Tuesday 23 October 2012

The White Devil - book review - ghosts and Byron, an unbeatable mix

The White Devil by Justin Evans has been around for a little over a year.   It was reviewed by S. Krishna (here),  reviewed last year over at The Huffington Post,  and by Daphne at Where There is Joy (here),   and they all think the same way I do about this book:  it's a darn good ghost story.

Andrew Taylor arrives at an English boarding school, Harrow, from America.  It's his last year of school, he's 17, and he was thrown out of several prestigious schools in the US for his attitude, and finally drugs.  He doesn't do them regularly, this is not a ghost story about that.  It does set the scene for a fairly troubled young man, as he attempts to find his bearings in England, where he has never been before.  It features Byron too, in a fairly big way, which makes this a literary ghost story, and I loved this part.  Byron! Poetry!  his early life, especially, as in this story, Byron went to Harrow over 150 years ago. 

One of the fun things about this book is that Evans doesn't wait - the ghost puts in an appearance almost right away. What's also fun is that many of the adults involved don't scoff or dismiss Justin - because they can feel something too.  Creepy, yes? Very.  And also very well done - all the characters are believable, interesting, and while it's set in a boarding school, with all the enclosed environment that breeds, the action moves quickly.  A surprising death comes almost at once, and Andrew sees something over the body.  He is marked though he doesn't know it.  It's a chilling story, very effective, scary, and with a ghost that will make you very very glad you are on this side of the ocean.

I could not put this down, and devoured it as fast as I could. I had to know what happened at the end. I found myself thinking about this book through the day, going over it, feeling sad that something Andrew does, he won't get credit for.  That's how real this story is.  Gripping, too, fast-paced, and funny at times also.  I really enjoyed this.  If you are looking for a final ghost story to read for RIP, I  recommend this one highly. 

This was read for Carl's challenge RIP,   

Some thoughts on ghost stories
It did get me to thinking about ghost stories, and the underlying sense of unease that we have with ghosts.  So many ghost stories end badly for the main character, and it's almost as if a character is marked when he or she sees the ghost.  Their life will never be the same. Think of the governess in Turn of the Screw, driven made by the two children.  Think of Eleanor of The Haunting of Hill House, and how she goes to escape her mean life, and discovers that she can never leave.  Ghosts mark you, almost like how in the Irish folk tale that if you hear the banshee, you are going to die.  Implacable, unchangeable, somehow ghosts and the ghostly touch and change whoever comes into contact with them. Creepy, eerie, scary, chilling, and we come back for more. I think there is a small measure of, thank heaven that's not us.  How about Danny is The Shining?  I so would not EVER want to spend a night alone in the Overlook Hotel, never mind a whole winter!!!! 

How about you, do you love ghost stories?  Have you found any good ghost stories during this RIP challenge?

Sunday 14 October 2012

Random book things for a rainy Sunday

New book!
I just had to post about this:  Terri Windling and Ellen Datlow have a new anthology out, and it's a collection of short stories featuring dystopian fiction!!!   Here is Terri Windling's post.  I am so excited!  The cover is interesting, isn't it?  It's going into my annual Christmas book box as soon as I find it!

 Is it too soon to be thinking about this?
To get in the mood for Christmas, Trish at Hey Lady, Watcha Reading, has a post about a lovely advent calendar she has made for her family this year.  It is so cute and whimsical, and filled with lovely little stuffed things that represent what her family loves. It totally got me in the mood for Christmas, even though I am still waiting for Hallowe'en to come.

Long live bookstores
I love this quote from Becca at Lost in Books: " 5. The Frankfurt Book Fair 2012 is going on now and there are already some buzzwords worth noting.  The best news traveling around so far is this: "bookstores are still the best showroom for publishers, and once they are gone, we won’t get them back."  Amen, Frankfurt.  Amen."  Here is the full post.

more on the Frankfurt Book Fair 2012 and some Shakespeare news

Becky at Musings From the Sofa has her post also on the Frankfurt Book Fair, and she has some new books from the publishers coming out this fall and next year, here. Sigh. They ALL look interesting. When she writes, "I’ve been thinking since it launched that Faber’s Shakespeare’s Sonnets app is the best inducement I’ve yet seen to buy an iPad, which just goes to show that I can be tempted by anything involving David Tennant." My heart went thump and I got excited, until I realized it was for an Ipad. Which I don't have, and don't want. Oh though, Shakespeare's Sonnets! Read by David Tennant!!!!!!!! Sir Patrick Stewart too!!!!!! Uh oh......the sonnets brought to life.....Hmm, it also says it is available on iTunes. Possibly I can buy this for my computer?

I'll be back. Off to see if my laptop will let me download iTunes 10. I love me some sonnets today, I hope....... I will let you know in a postscript. A lovely way to spend a rainy Sunday! Happy Sunday reading, everyone.

***Edited to add:
 New Susan Hill!!   I just had to add this.  Bride of the Book God has this new post, and in it she mentions a new Susan Hill novella, The Dolly!  It sounds very very good.  Dark and creepy and possibly scary.

Thursday 11 October 2012

Happy late blogiversary to me! and some mystery reviews

It feels like ages since I posted here.  My life is still a bit crazy, with still sorting out what to do about the foundation and estimates. I am thrilled to say that I have been on a reading binge since my last post, and I have some quick book reviews for you tonight.  Before then, I wanted to give a quick update:  I once again passed my blogiversary!  This is the third year in a row that I missed it, and I'm perplexed.  I spend most of the year waiting for it so I can talk about cake and what blogging means to me and all the wonderful people I have met who love books as much as I do, and then every year something has happened in my life and I am never here on Oct 1!!! 

