Monday 13 September 2010

Interesting book links and my Top 10 Ghost Stories

In keeping with the current theme of all things dark and scary, here are two things that I found today that I really liked:

- if you're looking for a ghost story treasury to read, possibly one for a 8 years or up child also, this one sounds so good that I might get it for our spooky night stories:  from Bookslut:  Stories to Tell in the Dark post.

- I was looking for a listing of the Byrant and May mystery series to make sure I had bought the right one next in line, and came across Christopher Fowler's wonderful blog.  Filled with writing tips, publishing stories, all kinds of cool things, including this wonderful photograph that is just a little bizarre and oh so cool and very in keeping with RIP themes..  Very Dickensian too, and now I'm longing to go see London again. 

When did it become a stigma to read?
Yesterday, Chris at Book-a-rama had this lovely rant post about an article that appeared in the NY Times in August about people who read books.  I can see why she ranted.  Reading it, I am incensed too. What do you mean, there is a stigma against reading alone in public?  I am left shaking my head at this one.  If there is social stigma against reading a book, I'm not aware of it.  Since reading is intrinsically a pleasure for the self, it is of course going to be done alone.  I do know we have the 'book nerd' thing attached - at least I have.  But I lost any care about that long ago.  I didn't know I had a social stigma against me for reading.  I feel kind of cool anyway.  In my little corner of the world, books are cool and interesting, and best of all, I can take a book almost anywhere and open it up and read.  Plus, I've had people approach me and ask about the book, and go away to find a copy for themselves. Personally, I think talking on cell phones in public is far more intrusive, invasive, and socially unacceptable.  I'm quiet when I read, whereas you, young woman with your phone on your ear today on the bus talking incessantly beside me to someone -and really, if she drew a breath in ten minutes I didn't hear it - oh yes, give me a book any time.  If there's a stigma against reading alone in public (and is this an oxymoron too?), then there should be a taboo against talking loudly and in public on your cell phone in spaces where people can't get away from you.

If you're still looking for some horror books to read for Carl's RIP V challenge, then  here is a top 10 list from Charlie Higson over at Guardian Unlimited.  I agree with some of his choices, and I think I'm one of the few people to have read Daphne Du Maurier's Don't Look Now, as well as seen the movie, and they both scare me very much.  I would have put The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson, and The Woman in Black by Susan Hill on the list. So.......this made me think:  what are my current top 10 of horror books?

Susan's Top 10 Horror Ghost stories books

1. The Haunting of Hill House - Shirley Jackson - my all time personal favourite ghost story.  Whatever walks at Hill House, walks alone.  Just writing those words makes goosebumps appear on me.
2. The Shining - Stephen King - I still hold this up as the best of his, although Duma Key is a very close second.  I might have to read them both again and compare........
3. The Terror - Dan Simmons - my book of the year two years ago.  Scared me, and still does. 
4. The Night Country - Stewart O'Nan - haunting and sad and beautiful.
5. Tamsin - Peter S. Beagle - my favourite ghost story featuring a ghost cat and ghost girl. 
6. The Prayer of the Night Shepherd - Phil Rickman (I swear, there are a couple of scenes in this book where I could feel the hair lifting on the back of my neck).  The scariest, so far, for me, in the series, just because that sense of the ghost was so authentic, and frightening for Merrily and for me.  Every book has eerie moments though, and is filled with a delicious sense of haunting and atmoshere.  Plus there is the ghost of Lucy. 
7. Swan Song - Robert R McCammon - still the best of the end of the world books, with evil stalking a lovely little girl, and the heroes who stand guard over her.  Due for a re-read
8. The Bone Doll's Twin series - Lyn Flewelling - it's not often a fantasy series uses a ghost so believably, and to such good purpose. Very dark fantasy and very very good.
9. The Uncanny - Andrew Klavan - gothic ghost horror story that is very good.
10. The Harrowing - Alexandra Sokoloff - classic ghost story setting: five young people, alone for the holidays in a university campus, and an ouija board.  What could go wrong?

 I can't remember if Swan Song has a ghost or not, though it's still one of the scariest books because it's so real, so possible, and the evil - yes, I dare you to read it, dear Gentle Reader, and tell me if you don't have a nightmare or two. 

So, have you read any of these? Do you agree with my list?  Do you have your own list?

Sunday 12 September 2010

If I went to buy one book and came home with 5 others, would you hold it against me?

