Dear Teenage Self: Yup, you were right.

So I was hard on my 15-17 year old angsty self for a number of years for not having the courage to pursue a career in writing.  Not having the balls.

I was less hard in more recent years because the more I learn and think about themes and character arcs and plots, the more I realize that it was difficult for me to know what to write about as a kid with my extremely limited scope of experience.  Remember, kids, there was not really an interwebs until I was 14-15 and I used it to talk to randos in chat rooms and send emails to people whom I saw in school during the day.  There were none of the fun teen writing communities and resources and even chances to practice by writing fan fiction that there are now. And my childhood was uneventful.  I guess I could say sheltered but I had had plenty of time to run off and get into unsupervised trouble on my own.  I was still an 80’s kid, after all.

When I decided it was time to get serious about writing one of the best things I did was go through and like writing related Facebook pages and subscribe with some discretion to writing blogs.  Liking pages for literary journals and writers digest and getting into 12 short stories (I don’t even remember how I found that one but I’m so happy I did) and to have a Pinterest board for prompts and writing articles.

All of that was easier than what I am facing now. (Worry not/spoiler alert I do actually talk about a specific book in this post).

I have the chance to make all my dreaming and hoping of becoming a novelist real.  I have the tutelage and one on one help of a writing instructor whose course I won.  I have an idea that started off decent and she has already made it more exciting and cool than I had thought on my own and has springboarded me into another level already.

And I haven’t written a scene.

I am working through the accompanying workbook, I am almost done and out of excuses.  I have drafted out some scenes during pivotal plot points in order to find my way a little, but writing out something I am intending on having her look over to keep in my pile for further working?  Nope.  Got some sweet backstories, listed character traits, printed out pictures of everything I think is relevant.  My excited father is like, send me scenes!  Nope.

Just like when I felt like I had to come out with some good fiction as a kid, I am jamming up.  I am so excited I finished another book for BookRiot to have something different to write  today.  It’s still writing, right? I also may have finished a scene for a short I am dragging myself through.

I am not used to feeling this way.  In academia, I was reading the material and gathering sources for end of semester projects from the first week, ready to jump right in.  Excited about what I was going to learn and how I was going to put it all together.

And here I am, having written a few decent things, like I did as a teen, and then hitting a wall when I decide to chase that rabbit down the hole.

There is something different this time, though.  I know there is a way around the wall. I will probably sit and force myself to write terribly and tunnel my way through it.  I have too much legwork already done to gum up before I put down anything to submit to my instructor.  I am not a kid anymore.

But to my kid self: man, you were right, this sucks.  And I am still glad that you didn’t want to rely your life on reading and writing.  I am glad you decided to go in other directions, too.

Also, it is unrealistic to me to never read.  Downtime has been eaten up by activities that lead to my self loathing, like scrolling way too much social media and watching shows that I get nothing out of other than entertainment while knitting (which is something, I can’t say it’s nothing at all).  But I have been looking through the Read Harder challenge and finding shorter reads that fit the bill right now:

A Work of Genre Fiction in Translation:

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Black Tea and Other Tales, Samuel Marolla

I feel this also gets extra points because it is self published, although as I have said before on this blog, I have read a good number of self published works that were as good as things being produced by publishers (two of whom I am thinking about right now, Ania Ahlborn and Intisar Khanani were both picked up by big fivers and they totally deserve it).

I actually liked the title story, Black Tea, the least.  It was more confusing, more in your face horror with a grotesque monster than the other two.  I don’t know if that is because it is maybe the most classic idea of horror that it got the top bill on this collection? I saw another reviewer on Amazon feeling similarly about Black Tea, but the following two stories, of a man with nothing to lose given a wish granting wine and an eleven year old boy cursed with a visiting nighttime spectre were intriguing and different.  They were transporting and scary and I liked the settings.  I wonder if people who don’t get through Black Tea also don’t make it to the other two stories, which would be a shame.

