Summer of Shorts 2: The Bloody Chamber and What Is Not Yours Is Not Yours

Week Two in my summer of shorts.  Have I mentioned my deep and abiding love of summer?

I spent this week off, taking my son to a local camp programming robots to ease up the Mom guilt of working year round and my son asking me why I do that, and my honest response of not being able to be home all day every day and be happy.  My middle ground is taking more time off in the summer to be with him and do things with him.  I’m trying to paste together an excellent childhood for him, which would be impossible if I didn’t go to work most of the 18 years that he is with me.

I work with kids and I know that most of the memories they reference when asked what their favorite memories are are the small things.  A time when a parent showed up to something.  Day trips, sports games.  But I still want to do the most I can with the time I have.   Maybe this has amplified with the crazy developmental strides I have seen in my son this year.  Right now he’s cutting his own nails without my asking or prompting him.

But the shorts I am talking about today don’t have much to do with my pervasive mom guilt.  I enjoyed them more than the two books I reviewed in last week’s post, and they had both been long time TBR hangers, which is partly the purpose of dedicating a month of summer reading to short forms.

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The Bloody Chamber and Other Stories, Angela Carter

This is a series of re-imagined fairy tales with a decidedly Gothic and romantic/sexual spin on them.  Carter also adds a significant dash of horror in there. I can see how fairy tales are a blank slate of sorts, a skeleton plot on which to project any theme desired, spin it in any sort of way.

I like fairytale retellings, and I love a Gothic feminist spin. The tone was set by the first story, Bluebeard, which unspooled a terrible and beautiful, enchanting Gothic tale. I only listened to this on audio and it would have been helpful to have it in print form, because sometimes I didn’t know if a story had changed into a different story or the same one from another perspective/narrator.  It would have been good to check where one ended and another began in a few instances.  Sometimes the beasts felt like they overlapped.

The narration was haunting, the retelling and the new spins enchanting.  Themes of inequality between the sexes and the precarious way women had to live in those times were pervasive in the narratives.  Lots of blood in many forms:  death, first menses, virginity/sexuality.   Transporting and for how long it’s been waiting for me to devour it, it was worth the long range eyeball.

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What is Not Yours Is Not Yours, Helen Oyeyemi

A collection of tales, some that felt with a tinge of supernatural/magical realism to me (never a bad thing with me unless involving weird sexuality) all having a key involved.  The key isn’t to the same thing every time, and the key is often the entrance to another layer of story rather than the end/resolution to the story.  Keys are mentioned in the blurb but I actually had not read the blurb and I went back to it after about halfway through, maybe not even that far, noticing yet another key while listening to the narration of stories.

I feel vindicated in that other Goodreads reviewers mentioned that these tales are weird, disorienting, and would need a second pass over to collect all the bits.  It is truly a writer whose stories do that much to a reader, turn us upside down and wonder if we had missed something.  They would end abruptly too, and I would go back to my kindle version to be sure the story actually ended and another one had started.  Of course the narrators were different but often I was like wait did that one from before truly resolve enough to be considered done?   Other readers commented that the ends of the stories lacked an umph or a satisfaction for them, too, wondering if they had missed something.

Probably the story that resonated the most with me was Presence.  I don’t know if it is because the main characters are psychologists and one works with children and I could relate more in this aspect. Initially I bristled at the main character being a Psychologist but also on her third marriage and in her own treatment.  It’s not that we don’t need treatment, it just initially made me wonder why she was a little dysfunctional and in a healing profession, until Oyeyemi goes into her past as an adopted child, as well as her husband being an adopted childhood friend, and all the issues that come with that.  But then they test out a method he is using to help grieving people that ends up being haunting, weird, and capitalizing on connections that she had been missing from her life. Like I said, all the stories are a little disorienting and this one was not different, but it was also heartbreaking.

I have seen calls for submissions that want work reminiscent of Oyeyemi, and I don’t know if I have it in me as a writer to extend myself so loosely into the world like she can do. White Is For Witching was lovely but loose as well.  I do my monthly short story with the writing group I love but I haven’t been able to creep out to such dimensions.  I think I need to read more Neil Gaiman and Kelly Link, both of whose works I have sitting on my Kindle.