Here is the link to my very first post, five years ago.  Yes, my blog is 5 years old now!  5 wonderful, exciting, magical, sad, and challenging years for me.  Through it all, my blog has kept company with me.  I have read many more books per year since joining the online community, and I have found so many books I wouldn't have read otherwise, because of you, dear Readers.  Most of all, is you, all of you.  My conversations in my life are peppered with 'my book-twin in Korea', Ana in Portugal, Geranium Cat, Bride, and Cath in England, Debi and Chris and Eva in the US, Carl, Jeanne......Kelly here in Canada with me.....Kay, Wendy, Stefanie.....so many wonderful conversations about books, and about our lives as we share them, and grow along with one another.  My life, as tumultuous as it has been these past five years (and I'm really hoping it will settle soon), has also been made more joyous because I've met and come to know all of you through the years.  Our sad loss of Dewey, which still haunts all of us who had time to know her before she left this world. Some of you have dropped from blogging alot to just checking in, as your lives have changed.  Certainly my blog has reflected my life, as the last two years I was barely able to maintain it, and yet that love of books,and missing talking with you about books, kept bringing me back.  So it hasn't been an easy 5 years, though I suspect this will be one of those times in my life when I look back a few years from now and think, "Gosh I learned so much!' 

I plan to keep on blogging, as I have tried to write much more often this year, than in the past. It hasn't always been easy, but it is fun, and I always, always love coming to read what you are saying and thinking about books and life.  So, here's to my 5 year anniversary!  Here is a picture of one of my favourite cakes to make, Nigella Lawson's Quadruple Chocolate Loaf Cake, with a link to her recipe in case you are tempted.  

 MMMMM  I might have to make it soon......even a diabetic deserves a treat now and then!!! Happy 5 years, and thanks so much for sharing it all with me.  I hope you'll come along with me in the coming years, there are more books to read and discover........

All right, to the quick book reviews:

Blood Harvest - S.J. Bolton - fabulous dark mystery thriller.  I couldn't put it down.  A family moves into a house in a small village, and strange things start happening to the children.  A girl's figure is seen in the cemetary that surrounds the house....but is she real or is she a ghost?  Several little girls have died in the past several years, is she one of them?  And why can the boys in the house hear her, but no one else does?  Perfect read for RIP VII.  5/5  ***thanks to Kay at Purple Sage and Scorpions for her review here of S.J. Bolton's other books, which led me to checking to see what my library had.
Driftnet - Lin Anderson - first in a Glasgow mystery series, featuring Rhona MacLeod, a forensic scientist. A young boy is found dead, in a room, a rent boy.  Prostitute.  He looks surprisingly like Rhona MacLeod, who gave a baby up for adoption at his birth, and so who has a personal interest in discovering what happened to the baby she gave up.  Is this where he came to be, on her table, murdered?  A very good first mystery novel in a series that has 7 books now in the series.  I enjoyed it very much.  4.5/5 

The Twilight Time - Karen Campbell.  Another first mystery in a growing series.   It is set in Glasgow again, and is about as gritty and realistic a portrayal of modern policing as I've come across yet.  Anna Cameron is assigned to the Flexi Unit, and the story opens with her first day on the job.  She is leading the unit, and already some of the officers resent her before she even starts.  This is realistic dialogue, tensions, setting, with the Flexi Unit patrolling the worst drug -and- prostitute-addled street in Glasgow.  An elderly man is murdered, and in the investigation Anna is wounded by  someone who is stalking prostitutes and slashing them.  Along the way Jamie's wife Cath (an ex-police officer herself) gets involved, and all through the novel we have the police work, and the private lives, laid out, so we are living through the investigation with these three characters.  Highly recommended.  I've already ordered the second book with Anna, Shadowplay.  I've just discovered that Jamie has his own book, After The Fire, so I have to see if I can find that here. 5/5

Dark Fire- C.J. Sansom  - Second book in the Matthew Shardlake series.  I read this in the summer, when it was as hot out for us as it was in London in this book - a record-breaking drought for us, record-breaking drought and heat for that time in England.  Shared misery!  This was a slow mystery to get into, with Matthew dragged into defending a girl accused of murdering her cousin through the goodness of his heart.  He is mostly concerned with Dark Fire, a legend about a fire that wasn't fire, that could burn water.  Was it real? The Greeks thought so, and someone in London has told the King that they have the secret, but before it is brought before the king, the person is killed, and the workshop broken into.  Thomas Cromwell orders Shardlake to find the Greek Fire, hoping this will restore him to the king's favour.  He is slipping, as the Seymours slip in around the king, dangling Jane Seymour in front of him.  Shardlake can't refuse.  While the search for the Dark Fire was interesting, and the court politics and intrigue fascinating - especially because we know what happened with Jane, and Cromwell - the real heart of this story is whether Elizabeth killed her cousin, and what would cause a girl to do so.  A very dark horrific secret lies at the heart of this mystery, and it's not one that you would think of.  It still gives me the shivers to think of.  This was the highlight of the book, and makes it perfect for RIP VII also. The mystery part is good, though a bit confusing with the two storylines, and not quite as gripping as the first book in the series, Dissolution.  Still, among the best mystery series, and highly recommended. 4.7/5  **Cath at Read-Warbler read this last year, her post is here. (She does an excellent job explaining the plot also)  What's fun is that she thinks Dark Fire is better than the first one!  What do you think, Gentle reader?  Have you read this series?  Do you agree with me (Dissolution slightly better), or Cath?

  I am getting set to read the next one, Sovereign, which is set in my favourite city of York.  I have to add that the historical setting, dialogue, atmosphere, descriptions, are impeccable.  This is historical writing at its best. 

I would recommend all of these mysteries for RIP VII, in case you are looking for something that's not horror to read for Carl's challenge.