Monday 30 December 2013

Ship of Magic - Robin Hobb

        I have been captured by pirates.  I am riding with Althea as she tries to find a way to get her liveship Vivacia back again. I am following the adventures of all her family members as they face various threats to the family since their father died early in Ship of Magic.

Fabulous?  Oh yes.

I am completely swept away by this series.  I LOVE it.  The Liveship Traders series has three books in it:  Ship of Magic, Mad Ship, and Ship of Destiny. I forget how much I am captured by Robin Hobb's writing, how much I am drawn into her world. Is it bad of me to wish very much that I could meet a Rain Wild Traders and know more about their world?  ie actually go there? 

I really really want to sail on a liveship.  What a lovely magical fabulous idea, a ship made of wizardwood, that slowly comes to life from the family members who live and die on her.

As some of you may know, I lived on a sailboat once, long ago as a teenager, and we sailed the Pacific coast of Central America for two years.   The boat I did live on?  It was  a 42 foot sailing yacht named Kalaha.  And I remember all the sailing (nautical) terms on her, except possibly the names of some of the different lines (ropes) used to haul the sails in and out.  I wish I had a scanner, so I could show you her.  She was a lovely boat, and my home for two years.  Long ago, in the 1970's.  I might be land-locked now in Ottawa, but in my dreams, I can still hear the small curl on the waves as they roll endless through the sea, and the wind in the sails........I still dream sometimes of being on the boat.  I have many good memories of living on water clear enough to see the bottom, and the dangers of pirates even then for the unwary boats.  I have seen flying fish, and water that glowed in the night with the passing of sea life.  We had dolphins swimming and jumping by our bow.  So when the Vivacia plows through water, or a sudden storm raises the waves, I remember what it is like to be in it.  And I remember what it is like to be coated in sea salt from the spray on very windy days, after sitting at the wheel for my turn on watch.   Reading this series is like being at sea again, only better, because there is magic and family drama that I'm only reading about, not part of !!  And I'm dry at home, eating cookies and drinking tea.

You don't have to have even seen the sea to enjoy this series.  I'm just sharing how real the life of Althea and Wintrow on the different merchant sailing vessels they are on, is for me. Hobb does such a good job capturing life at sea that you will feel like you've been at sea too, while reading this series.  In a good way, no seasickness like my sister Patricia suffered from, from day one.  Even she could read this series, there is not much about the heaving skyline or big waves (any motion made her sea sick).  Yet some of the story doesn't take place at sea, or on the boat, quite a bit of has to do with Althea's family in Bingtown, and the challenges they face as change comes as the ruler of their land begins to break the old promises to him, and threaten the delicate trading partnership between the Bingtown Traders and the Wild Rains Traders, and the secrets that bind them which include the secret of the liveships.

The trilogy also has:

- the possibility of dragons.

- And a heroine named Althea, who in true sea sailing lore, runs away to sea in disguise as a boy, when her family gives what was to be her liveship to her brother-in-law, in a bad mistake that might cost them everything.

I'm on book 2 now, Mad Ship.  I can't put it down.  I have been carried off by the series.  I hope to be back in time for New Year's Eve or New Year's Day, to finish my list of books of the year (yes ,sis, I haven't forgotten), and to talk about books I got for Christmas, and plans for the new year. 

The Liveship Traders is an excellent series, three books in all, and I hope to finish the series by the end of New Year's Day, since I have to go back to work on January 2.  It's very difficult to do anything else while reading them, as they are well-written, intense stories, with chapters that change view points and overall emerging slowly is a tapestry of a world full of wonderful lively characters, with good dialogue, and it just zips along, one adventure to another.  I have loved her other two series, the Farseer series and the Tawny Man series, and am delighted that I am falling in love with Althea and all the characters in this series too.  I am so happy I have nothing in my plans for the next few days, except to read.  All the parties are done except one.  And a deep freeze is descending on us once again. I can think of no better way to celebrate the end of the year, and this magical time between Christmas and New Year's day, than by reading.  And hide out from the cold, of course. 

Happy reading for the end of the year, everyone!!!  Back soon. I have to find out what Althea does when they learn the Vivacia has been captured by pirates......

Saturday 21 December 2013

Special for My Sister, Part One

    Hello.  Yes.  You. Over there.  My faithful readers.  Hi. I'm back.

What?  Where have I been?  Oh yes.  It wasn't a planned absence.  It was a cumulation of everything this year, and especially, what my sister and her family have been going through. I suddenly couldn't say anything.  Not until now.

    My sister's son, my nephew Mathew, has Ewing's Sarcoma.  It's a rare form of bone cancer.  It hits young people and children only.  My nephew is 20.  One day last winter he started complaining that he had a pain in his leg.  It took 5 months and many, many trips to the ER and the doctor's before finally, the tumor was found, in June.  Then two months to get the diagnosis of what kind of cancer it was.  It is in his spine. It is aggressive. The treatment finally began in September.  And the very best news was received last week:  the tumor has shrunk by one third.

This is my Christmas present, and my sister's, and brother-in-law's, and niece's. And most especially my nephew's. This is the best news, and the only thing we all really wanted for Christmas. So thank you to the doctors, nurses, specialists, family and friends who are in New Brunswick where my sister lives, everyone helping in big ways and the small.  The cancer treatment lasts a year, so there is a long road ahead.  There is much needed light now on this road.

My sister is detailing Mathew's treatment on her blog over at Her hope is that as they go through the treatment with Mathew, the things he goes through, the mistakes and the successes, can/will help someone else who has this rare type of cancer.  If you know someone who has it, or has had it, please get in touch with her, and let her know what you are going through.  Sharing helps lighten the burden, especially in this long tough fight.

The news is so good, so wonderful, that my sister sent me a text earlier this week and asked me to get back on my blog and start posting about books so she could know what to read next. 

Her wish is my command.  So this is for you, sis.  Love you very much.

Susan's books of the year, Part one. 

I have been a bad blogger.  I have tried to blog about books I read and enjoyed, especially those I loved.  And yet, many of my favourites from this year somehow I missed!!  I think I was saving them for the special I-just-loved-this-book-post, so please consider if I write a review about a book now here in  this post and the next one (planned for tomorrow), as the post I would have done back then.

Books I Loved:

Of Blood and Honey - Stina Leicht.  I didn't post about this one, and this is a book that deserves it's on post. It is a fantasy about fairies, but not those fairies.  Faeries.  The dark and dangerous kind.  In this book, book one, Liam is growing up in 1970's war torn Derry, Northern Ireland.  He is caught in the Troubles, only his danger is coming from a small man in a red cap with pointed teeth.  Every time Liam sees him, trouble comes and he is in danger. Liam grew up a Catholic family, and his mother eventually reveals that his father is one of the Fallen, a man from ancient Irish myth, one of the main central figures of Irish myth. The war Liam is caught up in doesn't just involve the Protestants or the Catholics, but the Irish faeries, too.  Very different, and very good.  I really enjoyed this one, though a warning that it is dark, very dark, but then the Troubles were a terrible time, too. I like the extra dimension of the myths wandering in the pages, and trying to figure out which is which.

A Dying Fall - Elly Griffiths.  The most recent book in the Ruth Galloway series, set in Norfolk, England.  She is an archeologist,  and in this one she is called to Blackpool to help identify some bones that may or may not be old, or even ancient, and of great importance: are they the bones of King Arthur?  As preposterous as that sounds, it has to be investigated, so off she goes.  Blackpool is also the family home of Nelson, the police chief she has a daughter with.  He is married to someone else, and in this book, some of the characters start to put the pieces together.  I really enjoyed the meetings Ruth has with Nelson's mother and sister, and how Cathbad ends up there too.  This is a brilliant mystery series, with the crimes always believable, and for sad reasons, as they are in real life.  Ruth is fun, and engaging, and hilarious as she recounts why she feels like she can't manage being a single mother and working at the same time.  Often thoughts I have, and I am married, but balancing work and children is difficult. Highly recommended as a thoroughly entertaining mystery series.  I love how she writes about the sea, too, and the wind and the sky, in the marsh where Ruth lives.