I always expect to like reading the different things that Read Harder makes me look into, and this did not disappoint. There were longer and more expensive books that I might have read, like Hex, which has been on my wishlist forever, but I liked something shorter right now.  I am sure Hex will be diverting once I get into it.

So I am learning about how I will live my life around noveling.  I think I should note that it is also a challenge right now because I have written a manuscript but on my own time frame.  I want the bulk of this written/worked out by the summer, as I have to use my Skypes by six months from starting them. That is why I am turning down all my other hobbies.  I have not committed to training for something long or a cabled sweater or an 8oo page novel or crafting down my craft backlog.  Those things will wait.  For now.

And I’ll figure it out.  I don’t know what I am reading next but let’s be honest, I’ll have something chosen by the end of the day.

Comments/likes/shares!!!

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Victorian Ghost Stories From the End of 2017

For some reason, when the year closes out and I am done with Christmas reads and reading challenges I like to read about ghosts and spiritual matters. Maybe I belong in a Dickens novel and I use the time to consider the larger picture as I get a new chance at a new year. I don’t know.  But at the end of 2017 it was Victorian ghost stories and this is the first of two posts discussing Victorian and Regency times, supernatural or not.

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Victorian Ghost Stories: An Oxford Anthology

I snagged this beauty right at the end of 2016 secondhand because I want to write more ghost stories and horror, etc.  It definitely did not disappoint.

I don’t know why I had to read so many stories to realize that I probably love ghost stories not just because I find the other side of the veil fascinating but also because they are ultimately about passion. Like, you really gotta care about something to bother coming back from the dead for it.  This could be patently obvious to everyone else.  Because of this, many of the stories are love stories, but there is a decent showing of revenge or guilt stories as well.  The scariest story in here is the last story, one of the first I read of the collection, because it was by Algernon Blackwood.  Blackwood is adept at creating something scary with subtlety.   I don’t know if I ever posted on The Willows, but I found it disturbing without there being a single ghost.  Similarly, his story in this collection, The Kit Bag,  was creepy and left a significant impression on me.  It creeped me out just by suggestion.

The rest of the collection was good too, not just the showing from Blackwood.  It has Wilkie Collins, Mary Elizabeth Braddon, and JS Le Fanu.  So many hidden passions in proper Victorian times make for much fodder for passionate stories.  Never makes me want to live in that era, as I would never have fit in unless I was rich enough to get away with eccentricity and clandestine scrawling inside a closet.

I picked this up sometimes when I wanted  something short, but as the year was closing out and I was trying to be better about consuming shorts this definitely came off the nightstand for longer periods of time.

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Nocturne for a Widow, Amanda DeWees

This is ultimately a Gothic romance and exactly what I wanted in my post holiday changeup of routine week.

The heroine, Sybil, spends most the book in the precarious circumstances common to women in the Victorian era.  She tries her best for independence, but at the cost of her family and security.  Any good Gothic heroine needs to have some modicum of independence to be interesting enough as a protagonist, as well behaved Victorian women have a hard time being interesting until they break or bend the rules.  Often they have to be star crossed to do this, but Sybil does not need to be blinded by love to bend the rules, and I like that about her.

I also thought the hero was pretty well done, being a passionate bad boy who is difficult to read.  Bad boys are not my favorite usually but I found myself trying to read his emotions as he made the heroine in the book crazy throughout most of it.  I also liked that their ending up together (I don’t think this is a spoiler because the book is marketed as a romance and he is clearly the love interest the minute he rolls onto the scene) actually resulted in her being able to return to her creative life and living some of her dreams, rather than giving them up, like she thought she had to to survive in the beginning. I have read other historical books where a couple get together but then she is clearly headed toward children and domesticity after a life of being on the road, performing, or independence, and I don’t like that.  When I was pregnant my clients told me I might not want to come back to work and I knew before that baby came I would want to come back to work…I did after 11 weeks and I never looked back.  I love the boy who is jumping in front of the TV right now but I am not a stay at home parent.

