characters able to carry the reader through. Definitley worth checking out.

Cirque Des Freaks and Other Tales of Horror – Julián López

cirquwMy Review

I had really high hopes for this one, and unfortunately it didn’t match up. I go into more detail in my review, but these felt more like doomed love stories than actual horror. Not to mention the plot for one story is ripped straight out of the horror film Waxwork. If you’re looking for LGBTQ+ horror anthologies, I recommend Black Rainbow instead.

The Devil’s City – Sara Tantlinger & Matt Corley

the devil's city

Review coming soon on Dead Head Reviews

Talking to friends who have read this, The Devil’s City works much better as a companion to the game currently in production, rather than as a standalone novella. I didn’t really get on with it, but I can see the appeal for others. For me, it moved too fast and didn’t feel like it had enough space to breathe, but many horror lovers have throughly enjoyed it.

The Tales of Beedle the Bard – J.K. Rowling

tales of beedleMy Review

I gave this a listen on Audible as it was a freebie. I probably wouldn’t have picked it up if it hadn’t been free anyway, but I was still glad I didn’t spend money/credits on it. The narration is great, with some fantastic actors involved, but parts of the book smack of self-righteousness. I read this originally at university, but returning to it now, I really wasn’t fussed.

Vicious – V.E. Schwab

vicious

My Review

I really liked this. Of course I did, it’s a Schwab novel, and I know I’m always getting interesting characters, intriguing plots and wonderful settings with Schwab’s books. Vicious asks what it really means to be a hero or a villain, and who actually decides who is who. If you’ve not checked this out, I cannot urge you enough to do so.

The Corpse Garden – S.H. Cooper

the corpse garden

My Review

I will shout this from the rooftops: S.H. Cooper is a bloody fantastic writer. Her short stories are excellent at combining heartbreak with horror, and reinforce an idea I will bang on and on about until someone tells me to shut up – horror is at its best when it is about love. If you haven’t checked out any of Cooper’s work, why not? For horror fans, there’s her two short story collections and the novella, The Festering Ones. If horror isn’t your thing or you also love YA Fantasy, go read The Knight’s Daughter.

Ghostland – Duncan Ralston

ghostland

My Review

Unfortunately I wasn’t really fussed on this one, and I absolutely love stories with multiple ghosts focused around an interesting setting. But this just read a bit superficial to me. There was no real character development, the book didn’t know if it wanted to be YA or Adult, and there wasn’t anything really new to it. It felt much like Jurassic Park with Ghosts. Which is an awesome premise, just not pulled off very well here.

Beauty – Sarah Pinborough

beauty

My Review

I already really miss this series. After reading all three, I can safely say this is a fantastic, interesting take on fairy tales, giving them modern twists while creating a new fantasy world around them. I really enjoyed all three books, but they definitely got better with each one. And I got through all three really quickly. This is a trilogy definitely worth checking out.

So there we have the first 9 books I read in April. Part Two coming as soon as possible!

Jeff Wayne’s The War of the Worlds [Books]

war of the worldsYep, another Audible Drama. Going into this, I expected something…different. I really should have read more about this version before getting it. What I wanted was, essentially, an audio version of the musical, though I suppose that would technically just be the album then, wouldn’t it?

Anyway. That aside, and putting away my disappointment at not hearing Michael Sheen singing, this is actually a fantastic audio drama. The cast is brilliant, especially Sheen as the main character. He carries us through the story, and makes the narration sound natural rather than, well, narration.

The music really does add to the drama, underscoring the action and dialogue and at times, providing further clues as to what might be happening. Most of the music here will be familiar, even if you’ve never actually listened to Jeff Wayne’s soundtrack, some of the songs have still wedged themselves in. And it works really well here.

This is a really great production. I think overall full cast audio works brilliantly in general, and it’s really used to full effect here. Even though the story is just told through dialogue and sound effects, it becomes really easy to picture the scenes of destruction around the characters, to see the crowds in London as they flee their villages, and to see the huge crater housing the alien invaders at the beginning.

War of the Worlds is a timeless classic with endless adaptations. But what struck me most about this one was how relevant it feels, especially now. True, the apocalypse, it seems, doesn’t quite happen as Wells imagined it, though there are very good parallels. There are those who refuse to believe what is actually happening, until they maybe see it with their own eyes. Those in charge try to insist on life carrying on as normal until it’s almost too late. One character is convinced his ultimate vision of the world will be what saves humanity – a hypermasculine vision where the strong survive and the ‘weak’ are discarded, only to find himself unable to even take the first steps in pursuing his dream.

Listening to this, the threat feels real, the reactions feel real, and the tension is handled wonderfully. It’s a really brilliant audio production with a really strong cast. It might not have actual singing in it, but I can always listen to the album for that.

The Twilight Zone Radio Dramas, Volume 1 [Books]

twilight zoneCan you tell I am absolutely loving Audible?

I try to mix up what I get, and so far I’ve tried non-fiction, full cast, fiction single person narration, and now The Twilight Zone Radio Dramas. Having grown up in the UK, The Twilight Zone wasn’t something I had access to. Not long after we first got together, I got the first ever series on DVD for me and my boyfriend, and we’ve been very slowly making our way through them.

As such, I have never actually heard the radio series before, and was excited to dive in. All except one of these stories were completely new to me, with Long Live Walter Jameson being the one I knew, as it is in the first series of the television show.

The stories contained in this volume are Night Call, Long Live Walter Jameson, The Lateness of the Hour, The 30-Fathom Grave, The Man in the Bottle, and Night of the Meek. Just like in the TV show, the characters range from the likeable and sympathetic, to the kind you’re not sure about and are off-put by. Others fall in the middle, keeping the listener on their toes regarding the characters until, perhaps, the final revelation.

Night Call is a creepy yet ultimately sweet story, focusing on an elderly woman who receives strange calls, though the people around her try to dismiss them as accidents, she knows they are something more.  Long Live Walter Jameson is about a history teacher who talks about the past as if he actually lived it. Even though I’d seen this play out in the TV series and therefore knew the twist, it was really interesting to revisit this in audio, when the clues have to be presented more carefully without the reliance on sight.

The Lateness of the Hour doesn’t have the most hard to spot twist – none of these really do – but the story is entertaining and engaging, and it’s hard not to feel for the characters presented here. It’s a story about a young woman growing up and growing curious, and the father who wishes to keep her at his side. Similarly, The 30-Fathom Grave has an ending in some ways easy to see, but it’s the little extra bits that make it worthwhile. It’s about a naval destroyer picking up signals from a ship that sunk twenty years before, and this one is honestly creepy.

The Man in the Bottle shows just how tricky genies can be, focusing on a kindly yet impoverished pawnbroker who is sometimes perhaps a bit too generous. When he gets four wishes, he tries to ensure they are carried out exactly as he wants, but even that isn’t enough. There was a lot going on in this one, and I found myself quickly wrapped up in the story, trying to work out what the next wish would be and how exactly it would go wrong.

Finally, Night of the Meek rounds off the volume with a story about Christmas, Santa and Christmas miracles. This was a sweet, heartwarming story about a department store Santa who just doesn’t have it in him to spread Christmas cheer, until he discovers a sack of presents which seems to contain exactly what people want most for Christmas. This was a good story to end the volume, really nicely showing how the smallest of gifts can go a long way, and how important hope is.

I really enjoyed listening to these radio dramas, and it was a great way to get a different type of storytelling from The Twilight Zone, with all the elements of an audio production done really well. Without a doubt I’ll be listening to Volume Two at some point in the future.