The Vampire Tapestry - Suzy Charnas McKee - I reviewed the book, here.  It is one of the best vampire novels.  I have had most of the year to let it sink in, and I really like how we get the different perspectives in this book through the three linked stories.  He is evil, ruthless, but it is all to survive.  Can we blame him?  He simply is

The Beautiful Mystery - Louise Penny.  Outstanding.  I have a confession to make.  For a long time in my life, I have been fascinated by monasteries and retreats that ordinary people can make there.  The idea of two or three blissful weeks by myself, alone, in silence, has always called to me.  So, this summer, I took three weeks by myself when my family went to England to visit my husband's family.  I really needed the silence.  And since then, I have made a point to be more still, to find a time in the day when I sit, and be quiet.  It is amazing how powerful this is. And I realized I don't have to go to a monastery to find it.  I can find it in my own home.  So when I saw that the second to latest in the Armand Gamache series was set in a monastery, I was eager to read this mystery.  And it doesn't disappoint.  It was everything I wanted, in a mystery set in a monastery.  The monks in this book are of a group that were being hunted by the pope back in the 17th century for being heretics.  They fled to the wilderness of the province of Quebec, and remained hidden there for centuries.  Until one enterprising monk taped their music, and in the craze for Gregorian chants that really swept the world in the 1980's and 90's, these monks sent their tape out and it became a huge hit.  Suddenly, they were discovered.  And ordinary people came by the hundreds to seek them out. What does sudden fame and wealth do to a monastery that has no wealth and needed to remain hidden?  Why was the music sent out?  There is quite a bit about music in this book. Penny makes it an integral part of the monastery - all the monks who are there, are chosen for their voices.  This book is about harmony, and how each part fits into the whole, in the community and in the music.  It's wonderful writing.  When one monk is discovered dead in his garden, Armand Gamache as the head of the Surete de Quebec is called to investigate, along with his trusted second in command, Guy Beauvoir.  And in the secluded setting of the northern Quebec woods, the monastery on a lake, a beautiful setting, in the deep silence of the woods, secrets are revealed that change not just the future of the monastery, but also the lives of Gamache and Beauvoir, forever.

The Bone People - Keri Hulme.  Reviewed here.  I still feel the same way about this novel.  Amazing, brutal, beautiful, breathtakingly sad and poetic and haunting.

Some Kind of Fairy Tale - Graham Joyce.  What happens when you have a sister who disappeared one day, and 20 years later she comes back?  Where was she?  And then she says that she went away, taken by a fairy.  Would you believe her?  In this story, this is what happened to Tara Martin, and her brother Peter is the one who has had to hold the family together in the 20 years since.  When she walks back into their lives, 20 years has gone by.  Everything has changed.  For her, it has only been a year or so.  Not 20.  There is something unworldly about her, something that being in fairyland has done to her.  It's an odd story, about the effects her disappearance has had on her, and what her coming back does to them.  She is not the same, and nothing can be the same as it was. The frightening thing is that the fairies want the girls to go with them - in this story, as in the fairy story Tam Lin, it is girls the fairies want, to share their country with.  Tara hasn't come alone, the fairies didn't want to let her go.  The most unsettling part?  The fairies want young girls to go with them.  We meet another character who has been taken by the fairies, and the book ends with the threat of the fairies already laying their charms on another character.  Be careful of strangers, be careful in the woods, don't go in the woods alone......and you can't go home again.  Haunting and gentle, sweet, and melancholic.  This is what fairies are, and what they do.  It's not for children though, this is an adult fairy story. Effectively creepy and dangerous, which is what faeries really are, even if enchanting too.

Wide Open - Deborah Coates. Reviewed here.  I really like the tone of this debut mystery, and the main character herself.  I don't particularly like the ending, though the setting - South Dakota - and the characters are interesting, and the plot - that she can see ghosts - has a fresh air about it.  I haven't picked the second one up yet, but will be in the new year. 

The Burning - Jane Casey - also in the same review above.  I really want to read more in this series.  Bad me for not picking more of this series up this year.  Writing this post is making me realize how much I haven't followed up in mystery series yet!!!!

Despite my silence on here, I have been reading as much as I can this year.  The last two weeks I haven't been able to read anything.  Nothing seemed right. I tried three books, mostly science fiction so I could read for Carl's challenge, but nothing held my attention.  The night before last, I might have found the right one:  Ship of Magic by Robin Hobb.  I'll know more later today and tomorrow.  We are expecting freezing rain for much of the day tomorrow, after receiving close to 20cm of snow through the day yesterday.  Once I get my turkey for Christmas dinner, I plan to stay in and read.  The second best Christmas present for me.

Tomorrow:  Part Two of my books of the year.

Sunday 3 November 2013

Doctor Sleep - thoroughly satisfying horror novel

RIP VIII is over.  Another year of fabulous dark supernatural reading.  Altogether I read 8 books for the challenge, though I haven't had time to review them all.  The big one I haven't reviewed is Doctor Sleep.  And this is solely because I finished reading it two weeks ago, and even though I managed to read and review The Bone People after, otherwise it is the busy time of year for me - two birthdays and Hallowe'en in the space of three days. Getting ready for all of it always takes more time than I think it will!

So, for the past two weeks, I've been holding my thoughts about Doctor Sleep in my head, turning over how good this horror novel is.  I really, really liked it.  It is the only sequel that could have been written to The Shining.  My one caveat is that it is does not have as many genuine heart-stopping thrills as I would have liked it - it seemed gentler on Danny than The Overlook was.  Is this because he is an adult now, and has made peace with seeing ghosts?    At the beginning of Doctor Sleep,  3 years after The Shining has  ended, one of the spirits comes back to haunt him - it is chilling, especially when Wendy sees the traces for the first time.  Will he be haunted forever?  Can one escape one's gifts?  What happens when you don't try to escape it, and embrace it?  As  a 5 year old, Danny could only survive the horror at The Overlook Hotel.  As a young child, the new other child character in Doctor Sleep, Abra Stone, is gifted far beyond Danny and even as a baby things happened around her - telekinesis, until she is able to speak, and later control her emotions.  She is the star of Doctor Sleep, but Danny Torrance is the heart.

 Danny Torrance is an interesting character.  He is an alcoholic, just like his father before him. And he is aware enough to know that he is like his father, except where Jack would hurt (and enjoy hurting in the mean part of himself) his family, Danny does not.  It is not part of his character, never has been.  Danny drinks to avoid feeling and seeing the spirits around him.  Even though his gift fades with age, he still has it.  So when he does an act that is mean - when he does something that causes such guilt in him that he can't escape it - he decides to change.  To make up for what he's done.  And he goes clean, joins AA.   This part does take a bit of getting through, as we go through the steps with him.  Hang in there.  It's important, and important for Dan's character growth.  It doesn't last very long, either.  But he has to get sane for the story to move forward.  Eventually he does, and the story then moves at a fast pace.

Dan eventually finds a use for his gift, a way of being there to help others cross over to the other side when their time has come.  It's very beautiful and gentle and melancholic, the way Danny himself is.  He has never recovered from The Overlook, though he has gone on from it.  That's the way it should be.  He encountered such horror there that no one would fully recover.  So the AA bit makes sense, especially as his family role model is his father, Jack, the alcoholic.  If you remember  Jack Torrance, this is what he also has, the gift, only not so much as Dan, and this is what he is jealous of.  Who can escape their legacy?  Alcoholism is tied up with what happened at the Overlook Hotel so much that Dan could either become an alcoholic, or a teetotaler.  There would be no in-between for him.

     But this is a horror novel, and the horror soon does arrive.  There are spooky moments, many kinds.  One of the eeriest (and based on a true story, except that one is about a dog who does this) is the cat that predicts who is going to die in the seniors' home where Dan Torrance ends up working at.  The cat works 'with' Dan in this, so that soon the nurses on shift, call Dan when they see the cat sitting on the bed of  a person, because they know the patient is about to die. Dan can take his turn sitting with them.  They start to call him Doctor Death as a way of accepting that he is helping easing their passage. The way of death, and who is not fearful at that moment? The name is not used in  the wicked way we would think Doctor Death could be used.  So Danny has become - continues - to be good, a good, decent man, good in the way that as a child he was a good child.  He has odd things occur around him and meets others who have the gift of "the shining", also.  All this happens after he stops drinking, which is key.   He has to be open to life in order to find his role, his place, to find good things happening in it.

The main event that is strange is that someone starts to write on a marker board he has in his room.  "Hello", the first time.  And in this way, infrequently, they communicate, until one day evil comes to take her.  Her name is Abra, and she is a little girl in the next town from where Danny settles. And she is a child gifted with the shining so strongly that she makes Danny look like he has only a little. Extraordinary.  Imagine what The Overlook Hotel would have done with her!!!

Because that is the key, of course.  The Overlook Hotel burned down when Jack Torrance forgot about the boiler that winter night long ago. But what happened to the evil lurking there?  An evil place doesn't start at the first floor, or the walls of the house.  It starts below, in the ground, too.  Evil attracts evil, and the people attracted to the campground that replaces part of the Overlook Hotel are not very nice people at all.  Oh no. Middle-aged RV'ing retirees, who feed off the bright spirits of the children who have the shining. Now that's horrific.

I won't say anymore, because Doctor Sleep is a thoroughly good, deeply satisfying horror novel. There is one story of pure horror in it, an image that haunts me, that makes the horror in this book all too real.  I almost wish there had been more of this, that we get to see a little more what happens to a few of the other children taken, so that we have time to experience the horror of what will happen to Abra when they come for her. And to think about the horror that all children experience when they are taken, because that is the real horror this story is based in.  Not that I want to experience it or even think about it, but Doctor Sleep gives us readers a way to understand a little the horror that is experienced.  It is too easy to look away, to not think about it, to forget that this really happens, and much, much too often.  This is a recurring theme in Stephen King's work, that people, especially adults, have a way of forgetting what they don't want to see or know.  In Doctor Sleep it's not as if no one notices children disappearing, but because the killers are careful to space it out, and they do it along highways and small towns, moving on quickly so that they can't be traced, just another bunch of campers on the road seeing America, no one notices them.  The banal face of evil, in trailer camp clothing, polyester, masquerading as satisfied older people.  Stealing children.  It's really quite a horrific way to envision who is taking the children.  Because no one sees or can trace them.  And there is no peace for the families, ever, in real life.  In the novel,  Dan and his friend struggle to reveal what they know without being accused of being the killers - always a threat when one is psychic.

Abra however is so gifted, that she is able to see True Knot, as the killers call themselves, while they are looking for children with the shining.  And I won't say any more, except to say that this is such a satisfying novel of horror, and resolution.  For all the characters, Dan especially.  What he couldn't do as a child, he can do as an adult, which is choose to fight against evil, not just witness it as he did as a young child.  And Abra herself is old enough as a 12 year old to choose to fight them (or not to). Doctor Sleep is about choices, all kinds of choices people make, every day, in big ways and little ways, and how our fate finds us in the end.  I do wonder what Abra will become as an adult?  She has so much power, surely she was made for big things? 

The Shining  is an experience of horror - and a fabulous ghost story.  It's from the point of view of Danny as a 5 year old, and this is part of what makes it so horrific and so accessible for readers.  Doctor Sleep is about adult themes, family and heritage of all kinds, as well as about one of the enduring themes of horror in our day:  the kids who vanish, the milk carton kids we used to call them. Except they are real, and there are far, far too many children who have disappeared and whose fate is unknown.  It's almost overwhelming how many children have disappeared over the past 40 years. Doctor Sleep is a novel about what happened to some of these kids, and it will really make you think about going into any rest station along a highway.  And really hang on tight to every child you have, all the time.

It's also about trust, and taking chances, and facing up to horror and trying to stop it.  It's refreshing to read a story that values the good in people, and cares about the horror of the victims fate.  This is no slash and gash novel, this is thoughtful horror fiction, a darned good story, and interesting.  Lots to think about, which is why it's taken me a little while to do this review.

 As a reader who loves The Shining, it's been a really satisfying journey with Dan Torrance in Doctor Sleep.  Easily my favourite duology in horror writing, and one I will return to again and again.  And yes, do read The Shining first, every time.  Doctor Sleep is built on what happens in The Shining.  I reread The Shining in September, review here.

The Shining is one of the seminal horror novels for me, along with The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson.  Almost everything I read in horror is compared to these two.  Doctor Sleep is a muted kind of horror, with only glimpses of the kind of horror that made The Shining so great as a horror novel.  The Shining is better in so many ways for pure scare moments for me, and yet Doctor Sleep is kinder, sweeter, and I like it more because of this.  They are both very good horror novels, among the best.

I am really happy Stephen King continued the story of Danny Torrance. 

Other reviews of Doctor Sleep:
The Well-Read Redhead (some spoilers)
Bibliophile By the Sea
Emily Barton over at her library blog, Pequea Valley Reader's Blog

Sunday 20 October 2013

The Bone People - Keri Hulme - an extraordinary novel

    You know how you go into a bookstore, looking for something, you're not sure what?  And you ask quietly to the book goddess, "help me find something that will surprise me with how good it is," as you wander the shelves?  That happened to me a week ago.  I went into the bookstore, my little indie book store left on the west side of town, Perfect Books (once long ago I worked here for two months, before I got another job with more hours).  And this book, which  Chris at Stuff Dreams are Made Of has made mention countless times as one of his favourites, was there.  So being curious, and remembering Chris loves this book,  I picked it up.  I had picked it up a few times before, but wasn't ready for it then.  This time, I read a few lines. And then a few more.  And then several pages.  And then I had to buy it. (PS.  Go right to where the story begins, the first two pages won't make sense until after you've read the book. Trust me.)

In the meantime I read Doctor Sleep, and it was so good (review will follow!) that I carried around The Bone People for a few days before I could begin it.  I started seriously reading it Thursday, stayed up until 3 am on Friday night, and finished it yesterday afternoon.  I'm so glad I could read it at home, because two thirds of the way through I was crying so hard that I couldn't see the pages.  "Crying my eyes out" is the phrase I said to myself as I wept over the pages.  It's been a long time since I cried this hard over a book.

The Bone People is about Kerewin Holmes, a reclusive artist hiding away from the world in a tower she has built, and the urchin who steals into her home, Simon, and his foster-father Joe Gillayley.   It is a retelling of the timeless tale of how a curmudgeon has their heart healed by an orphan child.....but it's much more, much richer than that.  There is Maori myth and legend woven into this grand novel.  There is most of all, love, and the idea of what makes a family. Each of the three is carrying a great burden, that makes it too easy for them to react in hurt when they perceive rejection.  But what makes this novel so great, is the determination they each find as they realize that they were made for one another.  They are the true family they each were seeking.  It's a beautiful novel, and so evocative, so real, that for me Kerewin Holmes and Joe and Simon Gillayley are alive somewhere in this world.  The novel is set in New Zealand, and I have come out of this book feeling like I know a little bit about how the land feels, what it is like to live there.  Especially, the ocean.  Kerewin the artist lives the by sea, and fishes a lot.  Simon came from the sea, washed in on a terrible storm, and mute, so no one knows who he belongs too.  And for Joe the full Maori, who takes in Simon,  the sea is where their people originated from, where life has its source.  The sea comes alive in this book, the many colours it has, the shades and the moods, the wind, the sky, the world that Kerewin and Simon and Joe live in.  I could feel the cold, the sea, I could hear the waves, see the different light in the sky depending on when Kerewin is looking at it. I could feel their emotions, and sympathize with each character even though they did things that were mean, even cruel.  One of the great wonders of this book is that despite the terrible act it the center of it, the revelation of abuse, I kept reading because even as I despised the act, I liked the characters so much.  And the characters struggle with it too, they don't hide from it. 