Summer of shorts continues into next week.  I think I could be taking more risks with my own writing of shorts.  It probably means I need to be writing more.  Isn’t that always the solution?  The hidden answer to everything?

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BookRiot: Self-Published Books

The books reviewed here are far from the first self pubs that I have reviewed on this blog.  Some I was even asked for.

I was pleased to see BookRiot push people to read self published work.  It’s still hard work to self-publish, not by any means the easy way of getting your book out there, even though there are not the gatekeepers that there are for traditional publishing. It doesn’t appear faster, either, to get your book traction on your own, and I think some of the stigma is fading from it.

Also, in case anyone is wondering, I am so pleased that the beauty of summer is here. This weekend I am spending with friends as a Bon Voyage to a friend who is moving to the Netherlands to do a post doc. I usually see my long distance friends over the summer, but later on after the school year is done in New York.  I might have to visit him in the Netherlands whilst he is there.

But on to the self-published books.

A Self-Published Book:

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The Inevitable Fate of E & J, Johanna Randle

A teen boy and girl who used to be best friends but who fell apart through circumstance are brought back together by forces they cannot control:  namely, that their souls are linked via past life experiences and they are warned that being together to figure out the story can be detrimental to them both.  Clearly, this is only the first in a series of indeterminate length.

I actually found this via an indie author community on Twitter and asking one another to comment their books for consideration.  It was hard to determine what books are self-published and which are not, as evidenced by my reading two Ania Ahlborns before I realized that she was picked up by Amazon. (but also not wasted time.  She just came out with a new book that she published herself, Now You See Her, so of course that landed on the TBR).  But I follow Johanna Randle on Twitter and she makes no qualms about having put her own work out there, and I admire her that.

I liked this story, it was completely wholesome and the nice boy is the one who wins, which I always like in YA romance, and the girl is learning through the story to stand up for what she likes and wants, not what others want of her.  The world of what everyone thinks a teenager wants is the life she leaves behind in favor of what her heart says. However, as this is the first in a series, there is a lot of set-up in this one.  There is a lot of uncertainty of the hearts coming back together, a lot of self doubt and wondering over action.   It picked up right in time for setting up for the next book. I’d be interested to see if the second books speeds up with all the initial stuff out of the way.

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A Light Amongst Shadows:  Dark is the Night, Book 1, Kelley York and Rowan Altwood

Two boys meet and fall in love in a sinister, Gothic era/novel reform school.  Ghosts crawl the property and when James’ roommate goes missing, they discover the sinister reason why and free the school of it’s dark secrets.

This was an ambitious novel, Gothic and historical, for something self-published, as well as having a romance/sexual relationship between two males.  I know LGBT is becoming the thing lately in YA, and I can’t say the book I’m sending out doesn’t have that, but I still think a gay relationship is forward in mainstream YA books.   I swiped this one off the list of BookRiot recommends, seeing as I can barely handle finding out what is a self pub on my own.

This one moved along a little more, but it could have used some perking up.  Some more subplots to keep it going.  The curiosity is drawn out with the boys not knowing why the others have been disposed of in reform school, and the reveals do have their effect on the main romantic relationship, as they should.  I loved the ghosts, and the secrets, and there were some very scary parts to this one.  It was deliciously dark, which is why we pick up Gothic stories in the first place.  This one also is the start to a series that would be worth continuing.  I saw in getting the image for this post that there is already a 2 and 2.5 out?  Nice.  I love finding something where  I can keep reading.

Mayhaps I have a summer reading/blogging plan.  It could possibly be forming.  It still looks like weekly posts, but I am thinking about working through some of my short story collections, now that I seem to have a better idea of what makes a short story good or special or stand out.  It might help me form my own shorts better if I read a lot of them, armed with this knowledge.  And I could use a short story read down.

But my next post will be two popular novels by women that have gotten a lot of attention.  Ones that I don’t feel I can miss while still considering myself well-read.

