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Gwendy’s Button Box is the latest offering from Stephen King. Co written by Richard Chizmar its the tale of a young Gwendy Peterson a resident of King’s regular stomping ground of Castle Rock, Maine. The year is 1974 and Gwendy is twelve when we first meet her, on the day that will change her life irrevocably. She meets a mysterious man named John Farris who presents her with the titular button box. The box is studded with a series of colored buttons and has a lever that dispenses “pure” chocolate treats and silver dollars. Not only do the chocolate treats taste incredible, eating them changes Gwendy’s fortunes dramatically. At school her grades improve, she becomes a star athlete and captain of the ladies soccer team. Does the box have anything to do with it though, and if so will there be a price to be paid? And then there are the buttons. What happens if you press the buttons?
Small but perfectly formed, regular readers of Stephen King may feel a little short changed, as this is a slim volume at just 170 pages. Its a tale of temptation, opportunity and responsibility. It’s a testament to Richard Chizmar’s writing/input that the joins in this collaboration are seamless. The story will certainly make you want to check out his solo material. Not quite as dark a tale as you might imagine and there are a few plot holes here and there but Gwendy’s Button Box is a glorious addition to the Castle Rock cannon. Well worth checking out if you can find a copy.
A Game of Ghosts
Charlie Parker first appeared in John Connolly’s debut novel Every Dead Thing almost 20 years ago. Seventeen books later , Parker is still going strong, older, wiser and still ably supported by Louis and Angel. One of the strengths of the Parker series is the author’s ability to infuse his novels with a sense of supernatural dread. Some of the novels, The Reapers for example make little or no reference to this supernatural undercurrent and work perfectly well without it. Connolly himself has said that he is often criticized by detective fiction purists for mixing genres as he does, but for this reviewer it is one of the strongest elements of the series. The good news is that A Game of Ghosts is one of the best so far. It’s a cracking piece of detective fiction in its own right but also steps up the supernatural back-story a notch or two.
A Game of Ghosts sees Parker on the hunt for a missing private detective Jaycob Eklund. His investigations bring him into contact with the Brethren a secretive society whose founder Peter Magus has sold their collective souls to the Devil to prevent a final judgement for their sins. At the same time Parker finds his private life in turmoil with his ex partner suing for sole custody of their daughter, Sam.
Reading A Game of Ghosts, it’s hard not to marvel at Connolly’s ability as a writer. By his own admission Connolly didn’t start out to create a supernatural mythology. Connolly, like his protagonist has had the true nature of his destiny, slowly revealed as the series has progressed. All the more impressive then that the different strands of his story lines never feel forced or contrived. His prose as ever is flawless. The real trick for Connolly will be to maintain the quality of the series as it continues. This is the 17th book in the Parker series, a series which is set almost entirely in Maine. Given the location and the darker themes explored, this reviewer often finds himself thinking of Stephen King while reading the Parker books. King’s 17th novel was IT, subject of a soon to be released (and much anticipated) new film adaptation. IT, is arguably King’s last great novel. He has written may more since then of course, many of them fine in themselves, but none have quite recaptured the brio of his earlier work. The trick for Connolly will be to sustain the quality of the series going forward. On the evidence of A Game of Ghosts its a challenge he’s up for. The role played by his daughter Sam finally feels like its gaining traction. Connolly has teased us before with insights into Parker’s true nature only to step back from it in the next book. There is a real feeling in the last few entries in the series that (supernatural) events are gathering momentum. This reviewer for one can’t wait for the next book.
It’s true to say as with most of the series, that you could read A Game of Ghosts as a standalone thriller, but if you haven’t read the series before, don’t start here. Do yourself a favour and go back to the beginning and start with Every Dead Thing. You won’t regret it.
We’re really intrigued, here at Roe River Books, by this new (well as new as a 100 year old book can be) book. In 1900, Icelandic publisher and writer Valdimar Ásmundsson set out to translate Bram Stoker’s 1897 novel Dracula. Called Makt Myrkranna (literally, “Powers of Darkness”)
The Icelandic edition included an original preface written by Stoker himself. Makt Myrkranna was published in Iceland in 1901 but remained undiscovered outside of the country until 1986.