 There is something about this book that made me feel like I was right there, in the story somehow, intensely involved in it.  There is a timeless quality to it, so that it could be anytime this past century.   The story is woven in such a way that the three together do go together, and I got to see how they are drawn to one another, how they see what they love in one another.  I saw their inner thoughts revealed, that bares the soul of these characters to us, and makes it a story that wraps itself around me, stealing into my own heart and soul.

I keep wondering what Kerewin is doing now, and how Simon is, how happy he is.  They seem like real people and ought to be alive somewhere in New Zealand.  Like we have dipped into this year in their lives, but they have gone on.  Which is the best kind of story.   Love, and family, and guilt, and terror, and hurt, and healing.  This book will break your heart, it broke mine, it broke me open, and then pulled me back together again just like it did for each of the three characters.  There is myth and magic here too, of a kind that makes the reader realize that sometimes, there is forgiveness, here, and now, not in some afterlife.

It's wonderful.  It's beautiful.  It has the most exquisite use of language that I have seen in a novel in a long time:  Keri Hulme made words go together: stonegreyblue, sneakthievery, gentlefingered, laughingeyed, that are right.  They make sense, in this book.  As if putting these words together, makes the world seem new, and a little strange, so the events in this story are like a story told around a fire.  A rhythm, a song, a creation myth, for the beginning and the ending, of the family.   The words like this are like poetry, without being poetry, in the novel. So the book is about a new way of seeing things. It's magical and marvelous and grounded in reality - all the myth I am talking about, isn't the center of the story, it lurks in the background, breaking in only when the characters are completely broken down also.  Which is when myth can come in, when people are open to the numinous to come into their lives.  Which makes this is a wise novel, too. 

It won the Booker Prize in 1985.

Other reviews:
Boston Bibliophile
The Guardian Book Club
Raging Bibliomania
Lizzy's Literary Life
Farm Lane Books Blog
DogEar Diary
Stuff as Dreams Are Made Of 
An Adventure in Reading

Thursday 10 October 2013

50 scariest Books of all time

I have to give a big thanks to Matt at A Guy's Moleskine Notebook.  He posted a link to this today, here is his original post, and here is the link to the article listing the 50 Scariest Books of All Time.

So, tell me.  Do you agree with the list?  Would you have picked something else on it?  I have to say that it's a pretty good list, though I would have picked The Shining over It for Stephen King, and lost boy lost girl over Ghost Story for Peter Straub. 

Here's what I've read from the list:
It - Stephen King
The Exorcist -  William Peter Blatty
Ghost Story - Peter Straub
Hell House - Richard Matheson
Dracula - Bram Stoker
some of Lovecraft's tBloodcurling Tales of HOrror and the Macabre
The Haunting of Hill House - Shirley Jackson
The Silence of the Lambs - Thomas Harris
Rosemary's Baby - Ira Levin
The Amityville Horror - Jay Anson
Books of Blood - Clive Barker (some of the stories for certain)
Tales and Poems of Edgar Allen Poe - some of
Lord of the Flies - William Golding
The Ruins - Scott Smith
Ghost Stories of an Antiquary - M.R. James - some of
The Woman in Black - Susan Hill
Swan Song - Robert R. McCammon
The Wolfen - Whitley Streiber

18/50......sigh.  Not as much as someone who reads horror regularly, should have read! 

I also added a few to my list. The Ritual by Adam Neville looks very interesting, and I've had Carrion Comfort by Dan Simmons on my to get list for a little while now.  I own Heart-Shaped Box by Joe Hill, just have to get to it now.  I also own October Country, I just can't remember if I have read any stories from it yet.  I think this list is missing among other things Angela' Carters The Bloody Chamber and other stories. 

If you are looking for RIP books to read, this is a good resource list to begin with.

Monday 7 October 2013

some poetry for a Sunday afternoon read by some famous actors to swoon over

I saw this over at Chrisbookarama, from her post on Friday.  I'm stealing it because, well, it's actors I love, like Benedict Cumberbatch and Alan Rickman and Colin Firth, reading poetry.  Poetry! I want this on my blog so I can find it whenever I need to come look at them and hear them reading poetry to me.      *fans self*  So, enjoy, Gentle readers.  (and thanks, Chris).  Happy Sunday indeed.

Thursday 3 October 2013

6 years old - blogiversary time!

   Well, I almost made it.  I almost posted on my blog birthday!  I missed it by one day; Sept 30 was my last post, Oct 1 is my blogversary.  On Oct 1, my blog turned 6.  6 years ago  I started out on the wide world of blogging, taking my first baby steps into the community where other people talked about books.  Would I be welcomed?  Would I be able to participate?  Yes, a resounding yes to both.

It's been a bumpy 6 years for me.  Both personally, and in my ability to blog regularly. After year 2,  I seemed to lose interest for a month or so fairly often, and blogged intermittently.  I try not to, I want to be consistent, and I know this has affected how my blog is followed.  I have had to come to terms with the fact that if I 'm blogging, I'm reading less, so sometimes I have to go away and just read for a while.  Introverts are like that, you know.  Even here.

I'm not sure why blogging cuts into my reading time.  I think it's because my life is full, with kids and family and working and trying to squeeze in some kind of a social life, which blogging falls into.  It's always the first to go when I feel squeezed in other parts of my life.  And I love reading even more than I love blogging.  Much more.  However, I do know now that blogging is my way to you, my dear readers.  I do it so I can talk to other people about books.  Whenever I am away, I return because I miss you, and seeing what books are being read and what is being said about them.  So though times may change, my love of books does not, and my desire to talk about them.  It just comes and goes in a cycle.

 Thanks so much for everyone who has stuck with me through my silences, and always had a cheerful word when I came back.  It wouldn't be the same without you, my Gentle Readers.  You and your comments and shining intelligence and thoughtful attention to what you read, and love of books, make it all worthwhile.

Thank you too for all the books you have raved about over the years.  Thanks to you, my to-be-read list is now a journal almost completely full of books I want to read - only partially gotten through, I always feel satisfaction when I do look to see how much I have read because of you.   The books I want to read is an actual mountain.  Or would be, if I could get them all in one place.  A mountain of books to go through, sounds like heaven, doesn't it? Thank you, Gentle, dear readers!

  Happy 6th blogversary to me! 

Blog Survey
Don't worry, this is not a precursor to leaving my blog!  I have noticed in the past several months a distinct change in blogging, from bloggers who used to blog all the time suddenly not being able to blog, to other bloggers just stopping, to the huge amount of bloggers out there, so following blogs is much more time consuming than it used to be.  Over at Literate Housewife, Jennifer has developed a survey along with Kim at Sophisticated Dorkiness and Shannon at River City Reading.  It's a short survey about your blogging habits. Here is Jennifer's post, which has a link to the survey.  It's very quick to do, so if you are curious, it will be a good way for us all to find out how the book blog world in general is doing.

Here are some books I've read because of you, Gentle Readers, over the years:
Skellig - David Almond (Staci at Life in the Thumb, Mariel at Where Troubles Melt Like Lemon Drops (no longer active)), my original post here.
Clubbing - Andi Watson (Joanne at the Book Zombie, no longer active)
The True Story of Hansel and Gretel - Louise Murphy (Wendy at Musings of a Literary Feline) my original post here.
- Kerrie at Mysteries in Paradise deserves a special mention, since she has single-handedly gotten me reading several mystery series that I love: Fred Vargas, Jo Nesbo, Johan Theorin, Peter Temple, Peter James, and especially Peter Lovesey, to name a few.  All highly recommended mystery series.  Her blog is a fabulous resource for all things mystery.

and because they have recommended way too many books I want, and because they are delightful, warm, thoughtful bloggers who I am always happy to see post:
- Jodie at Geranium Cat's Bookshelf, Cath at Read-Warbler, Pat at Here, There and Everywhere  , Christine at Bride of the Book God, Chris at Stuff as Dreams are Made Of, Daphne at  where there is joy, Wendy at Musings of  Literary Feline, Eva at A Striped Armchair, and Ana at Things Mean Alot, always add to my book list.  They just have to mention a book and I want it.   I have many books waiting to be read/bought because of their blogs.
 ***These are some of the bloggers whose reading tastes have greatly influenced mine, in that we are always adding to each other's lists.  Very similar reading tastes.  Many other bloggers have interesting books and blogs that I visit regularly,  and love to visit. But we don't necessarily add to one another's books to be read.  Please see my sidebar. 
 - A very special mention to Carl at Stainless Steel Droppings, who runs to two best challenges (for me anyway) in the blogworld:  Once Upon a Time in the spring, and RIP (Readers Imbibing Peril) in the autumn.  I love these two challenges, and they get me reading books that I would otherwise put aside for another day (because there is so much to read).  His not-a-challenge Sci-fi Reading Experience in the winter months has quadrupled my science fiction reading.  AND he is a lovely gentle man who has a kind word for everyone, and promotes  just about everything fantasy and sci fiction.  Another fabulous resource on the book blog community.
- and just because it's so cool to have one, my book-twin over in South Korea, at Blue-Hearted Bookworm.  It's awesome to say I have a book-twin.  That you have the same name and we sometimes agree on books and you have a lovely snarky sense of humour, always makes me smile.   

Everyone, all of you Gentle readers named and not named, if I have come to your blog and left a comment it's because you have touched me with your post, because you made me laugh or think or really desperately want to experience the book you just read, too.

Thank you.

Monday 30 September 2013

RIP update: Two excellent haunted house novels, and one determined WW2 ghost


  I have been very bad at doing reviews this year, and as part of my motto to start being a good blogger again, I'm starting today with catching up with what I've been reading for RIP:  Awesome haunted house and ghost stories. Ghost stories of all kinds,  all of which want one thing: to possess the teller of the tale.  *shiver*  It's been wonderful reading so far.  So, for your reading contemplation, are the reviews of Hell House, The Shining, The Greatcoat,  all read in September. 

I've also devised a chill meter, to help me rate the scariness of what I'm reading.  Hair rising on my arms, jumping at noises while I read, and seeing shadows out of the corner of my eyes, and most of all, not being able to read it while I am alone in the house.  All these factor in to my chill-o-meter.

  Hell House is one of Richard Matheson's unsung masterpieces.  Unsung because unless you read horror, you won't have heard of this book.  And yet it is as good as The Shining, or The Haunting of Hill House, though in a different way.  And it's a shame it's not better known, because Hell House is as frightening a ghost story as any book you will read.  I have seen the movie made from Hell House, Legend of Hell House, and it is equally as frightening, though some of the interior characterizations are missing, of course.  I find that reading about atmosphere and ghostly settings is as frightening to me, as seeing it visually.  It is very difficult to create a ghost movie that is realistic and effective on everyone, which is interesting when  you are trying to show a good friend what frightens you, and half way through, they say, "Is anything going to happen?  Because this is kind of boring."  Real story, it happened to me once!  So, I know that even if I find Hell House and The Shining deeply frightening, it won't be for everyone.  If you like ghosts, if you like evil ghosts who want to possess the character just because they can, if you like hauntings where there really is hauntings and it's not just in people's minds, then both Hell House and The Shining are for you.

Ok, to Hell House itself.  The Belasco mansion is a house built in 1919 in Maine, by a wealthy millionaire who early on showed a habit of being able to bend people to his will.  It was built in a remote location in Maine, near a village as the only means of human habitation, tucked away in the wilderness. At the mansion, parties and soirees and long holiday stays were held, and as the years wore on, people came and stayed.  What went on in the mansion was never spoken about publicly, as Belasco, the owner, ensured the silence of anyone who attended.  Many people never left.  What went on?   Belasco set about creating a private world where people could do what they wanted to, with no repercussions.  It's chilling to think about, and Matheson uses this fear of what people would do if they could, to great effect in Hell House.  After Belasco's death, the house sits in silence, until a psychic investigator brings a group in to investigate.  Rumours have abounded about hauntings and smells and noises, and deaths, and excesses in the parties - unexplained deaths, suggestions of murders, orgies, human decadence and degradation. Slowly it gets the name of Hell House, as the supreme haunted house. 

    Out of the original 9 people psychic party  members in 1940, only one survivor:  Benjamin Fischer.  And as the novel Hell House opens, another group of psychic investigators is going in, twenty years later. Ben Fischer is one of them.  Even he isn't sure why he is returning, since he barely made it out alive the first time.  As the novel progresses, though, he realizes that he has to act, he has to do something to stop it all, to save who he can.  Miss Tanner, who runs a spiritualist church and is a recognized eco-plasm medium, is the other.  She senses things, feels things, and does seances.   Dr and Mrs Barrett round out the four people.  Dr Barrett wants to prove that psychic phenomena doesn't  mean that ghosts exist, that there is a rational explanation for everything. He does not believe in ghosts.  He is the person running the investigation, and has all the latest psychic equipment for measuring phenomena that exists. Mrs Barrett doesn't want to leave her husband alone, although the truth is, she doesn't do well on her own without him.  And one September day they arrive for a one week stay at Belasco House.  Only two will make it out alive.

     Hell House is  about a house that is haunted, and about the exploration of possession and evil and how little defenses there are against such things.  Richard Matheson has created a novel that is disturbing and frightening - but not in a bad way, we don't see the debasement and debauchery that went on in the house, we only hear about it when the characters talk about the history. Only one scene really is graphic from the earlier time period when the house re-enacts some of what happened in it.  There is some Christianity religion involved, which would have made this book racy in the way The Excorcist was, and The Omen, back when they came out in the 1970's. Hell House was written in 1971, so it is similar in tone to them, where religious symbols being debased is shocking and part of the horror.  It is still sickening to read about now, though I find the shock value is gone in the time between the 1970's and now.   The malevolence of the spirits is terrifying. And yet, this isn't a novel where everyone dies, there is a resolution to it, and a satisfying one.  It is a very good horror novel, and an excellent novel about hauntings and how dangerous they are.   It has more than enough spookiness and atmosphere for me.  It's one I can't read (or watch) by myself at all.  4.5/5  chills.  Highly recommended

The idea of a house like this existing lingers on, afterward for me.  Could it happen?  And would you be able to go into one and withstand it, if it did exist?

The Shining  - Stephen King.  The Shining is one of my all-time favourite books.  I love this story with a passion,  of little Danny Torrance and the horrors he endures at Overlook Hotel.  I just finished re-reading it last week, and I was surprised by a few things:  just how good a novel this is:  the characters are fabulous and the exploration of the marriage between Jack and Wendy is perfect; the horrors that Danny goes through are completely believable and chilling each and every time I read them, and

I have found that I have forgotten some of the novel, so when I read the scene of Danny in the cement tube, I swear I got goosebumps as he tries to dig himself out and something is crawling after him to grab him.  Just writing about it makes me chilled!  I'd forgotten about the basement, and I'd forgotten about how much of the hedges are scary.  I did also forget that the two little girls from the Jack Nicholson movie, are not in the book.  That movie scared the living daylights out of me,specifically the two little girls appearing at the top of the stairs - for years and years I had to turn the lights on to go up staircases.  When I got to the end of the book, I thought, the girls! where are they?  and then realized - they aren't needed, they were never part of the book. It surprised me, but didn't lessen how much I enjoyed The Shining. I had completely forgotten the last scene in the shed, and was horrified at what almost happened there.  There is as much evil haunting in The Shining as there is in Hell House, and even some of the partying/murders/people behaving terribly in the hotel as in the house.  But for me, even though I like Hell House very much, I love The Shining.  The characters in Hell House aren't quite as well rounded as in The Shining.  I don't like Jack Torrance very much, but I understand him so well.  This is Stephen King's great gift, that he can create such real characters.  They are people we know, who live next door, get on the bus with us, go grocery shopping, and have hopes and fears like we do.  Wendy Torrance is a much better character than she is in the movie.  She is much smarter (than in the movie), and we see how her family relationships shaped her for a man like Jack Torrance and why she would stay with him.  It's brilliant psychology, and makes what happens to this family so vividly real.  At the heart of The Shining is Danny Torrance, the 5 year old boy who shines like no one else.  The Shining is the gift to perceive things as they are, to psychically be aware of what has gone on before, and to come.  The second sight, precognition.  And Danny Torrance has it in spades.  In the hands of a lesser author, Danny would never be as realistically drawn.  It is difficult to write about children without making them precocious or unreal.  Indeed, in The Shining one of the doctors Jack and Wendy take Danny to, says that he is very bright, advanced for his years in his reading and verbal skills.  We do see him teaching himself to read, because his father is a writer and teacher, and Danny gets rewards as he learns to read more. It's things like this that make the book real.  This is what we would do with a precocious child who is anxious to make his father proud of him. What they don't know is that Danny wants also to be able to read a sign he keeps seeing in his visions: redrum.  He is trying to find a way to stop what is going to happen, although he can't because it's him the hotel wants, his shining gift that makes the hotel become stronger.  And he is 5, and so is still at the mercy of everything around him, including his parents' dysfunction and weaknesses.  So what shouldn't work, a 5 year old hero at the heart of a ghost story, works wonderfully well here. Danny is so brave, and doesn't know how to stop what is happening to his father.  That is some of the horror at work here, this wonderfully drawn little family, and the helplessness with which they watch one fall to his ruin, and cannot do a thing to stop it because he can't, or won't, do it himself.

 Wendy knows that Danny knows things, though it is only at The Overlook Hotel that she realizes how much he can see what is going to happen.  They work on each other, Danny and the hotel, and this is a fascinating idea, that a person with a psychic gift can influence a site to become stronger in its' hauntings or presence or influence. 

Fabulous horror book, good haunting scenes, eerie moments, frightening ghosts - one of the best ghost stories, ever.  Chills abound, 5/5 

Other reviews of The Shining:
Kelly at The Well-Read Redhead
The Book Smugglers
Wendy at Musings of a Literary Feline

 The Greatcoat - Helen Dunmore.    Set in 1952 Yorkshire, The Greatcoat is about a young woman,  Isabel Carey, who has just started out on married life as the wife of a young doctor.  She finds a RAF great coat in the wardrobe and draws it around her because she can't get warm in the cold flat she and her husband are renting. Isabel is not self-assured,  due to many losses from the war in her own life, and it is this lack of foundation in herself that leaves her open to being worked on by the wishes of others.  She becomes haunted by a young pilot, from the Second World War.  Who is he?  And who is it that he thinks she is?  This is not a simple little ghost story, it is a disturbing, thoughtful and eerie one.  Why does no one see Isabel when she sets out to the  airfield out of town with the pilot?  Why does he know her as someone else?  Whose memories are she getting?  When near the end, she faces a choice: to be herself, or let someone take her over, is the haunting truly over when she makes her choice? Can it be?  Or does after one feels the imprint of another time and another person's memories, do they truly go away?  Is Isabel  more vulnerable because she feels as if she is on the outside looking in, as she says, not feeling real in her own life? 

It is also a lovely ghost story, filled with little moments of Isabel learning about herself and who she wants to be, and her husband's view of her and their life together, and some of the memories of the ghost haunting her.  But it's not that simple, and it becomes dangerous to Isabel at the end.  I liked the setting of Yorkshire, and the empty abandoned airfields, with all the losses of the war still hanging over everyone as they try to move on.  What happens to those who didn't come back, who were cut short at age 18, 20, 22?  Where do everyone's desires go?  When you are young and vulnerable, and someone really really wants something, what happens?  There is a lot going on in this slender novel, and it is very enjoyable read.  I really liked it. This is not a scary story, there are no real chills or jumps, but it is eerie, and disturbing.  Ghosts aren't supposed to be comfortable to be around, they are of a time and place - a person - no longer here. I liked how the haunting was done, and why.  Although I wasn't sure if I would like Isabel, I did end up caring about her in the end.  I'm pretty sure I will carry the last image around with me for a while to come.  It's a very good ghost story, and highly recommended.  4/5 chills

Other reviews of The Greatcoat:
Eva at A Striped Armchair
Bride of the Book God

Please let me know if you have reviewed any of these, and I will add them to the post.

Now, for Doctor Sleep! 

Saturday 28 September 2013

new Jane Austen cookbook, and other cookbooks I want

I was just going through my facebook reader, and I discovered this lovely little article in the UK Telegraph, from last week.  "Dinner With Mr Darcy" is the name of a new cookbook coming out in October, featuring recipes from meals or food mentioned in Jane Austen's novels.                                          
The white soup recipe listed in this article is from this book.  It looks like an interesting book, and of course I want it.  Jane Austen recipes, recreated so we can make it!  I would LOVE to do a Georgian tea party one day, wouldn't you?  Look at this recipe for roast pork loin.  Mmm.  I'm getting hungry!

Speaking of cookbooks, another cookbook I have my eye on is this one:  Mastering the Art of Soviet Cooking, by Anya Von Bremzen.  I was looking at it at the store tonight.

 It combines memoir and Soviet food through the decades of her family life in Russia.  Another book that looks fascinating.

I have long wanted A Cook's Year in a Welsh Farmhouse by Elisabeth Luard. 

It is still in hardcover.  I wish it would come out in softcover, which are easier to open and use in the kitchen.  Cath at Read-Warbler gave this lovely review earlier this summer. A farmhouse out in the country side, eating seasonally, what more could one ask?  Except to be there, of course......

One last cookbook that I have been gazing at longingly in the book stores is this one:  Country Cooking of Ireland by Colman Andrews. 

It looks splendid and has so many recipes in it.  Plus a bit of Irish history.  Being part Welsh and Irish, I am interested in exploring more about the foods of my culture and ancestors.     This book is to drool over, literally and figuratively!!

So are there any cookbooks you are wanting to buy, dear reader? 

Monday 23 September 2013

A Reader's A to Z survey


 I came across this meme on three sites tonight:  Ana at Things Mean Alot, Care at Care's Online Book Club, and  Suey at It's All About Books.  The original meme/survey started here, at Jamie the Perpetual Page Turner's blog. So, I'm joining in, for the first time in a long time. This is a fun survey, and it's all about books and reading.

Author I've Read The Most Books From:  Jane Austen (only Mansfield Park and her unfinished novel Lady Susan remain to be read).  Agatha Christie. Arthur Conan Doyle. ( The latter two as a teenager, when I read whatever I could find of those two.  What I read is mostly lost in the mists of time now, so I have to go back and reread them.  They don't tell you that when you are growing up, either! ) L.M. Montgomery.  Currently: Mary Oliver, Phil Rickman, and Charles de Lint. Oh, and Stephen King.  Not everything, but most of his, including his non-fiction.  Connie Willis. Jo Nesbo.
Best Sequel Ever: I am drawing a complete blank here. 
Currently ReadingThe Greatcoat - Helen Dunmore.
Drink of Choice While Reading: tea, or hot chocolate in the evenings.  In my ideal world, I wouldn't have diabetes and I could drink hot chocolate every evening while reading.
E-Reader or Physical Book: Physical book, every time!!  I will eventually get an E-reader, but I will always be afraid that the battery will run out, or I'll lose it. I love the physicality of real books, of their texture, smell, the colours on the covers, the text, the pages.  They are evocative and lodge in the mind, the best books become a part of us.  I love holding them in my hands.
Fictional Character You Probably Would Have Dated in High School: Gilbert Blythe from Anne of Green Gables. I'm not sure he would have dated me, but he was my first serious fictional love (Mr Darcy was a long way away), and I adored him from the moment he pulled Anne's braid in class in Anne of Green Gables. Sigh.

Glad You Gave This Book A Chance:  Fables: Wolves.  My first Fables book, and one of my first graphic novels I tried.  I loved it, and have been reading a few graphic novels every year since.

Hidden Gem Book:  Middlemarch, by George Eliot.  I realized that I could read and even better, enjoy the classics.  I had recovered from studying them for university, and could now enjoy them again as stories.  I was blown away by the depth of characters and the life in the village covered in this novel. 
Important Moment in Your Reading Life:  When I realized that I would rather buy books than anything else. Followed by, realizing that I want to write stories, too, the kind I like to read.

Just Finished:  The Shining, by Stephen King.
Kind of Books I Won't Read:  this is hard, because if I were desperate, trapped in a bookstore or library say, for a long time, I'd eventually read these too.  I'd have to have some kind of fresh food source, so I could eat, and sleep.  Possibly at the end of the world?  Then I would read everything there including these. Since I still read the back of cereal boxes and magazines from cover to cover when I'm desperate, there really isn't much I won't read. So in fiction, I'd say:  Erotica and romance, erotica because I find it boring (I have a vivid imagination anyway for myself), and romance because I read so many as a young teenager - anyone remember Harlequin Romances, and the many lines of Harlequin Presents, etc? with the white covers?  I read those for about 2-3 years, anything I could get my hands on.  I've never recovered my ability to read romances after that, though a few of the characters still come up in my thoughts often.  Kathleen Woodiwiss?  I read everything she wrote, too.
Longest Book I've Read: Middlemarch? Jonathan Strange and Dr Morrel? any of the Wheel of Time books?  Later Stephen King books?

Major Book Hangover Because: ?? occasionally I get burned out because I read so many books over a period of time, and I watch a few movies to give my mind a break.  It doesn't last more than a day or two, and is rare.

Number of Bookcases I own:  13.  One is currently being used as a dvd storage holder, which I count as a bookshelf (it was built to be one) until we find a proper storage place for all the dvds we have.  And I still don't have enough shelves!

One Book I have Read Multiple Times: Persuasion, by Jane Austen. Among my favourite books of all. 
Preferred Place to Read: Currently, at the kitchen table, since it has the best lighting.  Sofa is the second favourite place.  I will be buying a reading chair soon, for the reading corner we are making as part of my 50th birthday year.  Then I will always be found there...
Quote That Inspires You/Gives You All the Feels From a Book You've Read:  Erasmus: "When I get a little money, I buy books. If any money is left, I buy food and clothes.The first time I saw this quote, I felt excited.  I wasn't alone.  Someone else, even long ago, even as famous as Erasmus, loved books as much as I do. 

Reading Regret:  There are so many, many good books to read.  More being published every year.  How can I pick and choose from them, when they all sound interesting and I want to read them all?  My biggest regret is not being able to read all the books I want to read.

Series You Started and Need To Finish (All the books are out in the series):  There are so many, since I read mostly series in both mystery and fantasy.  Currently working on catching up in mysteries: Peter James, Peter Lovesey, Ian Sansom, Stephen Booth, Carol O'Connell, Deon Meyer, Fred Vargas...... fantasy: Songs of Fire and Ice (stuck on book 4), Gail Carrigher Parasol series, Maureen Johnson, Stina Leicht (book one is my fantasy of the year so far), Wheel of Time (some day I will catch up),
Three of Your All-Time Favourite Books:  The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson, Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen, Doomsday Book by Connie Willis.

Unapologetic Fangirl For:  Ian Rankin.  And he's coming to Ottawa in November!!!  I'M SO EXCITED!!  I've missed the last two times he's been here, so this time I'm going.  I've caught up in the John Rebus/Malcolm Fox series, too, except for the new one, Saints of the Shadow Bible, which isn't out until November here.  He will be reading from it.

Very Excited For This Release More Than All The Others:  The Magus of Hay by Phil Rickman.  The latest Merrily Watkins is out on Dec 24!!!!  At least according to Amazon.  I have to have this for Christmas.  I love Merrily, the Anglican exorcist reverend, and the Borderlands where she makes her home, and the creepy atmosphere of hauntings and ghosts and evil. 
Worst Bookish Habit:  Taking out too many books from the library, reading 1/10th of them, and not returning them in time.  I run up a debt every year. 
X Marks The Spot: Start at the Top Left of Your Shelf and pick the 27th Book:  Dubliners - James Joyce.  Partially read, of course.

Your Latest Book Purchase:  Police by Jo Nesbo.  I just picked it up on Thursday.
ZZZ-Snatcher Book- Book That Kept You Up WAY Too Late:  The Shining, by Stephen King.  I was up until 2 last night, and almost 3 am the night before.  It was that unputdownable.  I love it.  I once stayed up until close to dawn to read The Vampire Lestat by Anne Rice, long ago when I was young and could stay up that late.

Saturday 21 September 2013

An interview with Stephen King, and some thoughts on The Shining

I"m in the middle of reading The Shining today.  It was a lovely dark and rainy day, perfect to catch-up on one of my favourite horror novels.  For some reason I forget how well-written King's novels are - he does description mixed with unsettling overtones very well.  In one of my few times away from the book today, I found this interview with King today over at the Guardian Online.  There are a few plot points given away, but if you are skilled at skimming as I think many of us are (so we don't get to spoil books we haven't read) then the interview is very good. 

Doctor Sleep in 3 days!!!!!  I've already ordered my copy from Amazon, though I did what is a silly thing - Amazon have changed their policy and if you select 'super saver no shipping costs', everything gets sent in one box.  And one of the things I ordered takes a month to come in.  So my plan to read it next weekend might not work out.......I used to be able to select that, and Amazon would send things separately anyway, which I keep hoping will happen.  

 The Shining is as good as ever.  And frightening.  Danny Torrance is one of the best 5 year old heroes in literature, and what he has to endure is horror.   Some of what makes The Shining so frightening for me is that Danny has to endure it alone, and that scares me to think about.  This is what makes the movie The Sixth Sense so scary for me too.  Psychic children who have to deal with terror on their own.  They are figures representing the terrors encountered in childhood, and how to find their way through it, except that The Shining is written for adults.  We are both Danny Torrance, encountering the unknown, and his parents, simultaneously, adults who also encounter the unknown.  And the horror in The Outlook affects adults and children.  So no one is safe.  Doesn't that creep you out just a bit?  That's fear and horror that we all feel in our deep instinctual natures, far away from logic.  The deep part of ourselves that knows that ghosts exist, remenants of the past, and badness and evil.  This has been a very bad week in so many ways, in the world, and that fear of the evil people can do to one another that as a world we are witnessing - the mass shootings in the US on Monday, and in Kenya today - is the same kind of evil that lurks in minds everywhere.  Most people are able to turn away from it, and choose love and kindness and compassion.  But something in Jack Torrance - his willingness to blame his problems on anything but himself, really - his unacknowledged desire to strike out at everyone around him - the darkness that lies where people hurt one another - that is what is at the heart of The Shining. The isolation of The Overlook Hotel exaggerates  whatever people bring with them to the hotel.  It works on their innate sense of themselves.  And then there is the Overlook Hotel itself, with the evil at the heart of it.  Places do affect people. I firmly believe that buildings, places in natures, contain memories of what happens, impressions, sort of.  But all this is to try to explain how The Overlook Hotel could be real, which is another way of saying, a haunted hotel can exist.  And that is the question that horror novels try to answer: what happens if ghosts and haunted places are real?

I do know that if I had Danny Torrance's gift, or Dick Hallorann's, I wouldn't be able to stay at the Overlook Hotel.  I know it's not a real place.  I'm thankful!!  But.....the book.  The book scares me that much, that I can't read it when I'm alone.  Delicious, creepy, haunting (certain scenes have haunted me for most of my life), frightening, as I watch the slow unravelling of Jack Torrance, his wife's inability to protect herself or see the truth until it is almost too late - though I don't blame her, she is a perfect characterization of what happens in a marriage - and Danny himself, small Danny, horror lurking in every passage and corner and wall for him. 