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Scary Reads October: Poe novels

I actually have to turn a light on to write in the morning again when I am getting it in before work!  Fall, what do you do to me after you lure me in with changing leaves, cool air, pumpkin patch trips and hoodies is you bundle me back up into the cold darkness of what is going to be a long cold season where I live.

Also, my son reached his sixth birthday yesterday so the weekends have been birthday and Halloween shenanigans.  He chose a Jack Skellington costume due to his being my child and loving the small bits of macabre that I allow to him.  I couldn’t believe Wal Mart had a Jack Skellington costume, and there was only one, but another excellent thing about my child is he doesn’t hem and haw about what to be for Halloween.  He chooses something and sticks to it, and the last two years he has truly had a choice, I have agreed with it wholeheartedly.  So that Jack costume launched itself into my cart with alacrity.  And like every mother it is hard to believe that they pulled him out of me and he changed me as a person six years ago already.

For this post, I read two books that have been camping out on my TBR forever featuring Edgar Allan Poe as protagonists.  And yes, I realize that this post may have been better earlier in the month, closer to the anniversary of his mysterious death. Anything to do with EAP is sure to be dark.  He is the 8th grade student’s hero with his brooding darkness and his tales that make kids realize that maybe all old literature isn’t terrible and boring and unrelateable.  Like, a guy who seals someone in a wall for revenge?  Someone who thinks they can hear the beating heart of someone they murdered coming from the floor panels?  Sweet!  And if kids read up on his life a little I think he is even more fit to be a broody, morbid and dark young teenager’s hero:  he struggles for a place in the world, is very smart, very moody, with a razor sharp sarcasm that he used even on his supposed ‘betters’ as a staunch literary critic.  These elements also make it unsurprising that multiple authors have chosen him for their historical fiction novels, combined with the fact that these are both mysteries and Poe himself was one of the first writers of detective fiction.  In this blog I review two:

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Poe Must Die, Marc Olden

This one was actually written in the 1970s and I had no idea it was that old when I downloaded it to read.  In this one, a prizefighter in England comes to 1830’s NYC to seek revenge on a man who was responsible for the death of his wife and son, and he is referred to EA Poe by Charles Dickens as someone who can help.  They start off as an unlikely pair but of course get to appreciate and look out for one another.  By the 1830’s, Poe’s young wife had died of TB and he was untethered and despairing, having given himself over to grief and substance use, the fame of The Raven still present but waning.  He has investment in stopping the same antagonist, a powerful man who is also setting to find supernatural secrets and have dark and demonic supernatural powers, and has chosen a young beautiful widow that Poe has some interest in to dupe into helping him reach his goal of complete power and takeover.  Both men have nothing to lose by seeking to stop and kill him.  Most men in this novel have a reason they could want Poe dead, and some of them try to kill him off and some of them don’t.  The antagonist instead chooses to try to drive him mad by convincing him the ghost of his dead wife is outside his home at night.

Both of these books deal with NYC in the early 1800s, back when it was all muddy streets and the usual combination of extreme haves and extreme have nots.  I love the history of NYC, and in these books it is so new that it is even still forested, especially in the next book I talk about, which takes place years earlier than this one.  They involve the same infamous slums that Poe frequented and both talk about the same event where Poe was face down in an animal fighting ring, although one book says that he willingly drank himself there and the second book suggests that he was drugged against his will.  It is a completely plausible setting for a plot of someone seeking supernatural dark power and doing everything to get it.

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On Night’s Shore, Randall Silvis

This one takes place a little earlier in time, so NYC is still even more muddy and wooded, although the decaying Brewery and Five Points are still featured settings in the city, and Poe’s wife Virginia is still alive as a convalescent.  And although he is writing, he hasn’t hit his fame yet with The Raven.  He is still trying to make it as a freelance writer and sell his work when he is low on money.

This one is also lighter.  There is no antagonist looking to raise power to be equal to the dark forces or baiting people Poe loves into death, no resurrection, no hostage taking of dead bodies.  It is told from the perspective of a ten year old street urchin who, as one might expect, is also trying to find his place in the world, and befriends Poe to help solve the mysterious death of a young woman.  He also falls in love with Poe’s little corner of domesticity with his mother in law and his wife, a loving and cozy life that the boy has never known in his ten years.