This story is ultimately a mystery, with a big old house, a ghost with a story to tell, dramatic revenge, and a wicked female villain under the guise of utmost propriety and decorum. The story ties up neatly and sets the nice stable stage for a new round of mystery.  This has a sequel mystery to it, and it looks like Ms. DeWees is looking to make it into a series, as she has other Victorian romances published on Amazon as well.  I would pick up another Sybil Ingram mystery if it suited my ever changing reading mood.

Next week I am posting on another pair of historical fiction books (I have not finished the second one and that is looking like there is paranormal involved, although the first one does not have any) in the Victorian/Regency era.  Just seems to be my reading mood lately, before the first snow read hits.  January is a long long freakin month.

Comments/likes/shares!

I am grateful for Stephen King

I’ll admit some mixed feelings about November: it reminds me of how cold I am about to be for months and I have to re-acquaint myself to driving home every night in the dark.

But November is all about gratitude.  Practicing daily gratitude is a neuroscientifically supported practice in creating happiness.  What we think about, and thank about, we bring about.  I won’t expound here upon my layers of white privilege, but I try to remember it’s there in some superstitious hope that I won’t lose anything that I take time out to be thankful for.  Whatever, I can have my illusions.

Stephen King has not exactly made it onto my gratitude lists.  Ever.  Even last year when I did a thirty day gratitude journal with three different things every day for a month after I read Thank and Grow Rich.  I have been more neural toward prolific authors.  Possibly neutral with a dash of contempt.

I am sure Stephen King does not stay awake at night deeply concerned about my estimation of him.

But what turned it around for me was two of his books:  It, which I may have touched upon in a previous post because I read it in 2013, and On Writing, which I just finished on Friday.

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It is a harder sell as far as gratitude, but I am grateful to him in this story because it was my first real experience of horror that crept into my brain, rather than being scary for more gory or base reasons.  I first watched the miniseries when I was nineteen and I first got to experience his specific brand of talented brain twisting. But then when I tackled his book in 2013, I loved the characters and the relationships in in their families and between each other, the life stories intertwined and their varied resulting fears used against them.

I remember my father reading It and then going to the movie and being disappointed that they left his favorite scene out of the movie.  I like memories of my parents being human, and memories that make me feel connected to them as people.

I am also mentioning him again today as a belated shout out to the new It movie, which I have not seen because I need to see it on a night where my husband is home so I can go to sleep after and I am not good at making time for movies, especially ones where I can’t watch with a five year old sponge scampering about.  It scared the crap out of me but here I am, back for more, back for the first scary thrill that he gave me.  You never forget your first time, right?

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Who doesn’t love On Writing?  I have not combed the reviews on Goodreads and Amazon, but it features in the blog posts I have seen about the best books for writers.  And it is true that it has good nuts and bolts of writing and that is important.  Another good nuts and bolts one that I first read when I started reading for writing advice was Francine Prose’s Reading Like a Writer:  A Guide for People Who Love Books and Those Who Want to Write Them.

But other than that, it came at an interesting time for me.  I did a ten day writing challenge on allaboutwriting.com and it was awesome.  Inspiring, fun, encouraging, got my wheels turning and refocused me a bit on writing, which is how many writers spend November.  I would recommend the course to anyone. I want to write more often so I picked it up to read during this ten day jaunt, which came at an otherwise busy time in my life as well.

Both the course and this book showed me I don’t have time right now to do the projects I eventually want to complete in my writing.  I wrote every day for ten days and got a post out, and I have more things to work on, but I had to trade in my exercise time to do this.  I am too vain, and too hooked on exercise, to give it up enough to be able to write as much as I would like to right now.  And I am grateful to Mr. King for validating how hard it is to work on writing when you have a day job that requires a good amount of brain space. He specifically mentioned the difficulty in writing on the side when you have a job that needs your brain.  He writes six hours a day.  I don’t have the time to do that.  But that is all right if I don’t right now.  I can still work on things, I just have to go easy on myself sometimes for not.  I could dial back other hobbies, like compulsive knitting while listening to books to write more. That might be a more appropriate sacrifice.  I mean, I can work out a little less often, but I missed it when I was using that time to write.   I had a few days that were just pure anxiety too in there and probably exercise would have helped that.  I got back to my first real workout in a week this morning and it felt great, even though I’ll be sore tomorrow.

