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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The Bronte Sisters and the Usual Suspects

Okay, so it was only supposed to be every other week, not a whole month between posts.  In my defense I have been reading relevant to my novel, so it was still noveling that got in the way of the posts, even though it was the reading part of noveling.

So I am drinking a beer during Independence Day after talking my husband into taking us to the beach first thing in this heat wave, before the beach turned into the inevitable crap show and we went home to sit in front of movies and AC.  Holidays are for breaking a long silence on my blog, yes?

Oh, and Happy Birthday to America, of course.  I found sparklers this year which I haven’t gotten to use in YEARS.  My beach going, treats eating, movie watching sadly deprived son will get to see the magic tonight.  Because I like having a little magic in my son’s childhood.  I enjoy adulthood but even I can’t say it isn’t a bit anti-climatic at times.

I thought the book I was reading for this post was a re-telling of Jane Eyre.  I decided to commit to it anyway after I discovered that it wasn’t exactly a re-telling, to go with my theme. It’s not even a BookRiot category.  Seriously, I am a mess this summer.  But since I have read Wide Sargasso Sea, which I loved, I am not sure any other Jane Eyre re-telling would get a fair shake compared to that.    I also read and reviewed Jane Steele by Lindsay Faye, which is somewhat of a re-telling, and I thought that was hilarious. I have the newest Mr. Rochester by Sarah Shoemaker, but I thought of that too late.

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The Madwoman Upstairs, Catherine Lowell

Like I said, this is not a Bertha Rochester special, although she does get some time in the narrative.  But so does Agnes Grey, Helen Graham, Heathcliff, Cathy, Jane and Mr. Rochester.  This is about a young scholar trying to find her eccentric father’s inheritance through their shared relation to, and study of, the Bronte sisters and their works.  She is an American at Oxford and is studying one on one with a professor.

I have read all the Bronte novels save for Shirley and The Professor, which didn’t feature as much in this book, thankfully, as the other ones I read. I was going to do a Bronte blog entry once I get through those last two gems of Charlotte’s, and I still will, but I was glad I went into this having read as much Bronte as I had.  This one started off slow, and without the context of what I had already read, I might not have continued with it.  There is a lot of academic banter, and remembering that time in my life I could relate to it, but aiming the book toward someone who has been an academic as well as some familiarity with Bronte novels would limit the audience to whom it would appeal.

Once it did pick up into the meat of the mystery and the narrative, I did enjoy it, even though it was talking about Anne’s novels not being the best ones, when I might like Anne the best because shallowly I like her endings.  Charlotte’s Villette and Jane Eyre end entirely in an unsatisfying manner, which may be why I have not tackled her last two, despite having them even on audio. I worry I will press through them just to take issue with how it all ended up.  As much as I enjoyed Jane Eyre I didn’t like that she only truly captured Rochester after he was damaged goods.

I liked the way this one ended and I am surprised that I liked it, because usually I don’t go for that sort of thing.  I can’t say what it was in case a fellow reader decently versed in Bronte and doesn’t mind literary criticism talk reads this post and wants to check out the book for herself.  Other strong points were the description and the language, beautiful and poetic metaphors, and the sarcastic tone.  The audio narrator captured this sarcastic tone well and the tone was fitting the point of view character, a young academic who wasn’t so young as to have evaded enough sadness and disappointment to be a little cynical herself.  I liked also that it was not just about the Bronte novels but who the sisters were behind them and what ‘madness’ really meant in their context and is not quite the ‘madness’ that I have known in my professional life.

I don’t mind being part of a niche.  I would like to think I don’t love white people problems the most as a book topic, but I do.  I am looking forward to reading more literature with nonwhite or nonwestern characters, I really am, but I can get sucked right into the problems of the privileged.  Not super super privileged, as I lose patience with those people and saccharine plot lines fast, but women who are able to get educations and have careers are my jam.