There are some dark and terrible things that happen, but the villains involved are the usual power drunk white men who are looking to have fun with no consequence and amass as much wealth and influence as possible.  More run of the mill reasons for murder, not, like, trying to find immortality, although in some of the cozies I read last year immortality was a more typical antagonist goal than in other books.

At least I posted on Poe books in the same month of his mysterious disappearance and death, even if it wasn’t earlier in the month.  If Poe was truly a sleuth in his life, equipped with his razor tongue and wit, a mysterious death of his own and a tragically short life himself doesn’t surprise me.  Also I have downloaded some of Poe’s detective novels, hailed as some of the first in the genre, because these fictionalized, although holding true to basic facts stories, intrigue me to look into more of his writing.

I hope everyone is enjoying their Halloween season!  Two more Halloween reads to post on, so stay tuned if you are enjoying scary reads October.

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Halloween Reads Kicks Off with YA and Magic

Scary Reads is finally here!!

Well, finally for you.  I have been digging into the scary reads since my camping trip in the middle of August because I could indulge in paper library books for the trip.  It is an indulgence to have the time to read in daylight, on a beach, instead of cramming books into the margins of driving, working out, crafting, doing chores, or relaxing before bed.  Not that I don’t love to do that, I do, but since I have become a parent I have learned the importance of time in the margins.  Over the past 6 years since my son came, I have successfully kept up with a blog, run two half marathons and completed three sprint triathlons and drafted two novels (both are written out but need revisions before I try to get them anywhere).

The two books discussed today are borrowed library paper indulgences, YA in different time periods but with similar themes.  And I get to use my pumpkin patch picture.  Everyone wins.

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House of Furies, Madeline Roux

This stood out to me because of it’s solid Gothic vibe emanating from the library shelves, reaching out to me, playing on my love of the Gothic.  A teen girl with nowhere to go is taken to this mysterious house to work as a servant, but dark, supernatural secrets start to come out of the cracks.  This could be slow in places, because as it is the beginning of a series there is setup, and most of the book she is unraveling secrets and trying to get out, but being ambivalent, even when she is given permission to go by the mysterious house master.  The other servants in the house have their own stories and secrets and shall we say, talents, in a way that reminded me of Miss Peregrines Home for Peculiar Children.  I can’t remember if the book for Miss Peregrine is as dark as the movie was, seeing as I experienced them years apart, but House of Furies is definitely dark.  Both homes are sanctuaries for the unusual, but the protagonist Louisa in House of Furies has to decide if she wants to be a part of the house’s larger, more nefarious purpose, whereas Ms. Peregrine’s home is about survival, not vengeance.  And I still haven’t read Library of Souls.

Louisa’s ambivalence is laudable, however, because she really has nowhere else to go. Teens nowadays are more likely to bristle under the inescapable control of adults, whereas teens in earlier times were literally trying to survive, like Louisa was.  She begins the novel telling sham fortunes as a street pauper and would have to go back to it if she couldn’t manage her role in the House of Furies.  I think sometimes this can be harder for the more typical teen to connect to, the whole here or on the streets thing.

But where teens can relate here, in addition to their interest being piqued by the cool dark creatures chronicled in the book, is the question of identity.  Louisa ultimately discovers the reason why she has never fit in with the larger world and why anyone who has had to care for her is uncomfortable with her for reasons she hasn’t quite worked out and it has to do with her choices in the end.

Similarly, the next book I am posting on today also has to do with surprises/plot twists around identity and collecting the fringe members of society to concentrate them in one space:

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Hex Hall, Rachel Hawkins

A bunch of magical teens are committed to a reformatory for revealing their abilities and true natures to non magical humans in this one.  This one is much closer to the average teen’s experiences than The House of Furies.  Sure, the typical teen isn’t magical (unless they are and I am not allowed to know this due to my sadly non magical status) but they have to worry about insecurities, friendship loyalties, first crushes, and doing what is right, drama, all things included in this book.