I so hope Doctor Sleep is as good.  It will be different, of course. Danny is grown up, and an alcoholic, reliving his father's pattern (as families do), without the anger. A small child, a little girl this time, is part of the book, again, which can only be good.  And it's all about the Shining and how it is used. I want to be scared, the way The Shining scares me, every time I read it.

Back to reading The Shining.  I'm just at the part where Jack has threatened to write the history of the Overlook Hotel and been told in no uncertain terms by his ex-alcoholic friend who sits on the board, that he will be fired if he does.  Things are about to get much, much worse for the Torrances.

Tuesday 3 September 2013

R.I.P. VIII at long last, and plenty of scary books to come


RIP is finally here!  Even though I am late with my post, don't fear, Gentle Readers.  I have already been busy and read a book for this challenge on Sunday, the first day the challenge began!

    As always, I thank Carl over at Stainless Steel Droppings for hosting this challenge.  This is one of my two most favourite challenges, the other one being Once Upon a Time in the spring, which he also hosts.  Fantasy and horror, my two favourite genres along with mystery.

Above are the books I am considering reading.  I hope to read many of them in the pile, just to get more read from my shelves (and because I do really want to read each and every one of them).  Missing from the pile are the new Stephen King Dr Sleep, because it's not out yet, Drood by Dan Simmons because I'm afraid if I put it on the list I won't read it (and I've owned it for 5 years now), and the new Stuart McBride mystery Birthdays for the Dead, which I forgot about until after I took the photo.

The list is:
Hell House - Richard Matheson ***just read on Sunday, will review next post. Mini first impression:  Really enjoyed it. Could not read alone at night. Too scary for that!
I Remember You - Yrsa Sigurdardottir - not one of her Thora Gudmunsdottir mystery series.  This is a stand-alone ghost story. It looks very creepy, and she is good with eerie atmosphere. I am curious how good a ghost story this will be.   I bought it last week  along with
Children of the Night - Dan Simmons, which I suddenly discovered I had NOT read, and it features vampires, and I love Dan Simmons (despite not having read Drood yet, which is more because the copy I have is hardcover and is so darn big I can't carry it anywhere.  I almost bought the paperback just so I can read it this time around.  The Terror by him is one of my all-time favourite horror novels, (linked to my review in 2008) and I just discovered that this fall is a bonanza time for me because there is a new book coming out by Dan Simmons also!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! This would be Book 3 of the Books I Really Want This Fall:
                         The Abominable.  While it features snow and ice, this time it's climbing mountains, not lost in the Arctic.  It's out Oct 23, so I might be able to talk myself into getting it before RIP is over.  As this is just before my two boys' birthdays, it's sometimes difficult to buy something for me in the midst of their special days.  Christmas, then.  For sure!!!
     Anyway, back to Children of the Night: vampires.  Romania after it opened in the 1990s - remember the stories of the abandoned children in all those orphanages? Dreadful times in history, and I didn't realize this novel is based in that time.  A baby in an orphanage is dying, and responds to a blood transfusion.......
The Thirteenth Tale - Diane Setterfield:  because my friend Pat over at Here, There and Everywhere Blog LOVES this book.  Now there's another book by the same author out, Bellman and Black, and I should read the one I do own, first.  I can't link to the review Pat has of The Thirteenth Tale, though it does crop up often in her posts (she loves it that much).
Dead Scared - S.J. Bolton.  This is the second book in the Lacey Flint series.  In the first book, Now You See Me, reviewed here, Lacey has to deal with a serial killer who is playing on Jack the Ripper story.  In Dead Scared, she goes to Cambridge University to catch someone who is drugging people, who then commit suicide.  *shiver*
Talking to the Dead - Harry Bingham - I've seen this reviewed over at Crime Fiction Lover,  and somewhere else that I can no longer remember.  DC Fiona Griffiths is recovering from a breakdown, and may or may not pick up things that no one else can.....
Every Dead Thing - John Connolly - first in the Charlie Parker series.  I managed in July to get past the horrific scene of his dead wife and child.  Now, to start again and this time try to get through this lovely mystery with a very evil killer (which gives me chills).
Angel Cafe - Jill Morrow - a psychic, fortune telling, a spirit guide who isn't nice.....
I am Legend - Richard Matheson - I enjoyed the first movie based on this book, the Charlton Heston  movie Omega Ma. Then the Will Smith version came out, and it was even better.  It's time I went to the original source and read the book.  I still get the heebie-jeebies at the idea of being all alone in the city, and then something moves.
Moon Over Soho - Ben Aaronovitch.  2nd in the Peter Grant 'he can see dead people' mystery series.  What's not to love in this series?  Serious magic, a wizard for a chief detective, and Peter himself, an novice in the field of seeing the dead, and kind to boot.  Set in London, a bonus.
Deadline - Mira Grant.  2nd in the Georgia and Shawn Mason  zombie series.  I read the first one, Feed, and really enjoyed it.  It took me this long to recover from the ending of the first book enough that I now have to know what happens next.
The Shining - Stephen King - so I am refreshed and ready for Doctor Sleep.  The Shining is one of my ultimate horror books.  I'm so anxious for Doctor Sleep.  I'm a little afraid it won't be as good as The Shining, but I have high hopes.
The Summoning - Bentley Little.  Anyone who wins Horror Novel of the year is a good horror writer,so I am curious to try him.  This looks interesting, a series of unexplained events in a small Arizona town...
The Small Hand - Susan Hill.  A ghost story by the author of The Woman in Black!  I don't need to say anymore, do I?  Except that I loved The Woman in Black, so I'm hoping to get some eerie chills again.
The Greatcoat - Helen Dunmore.  Another ghost story, a rave review by Eva over at A Striped Armchair, and Bride of the Book God, and I had to get this.
A Monster Calls - Patrick Ness.  It sounds terrifying, a little boy whose mother is dying of cancer, and he has to fight another kind of monster all on his own.  Also heartbreaking.  I'm almost scared to read this, since I am sure I will cry while reading this.
Red Bones - Ann Cleeves - 3rd in the Shetland Island series featuring Jimmy Perez.  I really liked the first two books in this series.  There is something island-like and claustrophobic that is appealing (the solitude, nature, the sea) and not so appealing (everyone knows you, hard to be a recluse or hide away without being some kind of outcast), and downright nasty murders.  I was thrilled to see Book 5 has just come out, so it's no longer the Shetland Quartet.
The Last Policeman - Ben Winters. Thea James from The Book Smugglers posted a lovely review at Kirkus last month, and pushed this book up onto this pile for me.  An end of the world mystery novel.  What would you do if the world was coming to an end?  Would you stay in your job?  Would it matter if crimes were solved?  That's the theme of this book, with the policeman, Detective Hank Palace, staying in his job because for him, it does matter.  That feeling of icy dread in your stomach?  That's the end of the world coming.....definitely a book for RIP VIII.

 So this means I am going for Peril the First, which is   : Read four books, any length, that you feel fit (the very broad definitions) of R.I.P. literature. It could be King or Conan Doyle, Penny or Poe, Chandler or Collins, Lovecraft or Leroux…or anyone in between.
I am also going for Peril the Screen.  Definitely!  Legend of Hell House, which I have already seen, and now that I've finally read the novel, want to re-watch.  Possibly The Haunting of Hill House, and The Shining (to go along with reading the novel). Finish Ripper Street.  A whole bunch of possibilities.....
and I am, as ever, going for Peril The Short Story.  I think I might make a post up of some of the collections I have, just so you can ooh and awe over how many collections there are (and I don't have them all! definitely not) and pique your interest.  There are so many good horror collections, anthologies, short stories, to choose from.

Happy scary reading, everyone!