In 2014 a literary scholar Hans de Roos took a serious look at Ásmundsson translation and found that Ásmundsson hadn’t just translated Dracula but had written an entirely new version of the story.
Complete with new characters and a totally re-worked plot. The resulting narrative is one that is shorter, punchier, more erotic, and some say more suspenseful than Stoker’s Dracula.
Hard to believe Makt Myrkranna has never been translated or even read outside of Iceland until now 117 years after it was originally published. Presented in a beautiful Hardback edition it comes with illustrations and diagrams of Castle Dracula (including a hidden room from an earlier draft of the novel by Stoker but deleted from his final version) and a terrific cover. A must for fans of Stoker and Dracula, an authentic alternate version of the Legend not to be missed.
We are delighted to announce that we will be partnering with those lovely people at An Tain for the upcoming evening in the company of Michael Harding on Friday the 17th February. Michael is an actor, playwright and novelist who will be showcasing his latest (non fiction) book with his one man show “Talking with Strangers”. Michael’s previous work includes Hanging With the Elephant and the bestselling Staring at Lakes. We will be selling copies of his books and the man himself will be signing copies after the show. Its sure to be a really entertaining evening and tickets are selling fast. Make sure not to miss this event if you are a fan or new to his work. Tickets on sale now.
Talking to Strangers – One Man Show with Michael Harding at An Tain Arts Center, Friday 17th February 2017 at 8.00 pm Tickets €18/€16
Anyone intrigued by our recent review for the excellent new horror novel by Adam Nevill might be interested in tuning in to the Facebook Launch this coming Thursday https://www.facebook.com/events/388025294922595/. What is a Facebook Launch? I hear you ask. Well… I have no idea really. I’ve never “attended” one before. I will however be logging on to see what its all about and if you like book launches, horror novels, Adam Nevill or all three, so should you. It sound like great fun
Adam Nevill writes horror. He writes very good horror, and Under a Watchful Eye is a very good horror novel. Nothing surprising there, what is slightly surprising, at least for anyone familiar with his last novel Lost Girl, is the scale of the horror on offer.
Under a Watchful Eye is a psychological (and psychic) horror novel. The protagonist is a writer of horror novels whose life is turned upside down by a reunion with an old college mate from years earlier. A loyal fan base, film adaptations of his work in development and a luxury pad on the south coast, life for Seb is good. What could possibly go wrong? Well, Seb Logan’s latest novel isn’t quite coming along as he would like and at 50 plus he isn’t quite the bright young thing he used to be.
Into his life comes Ewan Alexander, an old roommate from his college days when both were aspiring writers. Life hasn’t been quite as good to Ewan and he’s not happy about it. He sees Seb as his meal ticket and despite his best efforts to discourage him; it’s not very long before Ewan has moved in with a very reluctant Seb as his host.
Ewan sneers at Seb’s work considering it populist pulp fiction and hints at a work of his own that will be important and real, a masterpiece. He wants Seb to “structurally re edit” his masterpiece and get it published for him. Despite his own worsening writers block Seb refuses. From this point on Seb’s life and world start to slowly unravel. He suffers horrific nightmares, threats insinuated and real from both Ewan and subsequently from other members of a cult of which Ewan was a member. His dream lifestyle becomes a nightmare from which he can’t escape.
This feels like a very personal novel by Nevill. Unlike Lost Girl which was a thrill ride of a novel as much a thriller as horror. All its horrors were writ large, extreme climate change, child trafficking, murderous cults and corporate terrorism. The main character referred to only as the father, inadvertently becomes an unlikely if ruthlessly efficient action hero, willing to do anything to find his lost daughter. The horrors on offer in Under a Watchful Eye are of a more personal nature. Things are turned inward. Seb’s life, home, mind and ultimately his talent are invaded and corrupted. The father rushes headlong in pursuit of his nemesis. Seb Logan tries to run from his. But where do you run to when the horror invades the darker corners of your mind?
If all this makes Under a Watchful Eye a little sedate by comparison with Nevill’s previous novels, fear not. The terrors in Under a Watchful may indeed be less immediate and horrific, they are though more visceral, they live with you longer. Not unlike Ewan Alexander, they move in with you and won’t leave. I should also make mention of a certain Thin Len, a character who surely deserves a novel of his own. All in all, Under a Watchful Eye is a fine addition to Adam Nevill’s growing and impressive cannon of work.