I can’t tell you where this blog will go next, if I am going to do something like re-read Jasper Fforde’s Eyre Affair, which might be completely different now that I have read many of the novels that it references and I hadn’t back in 2007 flying across the country alone, or go for another re-telling, or go back to Book Riot, or take my readers on a tour of the most epic she-shed of she-sheds, which is nearing completion in my yard. I am into another round of revisions after meeting with my excellent instructor and I have started to read more Anthony Doerr to punch up my poetic language, but I don’t know if that goes with my current blog-tastic themes.  But it’s better than not posting at all.  Reader, you will have to stay tuned.

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Cozying into Spring

My son announced today at Story and Craft hour that Mother Nature needs to get it together and bring Spring.  He doesn’t even have to worry about driving in the snowpocalypse and even though I spent the afternoon sledding with him during the most recent one, he seems to be over it, too.  Thankfully the afternoon sun is stretching out over the landscape, pretending to be warmer than it really is.

Spring feels like it is taking forever but paradoxically the last few months have also blinked by.  I took next week off because I try to take off a week every three months to dodge burnout and although attitude wise I need a break, it doesn’t feel like it has already been three months since I did this.    I will spend the break hashing out most of the second half of my novel’s first draft and watching the geese on the yawning expanse of open water on the lake.  Probably more of the latter than the former.  But no one who has ever been a writer will judge this.

But, I have had two teaching sessions now and she has really helped expand my ideas and it has been flowing enough to make me feel happy with it, and that I have enough time for other things I like to do, like conquering a lace knitting pattern that defeated me over the summer.  I have returned and vanquished.  I was able to manage writing a lot of my academic papers with many other demands on my time (but not parenting, thankfully) when I was in graduate school and I have been pleased to find that I can still manage to write a lot, keep up at work, exercise, contribute to my close relationships and keep my sanity.

And, I was able to get another book done for BookRiot  in time to get this blog out.

A Mystery By A Person of Color or an LGBTQ+ author:

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Tall Tail, Rita Mae Brown and Sneaky Pie Brown

Now, I would like to have a co author cat.  My marriage has required me to be a big dog person, and I do have a loyal and affectionate rescue black lab who definitely likes me best, but it isn’t the same as a little purring thing in my lap.  She is on the hard floor by my chair right now, rather than on her bed or on the carpet or on a bed upstairs, and was curled up against me last night.  But while she likes me better than a cat would I bet a cat has better plot ideas.  Just saying.

Here she is for reference:

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This was only taken a few weeks ago when she was breaking in the bottom bunk of my son’s new big boy bed that he loves.  Can you see the weather out the window?  Gross.

This story alternates between a historical fiction and a contemporary plotline that converge in the end to solve two murders. If you are interested in historical and modern day Virginia, this book is for you. And probably the series.  It is 25 out of the currently prolific number of 27 books.  I just said I am proud of being able to fit writing in but this author having hashed out 27 in this series alone deflates my pride a little.

This is pretty cozy.  It’s gentle. I liked the plotline of the history more than I did the modern plot.  It was faster and more happened.  It was more dramatic, where the modern plotline was more subtle and less dramatic.  It actually modern plot felt slow to me, even though Amazon totes it as fast-moving.  A lot of detail about Virginia and the history of racism and the country in its early days (which, given my unabashed love of historical fiction, I did like) in the dialogue of the story.  The story is more about the journey than the destination.  I didn’t guess it before the end, however.  I got a hint of it at the final installment of the historical plot line, but I didn’t figure it all out then.  And as an added bit of cozy humor, the animals like to banter in this series, so if you like snarky comments about being fat volleyed around by animals, this is it.

And if you are at all curious, Rita Mae Brown is a lesbian says the interwebs, so that’s how this book fits the category.  She looks pretty white to me in the pictures I have seen of her, but I don’t like to make assumptions.