Maybe I just need to stop being hard on myself, get better at reading books for writing more often and not spending all my time on fiction. My self imposed break from fiction definitely ended last night when I finished On Writing and immediately downloaded a book that I trusted would help me lose myself.  I took like 1-2 weeks off from reading fiction and I was gazing longingly at a specific shelf in the public library.  Like I used to look at a guy who broke my heart.  Who doesn’t read this blog.

So, this is my journey, and I am glad other authors are there both to twist my brain, show me new things, even if they make me scared, and to say hey, I get how hard it is to do the work of writing while you are doing the work of the rest of your life.  Thanks, Mr. King.

Comments/ likes/shares!  Next week I have an idea on deck that’s more like my typical posts.

 

They Just Don’t Stay Dead

I am doing a ten day writing challenge the beginning of November, actually paying money for instructor feedback on assigned short exercises.  The closest I have come so far to actually doing NaNo which seemed more attainable when my child did not have homework and a strict school schedule.    It is nice to spend time looking over and crafting responses and then combing through the replies to find instructor feedback.

I am also doing 12 short stories in 12 months, that is a free group, but the instructor mostly posts a prompt and a word count and there is no guarantee that she will look yours over.  I am on ten and I have not seen a comment from her yet.  Probably because my writing is untouchable perfection, right?  But I like having a deadline and having to get the wheels turning.  It is still worth my time.

I knew about Day of the Dead though before I knew about November being for writers.  And I am expanding my seasonal reads for books where siblings on both sides of the veil continue to share a relationship.  Day of the Dead is about resurrection of family and those spirits feeling loved and welcomed, and these books deal with conflicted relationships with semi-lost siblings.

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The Bone Witch, Rin Chupeco

I ended up reading two Rin Chupeco books for this season’s descent into fall reads, unintentionally, but I enjoyed them both.  The Bone Witch starts with the protagonist having enough grief to discover her powers by accidentally raising her recently dead brother from his coffin at his funeral service.

Dark magic fits in a regular class system society and a young girl is finding her powers and her place in the world of powers and a complicated and fierce system, with her loyal unintentionally undead brother at her side.  The book, because I think it is going to be a series, spends a lot of time world building but with chapters of her older and a witch comfortable in her powers looking back and telling the story of her youth while also assembling some sort of undead fighting force, which I don’t think is really a spoiler, so forgive me if it is.  So you know there is more plot coming, some kind of grievance.  The line between dead and alive is a lot thinner with the Bone Witch around, and she risks losing herself when she is using her powers.

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White is for Witching, Helen Oyeyemi

Ms. Oyeyemi is a writer whose works I have bought a few of without actually having read her : Boy Snow Bird, Mr.Fox, What Is Not Yours Is Not Yours.  She’s hoarded and decorated but unexplored.

White is for Witching was good but I don’t know if it should have been my first foray into this writer. It gave me the same feeling that I had when I read Never Let me Go by Kashuo Ishiguro, as in there is something lurking behind the story that is unclear and I can’t decide if it is nefarious or not.  Of course, in Ishiguro’s it really is something dark, whereas the spirits and the passed down pica feel more neutral, less negative in Oyeyemi.  I will be honest that I looked over other reviews before I was willing to post that I felt I was missing something in the story, that there may have been something unclear or something I was not understanding, but I don’t seem to be alone that it needs more than one pass, there are multiple levels at play here, similarly to Ishiguro.