The protagonist Sophie already knows that she is magical, that’s what got her here in the first place, but the family secrets have long been kept from her and reveal themselves to change her knowledge of who she really is.  Dark secrets of her family and dark things that her classmates are trying to suck her into, as well as defending her new and first friend against being wrongly accused of assaulting other students.

I don’t want to reveal too much of the plot, especially since the book does resolve its major plot lines but ends in a typical YA series cliffhanger.  That threatened to suck me in, too, even though I want to keep up the variety on the scary/Halloweeny reads month. You know how I hate a spoiler, especially if someone is reading my review to decide if they want to read something.

Scary reads continues with some middle grade that really doesn’t feel so middle grade to me, next week.  Witches this time.

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I’m on a fiction diet and I cheated after a week

I have spent the month of January being transported by figuring out my own manuscript rather than being transported by a Snow Read, which is how I have been whiling away the cold winters in my life over the past few years.  It has been a solid coping skill in helping me to deal with my fear that I will never be warm outside again, despite always being proven wrong.

I have seen advice all over that when you are seriously writing (and I am trying my best to seriously write) that you really should not be immersing yourself in fiction.  It makes sense.  I need my own thoughts to be working for me, instead of slipping into someone else’s fictional world.  I have been doing less crafting and more writing, because crafting is another amazing use of my time that needs to move over.

When my brain needs a wind down in the evening, I have been watching really light television shows that I won’t admit to on a public forum, even with the nom de keyboard, working on a lace scarf, playing solitaire on my tablet, and listening to Writing Great Fiction: Storytelling Tips and Techniques by The Great Courses (so glad I read as much as I did in preparation to write because he references many books I have read, like Middlemarch, The Great Gatsby, and even The Luminaries).  When I am working out or driving it tends to be the course, or I will allow podcasts of stories or book reviews (I still like Myths and Legends, Book Riot’s Recommended and Literary Disco).  And not only have I been plotting out a novel and working on it with the instructor whose time I won in a short story contest, I have been writing up other short, dark fictions that I have been working on in fits and starts, and trying to go back to writing every day, even if it is a brain dump.

Brain Dump Sidebar: I did morning pages through a particularly jarring, life altering and hugely embarrassing breakup and I think it helped me process enough to be ready to move on when I met my husband not too much after that.  A few months of hiding and writing and I was a new woman.  Magic.  I was doing morning pages to lead me back into my own creativity groove, not bring along a dude, but I suppose others would wish themselves so lucky.  And further proof that some things show up just as, and only when, you stop looking for them.

But if you are reading this post to discover the cheat meal, that loaf of bread, cupcake, or plate of fettuccine alfredo after a few low carb weeks, I shall not disappoint:

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Anya’s Ghost, Vera Brosgol

A immigrant, trying to fit in teenage girl who comes under the influence of a ghost looking to meet her own ends?  Absolutely. This counts as a comic written and illustrated by the same person for BookRiots 2018 Read Harder Challenge.  I didn’t dislike The Complete Persepolis, but this was a much less intense, more enjoyable read. This was YA fun at it’s finest.  I read it through in one sitting.  I loved it but it is probably getting donated to my library because it needs to be in the hands of an angsty reluctant reader to get them into the diversion of books.  It can start in my hands but these are not the hands with which it needs to ultimately stay.

Don’t judge me, I was starving!  The calories were soo worth it!

It’s been an interesting study in how much fiction reading for blogging and just because I loved it filled in my free spaces.

Also an unintended benefit:  I believe that I have been spending less money because I am not on the hunt for new books, new audiobooks, and new crafts, as well as a free Sunday afternoon really should be spent writing or planning my novel, not pushing my son through Target in a cart with the promise of pizza with good behavior.  I have spent money taking him out to do things, but not money on my intense hobby chasing.

Maybe I need to post on trying to get my own reluctant reader into books and right now giving up my expectations, which I tell parents to do all the time at work and now it’s my turn to take my own advice.  Spoiler alert:  I haven’t gotten him into The BFG yet but I am not done trying.  Not even close.

As I have warned, fiction starvation might lead to a series of what I have read while writing, I don’t know.  I like that this blog is writing but changing it up from fiction.

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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.

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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.