Under a Watchful Eye by Adam Nevill ISBN 9781509820405 €15.60 is published on 12th Jan 2017, Anyone mentioning the Roe River Book Review can avail of a discounted price of €12.95 (offer expires Jan 31st)
They say you should never judge a book by it’s cover and that’s probably good advice but every now and then a cover just demands your attention. Undermajordomo Minor the forthcoming title by Patrick deWitt has really got us excited here at Roe River Books. His last novel The Sisters Brothers (possessor of a fine cover itself) was a splendid quirky alternative take on the western novel. Anyone who has read his previous work will know that there is every chance his new book will more than do justice to this fine cover. It also come with this very entertaining trailer with music by Patrick’s brother Nick DeWitt
Undermajordomo Minor is out in paperback on September 3
Tomorrow, Thursday the 18th June, sees the publication of “Grey”, the follow up to E L James trilogy, Fifty Shades of Grey. Fans will tell you the significance of the date (June 18th is its “hero’s” birthday). It may be a new novel, but it isn’t a new story. The previously published, Fifty Shades trilogy, has already given us Anastasia Steele’s story in all its latex clad glory. This time around James is giving us the same story again, this time from the “male” perspective.So although Grey is a spanking new novel, the spanking is not.
On finishing the Harry Potter series J K Rowling cleverly wrote her follow up, not only with new characters, but in an entirely new genre. A Casual Vacancy was an adult novel and was generally well received by fans and critics alike. She further established her non Potter writing credentials under the pseudonym Robert Galbraith with the Cormoran Strike novels. Only now eight years later is she finally talking of a return to the Potter character for a new novel. There is always a danger that authors will go to the well once too often with a well loved character. Rowling recognised this, and has has successfully avoided the danger of being a one trick pony (albeit a hugely successful one)
As someone who hasn’t read any of the previous novels I must admit to a certain curiosity as to how it will be received. Fans will no doubt be curious but will the 70 million who have already read the book, really want to read the same story all over again? The original books although wildly popular were generally poorly reviewed critically. One critic stating that, “they had never read anything so badly written that got published”, further commenting that”it makes Twilight look like War and Peace”. Its success then is more likely to be the unusual subject matter. Unusual for a mainstream novel that is. That and timing. The world, or the books’ readers at least, were ready for Fifty Shades of Grey. Will Grey be met with a “been there done that” indifference, or will fans slavishly lap it up? The new book certainly doesn’t have originality on its side. Novelty, maybe? Timing?, the publication of the novel three years after the last book and four months after the movie adaptation was released, seems strange. Why not closer to the movie’s release? Author E L James has take quite a risk therefore, in publishing Grey as her first novel since the Fifty Shades trilogy. Will fans feel short changed?
Maybe James is suffering from writers block? Maybe she’s smarting from the critical mauling the originals received and is looking to rewrite the story in an attempt to win the critics over? Either way its a huge risk. I’ll leave it to others to gauge the wisdom of her decision. I have no doubt the book will sell in huge numbers. The real question is where does James go next. No matter how well or how poorly received Grey really isn’t anything more than a stopgap.
Grey is available in paperback from Thursday 18th and can be bought at Roe River Book. It retails at €9.99.
Art Spiegelman’s Pulitzer prize-winning graphic novel about the Holocaust, Maus, has some very memorable cover art. It pictures a pair of mice — representing Jews — huddling beneath a cat-like caricature of Adolf Hitler. Behind the feline Hitler is a large swastika!
That last element has become a problem for Maus this spring. For Russian observances of Victory Day, the holiday commemorating the Soviet Union’s defeat of Nazi Germany, Moscow has purged itself of swastikas. In an effort to comply, Russian bookstores cleared copies of Maus from its shelves.
The 1980 novel is the very antithesis of Nazi propaganda — it tells the story of Spiegelman’s father, a Holocaust survivor, by depicting Nazis as cats and Jews as mice — but Spiegelman tells NPR’s Robert Siegel that criticism of the book’s cover is not new. He says the purge of the book from Russian bookstores is “rather well-intentioned stupidity on many levels.”
Read more on the New York Times website.