It is included in this post because there are a pair of twins, Miranda and Eliot, and while they have that intimacy of twins that is passed off as unromantic but also kinda is (I loved her description, asking how possibly you couldn’t love someone of the opposite sex who is separate but so intimately a part of you) Eliot cannot save her from the generations of women that come before.  Not from their genetic anomalies nor their still lingering spirits’ design to consume her into the house. I felt there were times in the novel where Miranda was possessed and times where she was herself, times when I thought she would be saved from herself and move on into long term relationships, and then not.  Not being British I don’t completely understand their social patterns and the weird detachment they seem to have from both family and friends.  Eliot cannot hang on to his first love, this familiar but strange woman who slips away.  Creepy, but not Halloween-y, necessarily.

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When I Cast Your Shadow, Sarah Porter

I bought this one brand new full price.  Almost never happens.  I have books I spied as fresh releases and they are resigned to the wish list so I can spy on prices.  Or they go in my library wish list so I can spy availability there.  I don’t tend to look at lists of new releases, even if they come to my Facebook feed or into my email inbox.

Had to have this one.  And you know, I loved it.  This is the type of novel I would love to be able to pull off successfully myself someday.  It has it’s criticisms, like the plot can get a little tangly, and it can, but it’s a complicated plot.   It’s about a dad and his teenage twins left behind by a drug overdose death of the oldest son and abandoned by their mother.  The dead oldest son Dashiell seduces the girl twin Ruby into allowing him to inhabit her body to carry out some business he has to take care of, even though he is dead.  She allows him to because she loves him and is unbearably devoted to him.  Their skeptical and not so blindly adoring brother, Everett, gets co opted into this to save his sister,  on top of dark spirits who would love to have two bodies to be back into, and who have it out for Dashiell besides.

The supernatural element in this book, and we all know I love some magic, spirits and demons, was well crafted.  It was creepy and dark without being overdone, without being gory.  It was deeply unsettling, lots of intersecting goals and complications of the living and the semi living.  It was a creepy, beautifully spun dream, with well crafted and beautifully crafted descriptions.

The complex dynamics between the characters was psychologically astute.  The drug addicted, completely appealing and dangerous older brother’s pain beneath the flash, the twins who will never be as flashy as he is, one who meets him with skepticism and another with blind devotion, the deep grief of a parent who had to set strong limits against a force more powerful than his son. This book described relationships I see in my work as a psychologist on a daily basis.   Loved it loved it loved it.  Because they were so vivid and believable I cared about what happened to them and what was next.

Pushing myself back into regular writing has been an awful rollercoaster for me and this book was a little dangling incentive…”maybe if you work hard enough and push through your issues enough, you could write something like this…”

I’ll forgive Ms. Porter for coming out with a book similar to something I have wanted to write.  She made it up to me with this one.

As this is already one of my longest posts to date (and it’s not getting done weeks ahead of time, like I usually aim for) I will keep the next piece brief.  I am at a standstill with what to do with my reading/writing/blogging next.  I have two and a quarter books to get through before I finish BookRiot’s Read Harder, and I am dreading those last two, but then….I don’t know.  I don’t have holiday reads planned, I would have to get through like ten books in eight weeks to win PopSugar at this point, and I have frequently thought that if I am really going to make a go of writing I need to break up with fiction novels.

Which sometimes feels as devastating as leaving my nutty but comfortable job of the past nine years or changing the locks on my loving husband who is building me a she-shed.

I would blog about whatever I am reading, fiction novels or no.  This is not a threat to the existence of the blog.  But no promises on where this is headed.

Comments/likes/shares! Pleeeeease

Halloween Reads: Mashup

October is closing up in that annual flurry of candy that launches us into the holiday season.

My son is a skeleton T Rex this year, with a soft T Rex skull he pulls over his head.  He has been a lion, a viking, a bat, SpiderMan and now a T-Rex.  The first Halloween of his life he was a raisin strapped into a car seat and taken home by his already exhausted and certainly not out of maternity clothes mother.  I am resisting eating chocolate birthday cake while I am writing this.