Sometimes, that's how I feel, after I've gone to a bookstore for one book, and came home with 5 other ones, partly because the bookstore didn't have the one I was looking for.  I did say to my husband that since Christmas was nearing, I would try to not buy as many books before then, or at least put them aside for my Christmas box.  He smiled at me and sighed.  "So I guess this was to make you feel better?" he said, holding out the new FourFourTwo English Premier League magazine  that I'd also picked up, just for him.  "Well, I did go in for you, you know," I fibbed.  Him and me, more like.

So I won't bother asking if going into a bookstore for one book and coming out with others has happened to you.   I expect this is a common condition we booklovers  suffer from.  What I am curious about is, how often does this happen?  And do you find you go out of your way to avoid bookstores sometimes, just so you won't give in to temptation? I have to confess that as I came out of the bookstore on Friday night,  I did momentarily wonder how I was going to avoid going into Chapters next week.  This particular bookstore is two floors of books, practically irresistible, and it's right there where I cross the street to catch my bus home every night.  Oh yes, I wage a battle almost every day on the way home: do I step across the threshold today, or do I resolutely cross the road instead?

So here are the five books that I couldn't resist in my disappointment that no, the bookstore still wasn't stocking Alexandra Sokoloff's The Unseen:

- A Writer's Book of Days - Judy Reeves (revised edition)

- The Secret History of Moscow - Ekaterina Sedia
- Ghost Road Blues - Jonathan Maberry
- The Keeper - Sarah Langan
- Hell House - Richard Matheson
- The Little Stranger - Sarah Waters

I did get The Little Stranger, which I am very pleased with and looking forward to reading very much, and found Hell House,  which I'd been wanting to read for a while.  Richard Matheson scares me. When I saw The Secret History of Moscow I was delighted, as it is in mass market finally, and I'd been waiting for a very long time it seemed to find it.

So the RIP V list grows!
All of these books (except the writing book) are being added to my RIP V challenge reading list.  Why oh why is this challenge only 2 months long??? So many good scary books to read!  I know I can read scary books any time of year, it's just that as the daylight shortens and nights grow longer, there is something thrilling about opening the pages of a scary novel that is irresistible to me.  This is the time of year for ghost stories, and zombies, and terror.  Books to keep the dark away, indeed.  The dark is right beside you...... The Keeper and Ghost Road Blues were either nominated or won the Bram Stoker Award, and as I am trying to keep up with what's the best in the fields I read, I snapped them up.  Both look very good and very, very scary, especially Ghost Road Blues

I've already read two!

Yes, indeed.   The Uninvited by Tim Wynne Jones.  Jones is a Canadian writer, so I fulfull a Canadian Challenge book as well as RIP V!!  And My Soul To Take, by Yrsa Sigurdardottir.

The Uninvited:  This is a YA adult novel, and very well written.  So much so that I cried at the ending.  The characters are really good, especially Cramer and Mimi.  Cramer's relationship with his mother, a failed artist, is the most gripping part of this book.  She is unstable, and how Cramer tries to live with her, and cope with her moods and emotions, make this book about more than just a coming of age teen gothic novel.  There are many gothic elements in this book, right from the family secrets to the interesting variety of families, to Mimi running away from someone only to find the same situation where she ends up.  The sense of being watched is a big thrill element in this book.  There is also a tiny cottage that is like a secret hideaway.  There is also some points made about creativity, and finding one's voice, and hints about artistic responsibility to art and to family, that I thought were interesting.  It was good to see teens interested and pursuing interests, in this book.   I enjoyed this one very much, even though some of the secondary characters were a bit stereotyped. The main drama was well-done, and I liked the characters.

My Soul To Take - Yrsa Sigurdardottir:  the second book in the Thora Gudmundsdottir mystery series, this one has a ghost so I'm counting it and it's gothic atmosphere as another entry in the RIP V challenge.  It was very surprising to me when I burst into tears at the end, but it was so sad:  the book opens with the locking in an underground room of a 4 year old, and all the way through the book I was wondering - who was she? what happened to her?  Her presence hovers over and through this mystery novel, and what finally happened to her - the sense of discovery, of revelation, is why I read mysteries.  A very satisfying mystery, and much darker than it first appears.  This mystery isn't quite as gripping as her first book Last Rituals, but it is haunting and filled with more family secrets, and the ghosts of more than one person.  Very eerie, and very good.  I am anxious to read the next one in the series, Ashes to Dust, when it comes out in softcover.

So how are you doing with reading for Carl's challenge?  Do you find yourself reading more ghost stories or mysteries in autumn?   Have you been tempted by other bloggers' lists to add books to your reading pile, and what books are they? 

Happy reading, everyone!  I hope you are reading a wonderful eerie ghost story during this weekend.