I looked over BookRiot’s list of suggestions for this category, and even though I think this one was a little slow, partly because how much context was in it, I am glad I read this one over some of the suggestions of fast paced thrillers.  Maybe I didn’t want it to be faster.  Maybe it felt slow because I am trying to make my own novel as fast as possible.

However, one that made BookRiot’s list for this category that I had actually read and reviewed on here is Trouble is a Friend of Mine by Stephanie Tromly.  I would recommend that one again, any day, as well, and it looks like there is also a sequel to it coming out next month.  It says there will be a twist I don’t see coming, and…I’m totally game.  I don’t know how she can arrange the two main characters to hook up where it won’t be weird but I am willing to see if it can be done.  As well as, you know, seeing if they can locate Digby’s kidnapped sister, which is the actual story goal.

I also find it excellent that one of my reviews was discovered and shared by the author AND his publisher.  Yes.  Fame is just around the corner.

I would really like the lion to go back in its den to bring out the lamb.

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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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How I’ll Miss Katherine Kellgren’s Work With My Favorite Cozy Mysteries

I was very sad to hear of the untimely passing of narrator Katharine Kellgren on January 10.

Katherine was so good at what she did that a friend of mine who also shares my audiobook addiction actually texted me one evening when she heard the news herself.  I mean, this friend does not even text me when celebrities die, but Ms. K got the honor.

I was surprised to learn when reading about her that she did not come by her British accent naturally, but was American.  Being that I sound awfully American and I can’t do accents, I find this impressive.  She also narrated 250 audiobooks, so the ones that she made special to me were but a slip of her time, a blip on her radar.  I own other books she has done that I have not yet enjoyed.  I am saddened about the loss of this talent.

Her talent brought to life my favorite cozy mystery series, Her Royal Spyness by Rhys Bowen.

Her Royal Spyness is about a remote British royal named Lady Georgiana Rannoch, a single woman in her early twenties who suffers from genteel poverty in 1930s Britain.  Her cousin, the Queen of England, gives her assignments to spy on or further her interests in the outside world.  Usually someone dies over the course of these situations that the Queen sends Georgie into. A layer that I particularly enjoy is the cameo appearances of real people who lived back then, like Wallis Simpson and the Prince of Wales that she is after, and Noel Coward.  I mean, if one is going to do a historical time and place, which any reader of this blog will know I am crazy about, having real figures makes it all the better.

I can be terrible at series.  I don’t usually want to keep hanging out with the same set of characters, but somehow Her Royal Spyness keeps it fresh and different for me, while I am always waiting for the same set of characters to show up: her ex cop grandfather, her man hopping actress mother and her famous contacts, her licentious friend, and a fresh set of antics through the half competent maid whom she keeps out of desperation.  As with any cozy, you can usually smell the love interest the moment he steps onto the scene, but I still wait for him to show up and declare his love for the more awkward but deep and principled Georgiana.  Anglophilia runs in my blood still after over 200 years of my family being in this country.  Two hundred years can’t beat out the excitement that I get from Georgiana’s contacts and assignments from the Queen.  Can’t do it!  I currently am up to Queen of Hearts.  That one appears to toss a little American history into it. I have it on audio and it is next in line.  I binged on the ones before that pretty hard, including the Christmas one, which I thought was particularly well done, even after my seasonal Christmas novel binge.

I was sucked into this series by an Audible promotion to start with (they know how to market) and I have tried reading the books on my kindle or on paper and it just isn’t the same without the particular accents and voices that bring each character to life for me.  Even when I am excited to read the next book and it is sitting on the library shelf looking at me, I tend to use a valuable Audible credit on it.  That is high praise.

But I can’t truthfully say that I have not wondered who will be next to narrate these and if it will be even remotely the same.  Kellgren was not the only narrator I have ever loved, but she is close.  I don’t know if anyone will ever do a better Cockney male than she does.  I just don’t.  A talent gone too soon from us.

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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: 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….

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