The group of books I review for the actual Halloween weekend post don’t hang together as well as the books I posted about on the previous five weeks of these posts, because I read a whole lot like usual thinking I will find the threads as I go and then I ended up with one grouping that is threaded together well, which is actually going to be my post honoring the Day of the Dead halfway through this week, and this post of stragglers.  Books I intended to get to for scary reads last year but I did not make it to.  One that kept cropping up on blog posts about quintessential horror reads that were new this scary season.  So, I’ll write, maybe there will be a thread, maybe not.

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The Curse of Crow Hollow, Billy Coffey

This did not get read last year and was one of the first that I plunged into for this year, especially since I already had the audio and a decent length car trip or two in there.

A mysterious illness overtakes some kids in an isolated Southern town following a night partying that inadvertently incurs the wrath of the town “witch” but unravels into additional layers of secrets and intrigues.

I believe this would count as a Southern Gothic novel: ironic events to reflect on the status and values of the American South, Gothic elements to explore and make social commentary.  The reader cannot determine if the town witch is really the villain or the victim until the end, if there is really illness/supernatural elements among some of the kids but the power of suggestion.  There aren’t the crumbling and scary plantations but the creepy small rural communities.  A little madness, a little despair.  Women who peak in their beauty and power in their teenage years only to have a lifetime of weight gain and raising children with distant husbands ahead of them.

The audio performance really adds to this.  The narrator brings to life the narrative style, with the perfect voice for the story, a male voice sounding exactly like I thought it should.  I will probably look into others of Billy Coffey’s dark, more American Gothic and subtle novels.  I don’t think anything could replace my love of Victorian Gothic novels but I can appreciate a writer who can apply the dark, ironic writing to a different context.

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The Witches of Eastwick, John Updike

I was in love with John Updike as a writer when I was in college.  I found him in The New Yorker to start, along with my love of Oliver Sacks, and one time in the middle of a heavy semester I looked up a book of his short stories in my college library and spent a sliver of precious brain space on that.  Part of his magic to me was not only his beautiful writing, and it is beautiful, but I liked reading about privileged white people around my age living in New England with their bored, short lived marriages.

So I always had The Witches of Eastwick on the TBR. Witches?  Updike? Yes please.  A bunch of white, promiscuous self involved women all vying for the attention of a blowhard genteel poor man?  Ugh.

His gorgeous, poignant, and astute writing is still there, but I had a hard time caring about these disillusioned women and this completely unappealing man who pushes them all off center despite their having “powers” and having been able to escape their marriages before they got too old to enjoy freedom. I guess women can have “powers” and still be brought down and against one another by a useless socialite full of half baked ideas that won’t ever pan out to paying the mortgage.

I didn’t have trouble finishing it but I definitely needed the help of audio, which had been on my wish list forever, and I am glad I tackled it off the TBR.  I don’t think I will be reading the sequel though.  And I am less enthusiastic about his complete collection of short stories of his I bought upon his death, but maybe his magic will return to me more in his shorter works, which is where I fell in love with him in the first place.  But we will see.  His wording and phrases still struck me.  He can still bust out a line that is enchanting to me. Like an old boyfriend meeting you out for a drink, there might be a tiny sparkle just for a moment for me and for Updike’s writing.

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The Girl from the Well, Rin Chupeco

Classic Japanese horror thrown onto the end of a post with a Southern Gothic and some New England witches.  Random sauce, but good sauce all the same.

So if you want a classic horror for Halloween, the most Halloween-y book on this books of Halloween on Halloween weekend post, this would be the one. There is a clear ghost story, the haunting is not random, and in true Japanese style, someone becomes overconfident in their abilities and others get screwed over by it.  Because is there ever pride without a fall?  But completely classic, almost formulaic, but that is not a criticism. This tosses back to the other Japanese horror movies I watched into my brief foray into Japanese horror films. I liked it.  It was scary and diverting and fun, the villain was humanized, there was some kind of resolution, which my readers know I care about.  Women like closure.  Whatever.

Halloween reads is going to bleed into one more week because I have some books read up that have to do with coming back to life but with the theme of siblings, which is such a YA thing…but appropriately, since siblings are so important to teens, especially in families who don’t all live under one roof.