Monday 6 September 2010

RIP V - a time to get scared

RIP V is finally here! (*Edited to add:  for those who don't know, this is an annual ghost story/scary story book reading challenge hosted by Carl at Stainless Steel Droppings.) I think that as soon as one is over, I start piling books for the next year's challenge, because I love this challenge so very much.  And it's very simple:  read any gothic, supernatural, mystery, thriller, scary book that you want, between Sept 1 to Oct 31 2010.

Well, I have more than one book on my pile! Frankly, it's kind of scary:  I thought I had 8 books saved for RIP V.  When I went to the bookshelf to see what I could pull that would be interesting, I discovered I had 17 books!!  17!  and I had three out of the library already that qualified.  That's 20.

Fabulous bloggers are already adding to my list:
Then I went to see what some of you are reading for the challenge (because you can never have too many books lined up, you know!) and discovered on Geraniumcat's Bookshelf that my favourite scary writer who writes supernatural mysteries, Phil Rickman, has a new book out!   Well, that just made my day.  I am so excited now. I love, love, love this series.  Merrily Watkins is an Anglican dioscean exorcist, which means she gets called in for anything unworldly that happens in the diocese of Herefordshire.  Spooky?  Guaranteed.  Scary?  Absolutely. Thrilling?  Murder?  Blackmail?  A teenage daughter who flirts with paganism compounds Merrily's life, and allows for a wide breadth of philosophical and religious discussion that is fun and interesting, and adds depth to this series.  Do ghosts exist?  In Ledwardine (the village Merrily lives in),  in Herefordshire, in the Midlands, yes.

In Herefordshire, so close to the Welsh border, Rickman uses local legends and myths, supersititions, as well as what is known in ghost research and studies, to create a believable atmosphere in which the supernatural occurs with frightening regularly in this area.  Sometimes it is explained away, and sometimes, as Merrily learns, there is evil, seen and unseen.  How she hangs on to her faith in the face of the unbelievable, is one of the strengths of this series. So I, my dear readers, who has somehow not seen this book even though it's been out for almost a year in paperback, am rushing to buy it.  That makes 21 on my list!

All right, let's get serious, considering that two, Drood and Under the Dome, are over 600 pages each, I'm not going to read more than 10 books at the very most for this challenge.

So I will be reading 10 books in this pile between now and October 31:

Drood - Dan Simmons
Under the Dome - Stephen King
To Dream of the Dead - Phil Rickman
Let the Right One In - John Ajvide Lindqvist
The Darkest Room - Johan Theorin
My Soul to Take - Yrsa Sigurdardottir
Voodoo Season - Jewell Parker Rhodes
The Uninvited - Tim Wynne Jones
The Mystery of Edwin Drood - Charles Dickens
Urban Shaman - C.E. Murphy
Soulless - Gail Carriger
Staying Dead - Laura Anne Gilman
Greywalker - Kat Richardson
Cry Wolf - Patricia Briggs
The Thirteenth Tale - Diane Setterfield
Heart-Shaped Box - Joe Hill
The October Country - Ray Bradbury

Horror movie night
Now, I have also managed to fulfill the part of the challenge: "Peril on the Screen" already  part of the challenge, since my sister came over last night and we had horror movie night.

  We watched Ginger Snaps, a Canadian made werewolf movie that is very good and gruesome and funny, and one of my all-time favourite scary movies, the original Nightmare on Elm Street.  It was as scary as I remembered, and I think I scared my sister more with my jumping and screaming!

What are you reading?
So now I am in the mood for 8 weeks of ghosts, nightmares, vampires, mysteries, dread figures in black, and chills.  Are you?  What are your choices for this reading challenge?

Uh-Oh, I forgot about these:
Oh, and I have to add that Geraniumcat also is reading Thursbitch by Alan Garner, which is out of print now.  I'm going to try to find a copy somehow. I'm also looking to pick up these two:   Alexandra Sokoloff's The Unseen (not released in paperback yet, and this looks so very good), and Sarah Waters' The Little Stranger.   I read Alexandra Sokoloff's The Harrowing for RIP 3, review here., which is one of the best horror novels I've read this decade.  (The best one is The Woman in Black by Susan Hill - review here, which is a ghost story par excellence).  I've been waiting a while for The Unseen  to come out in paperback, and somehow I've missed the first printing, or it never came out in May as it was supposed to.  The Little Stranger of course, so many of you have already read, and I was waiting for this challenge to pick it  up in softcover.  Time to visit the bookstore! 

So I guess I should add that the list above is by no means written in stone!

There are so very many good, frightening, creepy stories out there; do you have any favourites that you like to read?