Strange Medicine Review

Strange Medicine Review

By Mike Russell

Publisher: StrangeBooks

Print Length: 146 pages

Release Year: 2016

Genre: Fiction, Short Stories

Avg. Goodreads Rating: 4.04

Available on Amazon

This book was provided to me by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

We recommend the following prescription: Strange Medicine – weird and wonderful stories for all that ails you. Strange Medicine is a fantastic collection of extraordinary tales of transformation by UK weird-fiction author Mike Russell. If you love the strange, surreal and unusual or if you are just looking for something different, Strange Medicine is for you. (Goodreads)

Being the second short story collection that I’ve read (third book overall) by writer Mike Russell, Strange Medicine is precisely the sort of book to get me out of a reading slump successfully. This book did an exceptional job of doing so, just the medicine I needed. It was just the thing I needed to throw me back into the surrealist dream-like world of Russell’s mind.

One thing that has continually surprised me about these collections is that every story leaves you thinking. At the end of every story, I couldn’t help but find myself contemplating them days after. I consider this one of the author’s highest achievements: the sheer ability to take over a reader’s mind. 

While otherness is a continual theme in Russell’s work, Strange Medicine takes the time to explore themes as grand as the relationship between man and the universe (“Mr. Dennis and the Universe”) to the concept of existence (“Mime”). It wouldn’t be difficult for Russel to send someone through one hell of an existential crisis. In saying that I’m pretty sure had a couple while reading this collection.

Russell proves to be a talented writer, especially when it comes to short-form fiction. Dali had paint, Hausmann had… glue? And Russell has words.

Subjective Rating

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Objective Rating

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Final Rating

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Howl’s Moving Castle Review

Howl’s Moving Castle Review

by Dianna Wynne Jones

Publisher: Greenwillow Books; HarperCollins

Print Length: 448 pages

Release Year: 1986

Genre: Fantasy, Fiction, Young Adult

Avg. Goodreads Rating: 4.28

Available at: Amazon, B&N

Sophie has the great misfortune of being the eldest of three daughters, destined to fail miserably should she ever leave home to seek her fate. But when she unwittingly attracts the ire of the Witch of the Waste, Sophie finds herself under a horrid spell that transforms her into an old lady. Her only chance at breaking it lies in the ever-moving castle in the hills: the Wizard Howl’s castle. To untangle the enchantment, Sophie must handle the heartless Howl, strike a bargain with a fire demon, and meet the Witch of the Waste head-on. Along the way, she discovers that there’s far more to Howl—and herself—than first meets the eye. (Goodreads)

When I first read this book, I’m quite sure that I was the target age group, but I honestly can’t remember. What I can remember is: that since then, it has been one of my most favourite books. 

I reread it recently to comfort myself while being quite ill. I wanted to read something I’ve not only read before, but something that reads quite easily. Howl’s is one of those books I can read in one sitting, not only because it’s not very long but because I find it utterly engaging. 

The late Mrs. Jones’s writing is both fantastical and full of whimsy. No wonder Hiyao Miyazaki took on this story to adapt into one of his acclaimed films. The characters are well developed, in a way not often seen in children’s books. And though the writing style seems to tend to tell more than show, there is still plenty to see in between the lines. Which is a fascinating thing, considering this is a children’s book. It tells you quite a bit, yes, but also shows you enough to teach young readers what to look for while reading. As an adult the telling can be annoying at times, but the details you find in the cracks makes it all worthwhile. 

You can’t read this book and not fall in love with the titular Howl, as well as the protagonist Sophie. They’re both charming in very different ways, and practically every moment spent with them laughs are to follow. Even secondary characters such as Micheal and Calcifer are memorable. Who can forget not to bully Calcifer, or “may all your bacon burn!”

If you’ve seen the movie, I highly recommend you read the book. While they are quite different at times the themes are the same and so is the sense of whimsy. Howl’s Moving Castle is a true classic in children’s story telling, and deserves all the attention our beloved Howl demands

Subjecting Rating:

Objective Rating:

Final Rating:

The Night Circus Review

The Night Circus Review

By Erin Morgenstern 

Release Year: 2011

Genre: Fantasy, Fiction, Romance

Avg. Goodreads Rating: 4.04

The circus arrives without warning. No announcements precede it. It is simply there, when yesterday it was not. Within the black-and-white striped canvas tents is an utterly unique experience full of breathtaking amazements. It is called Le Cirque des Rêves, and it is only open at night.

But behind the scenes, a fierce competition is underway—a duel between two young magicians, Celia and Marco, who have been trained since childhood expressly for this purpose by their mercurial instructors. Unbeknownst to them, this is a game in which only one can be left standing, and the circus is but the stage for a remarkable battle of imagination and will. Despite themselves, however, Celia and Marco tumble headfirst into love—a deep, magical love that makes the lights flicker and the room grow warm whenever they so much as brush hands.

True love or not, the game must play out, and the fates of everyone involved, from the cast of extraordinary circus performers to the patrons, hang in the balance, suspended as precariously as the daring acrobats overhead. (Goodreads)

Coming into 2019 I had made a point to put many fantasy books on my reading list for the year, the result of me truly discovering the genre in 2016. Up until last year I’ve never really read very many books that are considered fantasy, at least none more advanced that the middle grade books I occasionally read while in elementary school. As a result I found myself on a quest for notable fantasy books to introduce me the genre the right way. I must say, The Night Circus did not disappoint.

I was lucky enough to find a copy at a local indie store, that is sadly in the process of closing as I write this. I hadn’t intended to buy the book considering that I try not to buy physical books unless I’ve already read them and like them enough to read them again. Of course, I bought the book, and I don’t regret it one bit. 

The book has a very interesting concept and is subsequently enchanting in its presentation. I’ve never been a big fan of circuses, my only experience with them being Barnum and Bailey’s when I was an exceptionally young age (too young to really understand how horrible the shows were from an ethical stand-point). If such a circus as the one in the book existed I imagine many people would love circuses so much more and they’d not only be much different but they’d still be around.

Something that I really look at when reading fantasy books is the magic system (if one is present in some form). This plot of this story is very well centered around magic, which is described well throughout the book. The only thing is that the system seems to be very soft, which in upon itself is not a bad thing, but something I generally don’t prefer. The implementation of a soft magic system makes sense to an extent when it comes to this book considering there is an air of mystery surrounding magic within the plot. Nevertheless, there were times I felt it detracted from the story and even a little bit more explanation would have probably alleviated this issue. 

The book is overall well written with well-developed characters and vivid descriptions of their world. Regardless of this, there were still a few scenes that I found seemed ultimately unnecessary to the overarching plot. None of which were particularly severe, but notice enough for me to take note of them. Of course, as I writer I understand this sentiment is entirely subjective so I don’t hold this to hard against the book. 

I think the only thing I truly took issue with in this book was the romantic subplot. I realize that, especially in YA, a romantic subplot of some sort is very important, but at times I found the one included in this book not particular interesting. I was not invested in whether or not the characters got together in the end and I can definitely imagine the writer achieving a similar ending with a platonic relationship.

Subjective Rating:

Objective Rating:

Final Rating: