{ Under The Bluegums }

A personal blog with craft tutorials, reviews of books, films, and music, parenting advice, and opinions on society and politics.

January 28, 2017

Book Review || Already Dead by Charlie Huston

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This is the modern vampire novel you're looking for. Charlie Huston's 'Already Dead', the first Joe Pitt Novel, is gritty and dirty and has an antihero par excellence.

We are quickly thrown into Manhattan's world of vampire clans, none of which Pitt is allied with. Rather, he is the private investigator/muscle of choice for various clans, The Coalition and The Society in particular, although he is known in other circles as well.

Pitt is a swearing, bullying, smoking, drinking muscle-for-hire getting rid of a couple of zombies when we first meet him, and it takes a while for the character to endear himself to you. He is exactly like those protagonists in the best horror stories - think James Herbert - who are really unlikeable and simply get under your skin. It is also so much unlike all the supernatural fantasy to come out of publishing houses today, all eager to become the next 'Twilight', that it appears to be unique. It really is more of a crime thriller than supernatural fiction, and it just happens to have a basis in vampire lore. However, once the narrative gets underway and we become embroiled in the apparently unrelated mysteries of a zombie germ carrier and a missing teen, it is really difficult to put the novel down at all.

Pitt becomes a super-complex character with a chequered past as both a human and as a vampire, as can be seen through his familiarity with all of the clans and with dark underbelly of the city. I loved that he could walk around among the humans and no one could tell what he was. I loved the effort he had to take to go out during the day. I loved that he made mistake after mistake. I loved the descriptions of the different hangers-on of vampires: the 'Minas', the 'Renfields' and so on, terms lovingly inserted into the narrative to not only please fans of the vampire genre but also to honour the rich history of the vampire story, 'Dracula' obviously being the stand-out icon. I also thought the 'Pitt' reference was cute (if you don't know what I'm talking about, take a look at the film version of Anne Rice's 'Interview with the Vampire').

Many of the characters are deliciously detailed through Pitt's eyes, from Mr Predo and Leprosy and his monstrous dog to the Enclave's Daniel, a vampire who barely feeds in the hopes that he will die, or become some invincible messiah.

The mystery is as twisted and grisly as such a novel deserves and your only regret will be coming to the end of the novel. I am eager to read the next novel in the series, if I can find it.

January 16, 2017

Book Review || The Book of Lost Things by John Connolly

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I had been wanting to read a novel by John Connolly for quite some time and 'The Book of Lost Things' has been sitting on my bookshelf for a while. You all know I am a fan of fairy tale retellings, and this darker look at old favourites is interesting and intriguing.

The novel at its heart is about the redemptive and healing qualities of books and stories for people in general and while the narrative moves a little slowly, whimsical details and interesting characters remedy this somewhat.

David, who has a very special connection to books, loses his mother from sickness and finds himself feeling unwelcome in his father's new relationship with Rose, which becomes more constrained when a baby brother is born. They come to live in Rose's house and it turns out this house has its own mysterious history connected to Rose's brother Jonathan, who also loved fairy tales. It doesn't help that David feels a strange presence is watching him.

There are gloomy and sombre twists and changes to the fairy tales we are familiar with, which provide interesting juxtapositions to David's state of mind. The evil creatures of the forest are wolves that are changing into men, giant worms that suck their victims dry, a Huntress who experiments with her catches, a more evil and sadistic Rumplestiltskin-type character, and even an enchantress pretending to be Sleeping Beauty but who is really a vampire.

There is even the hint of a homosexual character in the Knight who comes to David's rescue: Roland is looking for his friend Raphael and enlists David's help. Raphael breaks the trope of the homosexual man and his masculinity forms part of one of the novel's themes: masculinity, or becoming a man. David, upon entering the world, is still a child reeling from his mother's death and utterly jealous of his brother and Rose's relationship with his father. He does not wish to face his reality, made clear in his frequent loss of consciousness in the real world and so it is easy for him to believe that the world of fairy tales will give him what he needs. Through his adventure, however, he comes to accept his reality. Roland and the Woodcutter refer to this as becoming a man, which I find a very limiting idea since David is really growing up and his acceptance of his true life is not what makes a man.

One of the biggest questions one is left with after completing the novel is whether or not all of David's experiences were merely part of an extended fugue state, similar to but longer than his bouts of unconsciousness. While David's true life is long, he returns to the world of fairy tales at the end, and is greeted by the Woodcutter as the child he was when he first entered, seeing himself reflected in the Woodcutter's eyes as though he was his father. The Woodcutter tells him most people return at the end. So did David experience it all, or dream it all as he lay unconscious?

Only you can decide. If you read the book. :)

January 10, 2017

My Favourite Free Printable Calendars 2017

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As part of an aim to be more organised this year, I have calendars everywhere. I have a daily diary, a desk planner, and a calendar pinned up with a pen to add notes on when I pass it. But I'm considering putting a calendar up in every room as there are so many beautiful ones available for free from amazing artists in the blogging world!

Here is a roundup of my five favourites for the year - get printing!

Watercolour Star Wars Calendar

This is right at the top because I think it's amazing! The art is really sweet and the calendar itself is simple with a special spot for notes.

star-wars-calendar

Floral-Themed Calendar in Colour or Not!

I like that you can choose between the colour version and one without colour. If you're into adult colouring at the moment, you can just colour the plain version the way you see fit.

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Under the Sea Calendar

This is also a favourite of mine, since I love the ocean... It would go wonderfully in my sea-themed bathroom. The art is gorgeous and inspiring.
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Eco Tips Calendar

For all of us wanting to live a little more sustainably, this calendar offers monthly tips on doing just that. The blocks are also large enough to fill up with daily activities and special dates, like birthdays.
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Floral-Themed Calendar and Co-ordinating Weekly Planner

What makes this free calendar stand out is the matching weekly planner so you can truly remain organised!
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Are there any calendars you like more? I would love to add them to my list!

{Lead Image credit: By Ondrejk - Own work, Public Domain, Link}