So, here’s wishing a sweet Halloween weekend to everyone with one more iteration of seasonal reads. Looking for scary reads and all the other blog posts with scary reads has of course lengthened the wish list, filled it out a bit because it’s a never ending process.

Halloween Reads: Not so Cozy Houses

There are so many haunted houses stories out there that I could do this kind of post every Halloween for a hundred more years and not run out of books to read.  And despite all the ones I have read, I am always up to hear how someone else managed the haunted house trope into something different than the one I read before.

Both of the books I review today possess my least favorite facet of some horror fiction: they don’t really resolve.  The scary cycle is doomed to continue itself and people in the future next round are doomed to the same fate that the characters that you cared about were subject to this time. When I was newer to horror it bothered me more than it does now, but it still does, a little, that these stories don’t end with a resolution of the greater issue.

Needless to say I have wandered away from the cozier Halloween reads, but I have some unread ones on my kindle telling me that I really need to come back.

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Within These Walls, Ania Ahlborn

Okay, so I love Ania Ahlborn’s books.  This is the third one of hers I have read, and I did not realize that when I started to read her she was self pub.  She was that good.  A lot of the self pub I read earlier on did not have the polish and engagement I found in her stories.  She has since been picked up by Simon and Schuster, inevitably.

Within These Walls brilliantly combined the haunted house trope with the cult trope.  And being a Psychologist she does well with the both:  the mentality of getting pulled into the cult and the haunted house that makes you severely question your grip on reality.  She weaves them in a manner reminiscent of Stephen King’s The Shining, which is a compliment.  The struggling writer with a failing marriage taking a chance on moving to a new place to revive both, under the ruse of being granted an exclusive interview by a killer in prison.  The fun really begins when he brings his neglected and misunderstood 12 year old daughter with him and leaves his wife back in New Jersey. Two plot lines weaving and knotting and twisting into one another with surprises and brilliance and interest.

I have read Seed and The Bird Eater and I think this one showed more sophistication on her part. I want to read The Neighbors and The Shuddering and the rest of the books she has put out, whether before the big five pickup or not.  She’s great and I follow her on Facebook and Twitter and I wish I had the investment in writing to take her horror writing course.

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77 Shadow Street, Dean Koontz

Another personal reading challenge for myself is to read authors who I have stayed away from due to their huge popularity.  I picked this one out for last year’s round of Halloween reads that I never made it to, which also happened with a book I am reading right now for the next posts on Halloween books.

So, this one was harder for me to make it through than Within These Walls.  It is a house built on the one space time fault in the world and every 38 years the fault opens and punishes and terrorizes its residents, which are extremely wealthy condo owners. Also, there is someone involved in a bioterrorism of sorts aimed at eternal life and conquering of disease, I was not sure.  Then there was an assassin? I say assassin because he is hired to kill people as well as having killed people for his own purposes. I felt like a lot of elements were just thrown in to reach out to everyone’s conception of scary.  I think that is a huge undertaking to want to add enough variation in the scary elements to be scary to a wide audience.  And lots of people get killed.  And like in Ahlborn there is no sign that the cycle was really going to stop, that hell wasn’t going to bust loose again after 38 years passed.

The characters I cared most about were an autistic girl and a boy estranged from his father, bookish and not like typical boys but determined not to be a sissy.  I cared about his saving her and Koontz did a great job of describing her. There were a lot of characters living in the house, mainly adults that were difficult to care anything about.

But I felt like I was slogging through this book and some of it felt pointless.  It did not feel as tidy as Ahlborn’s weaving between times, characters and their overlapping vulnerabilities.  I just wasn’t impressed.  I am open to someone helping me see the point better.  I can’t tell you my attention did not wander from some of the times I was listening to it and pushing to finish so I could start on something else.  I am not going to pick up another Koontz anytime soon.

And I need to read some of the horror early masters, like listening to my Necronomicon and picking up that Lovecraft omnibus with the tiny thin pages off my shelf.

Next week…might have a less unified theme.  I am working on some scary books that I have to think about how I will pull them together but I might not pull them together at all.  And it will be the peak of Halloween festivities! And my beautiful son will have turned five years old on the 27th and I am loving this age best of all….

comments/likes/shares are awesome!

Halloween Reads: Cozy Mediums

Halloween is all about the spirits coming out…which is my excuse for tossing in books with spirits and mediums for this year’s Halloween Reads series.

The season is in full swing!

In these books I review here, ghosts are characters, rather than just replayed tapes of past events.  Ghosts provide a lot of literary latitude in that there is no agreement what they are or if they actually exist, so I like the different ways writers use ghosts as characters.

Like the witchy cozies, the covers are cartoony and clearly marketed at women, and the main characters are gorgeous and single.   Of course, they were all single in my witchy books too, to provide room for the sexy mysterious guys to move onto the scene.  Again I break my usual rule of no books with references/pictures of shoes, drinks, rings, or handbags on the cover but maybe I am becoming a little more flexible in my old age.  Actually, I think I would have been able to read for pleasure more when my brain was being stretched all the time in graduate school if I had something like this that was lighter to enjoy.  I should have cut these books a break long ago.

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Spirits, Stilettos, and a Silver Bustier, Deanna Chase

You can’t really beat New Orleans for the setting of a ghostly story.  I went there the summer I turned 21 and I was struck by what a really cool place it was.  Of course, it is the only place in the South I have really ever been, but it felt so different from where I lived, and with the darkness and the voodoo…yeah.  Really cool.  I went on a ghost tour of the city, some of the stories I was told there having been debunked/de sensationalized in Ghostland, but the place still feels magical and mysterious.  Also, I went pre-Katrina.  I don’t know what it is now.

A single woman pursuing her art while owning a successful coffee shop in New Orleans with friends, both alive and dead, certainly counts as wish fulfillment for me.  I was not sure if the author could pull off the boyfriend thing without being totally weird, but she did.  Interestingly, the main male ghost figure in this story and in the other one I discuss in this post are dead rum running gangsters from Prohibition, except this ghost is kinder and a romantic partner, while the one in the second book I review is a rascal and a pain in the butt still dedicated to his glory days in his death.  Interesting both authors chose rum runners for their bad boy ghosts, even if one is kind and gentle and one is a pain.

Also, the killers in this one had the same motive as the killer in Any Witch Way You Can. I like seeing how the idea was handled differently between the books.  I would read more in this series too.  I know I say that about all of them, but that is okay.  Just means that cozy mysteries with paranormal themes are a complete and total rabbit hole for me.  We all have to accept our various rabbit holes.  Embrace them.

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Deader Homes and Gardens (Southern Ghost Hunter Mysteries Book 4), Angie Fox

Audible knows how to take my money.  They have this team of marketers that must sit in meetings with their basic white bitch crystal ball that reads my mind.  They had a 4.95 sale and this book was on it, which is how I read the fourth in the series before I read the first.  I actually bought the first book after I read this one, because I wanted to know the backstory that the characters reference.  And it’s okay that I know a few other things.  Usually Audible is all tricksy about having a sale on the first in the series, not the fourth one in.  Seems random, but the BWB (basic white bitch) crystal ball must have said it’s cool because it was.

Anyway, this was a haunted house mystery with a troubled family, one of those rambling abandoned old Southern plantations. Again with the setting. It was a little freaky in parts, and the heroine almost gives up because it gets too scary for her and I like that added touch of realism.  I would be scared crapless dealing with ghosts and it sometimes seems unlikely in books how cool people are about chatting with the dead.  Like it’s nothing.

I am wending my way through darker reads for more of my Halloween-y posts, reading my favorite self pub/horror writer, and a more popular writer whose work I am dabbling into the first time.  I think we need some haunted houses up in here, even though I already did some castles.

Comments/shares/likes!  Are you ready for some slightly darker seasonal reads?