Although it isn't obvious when you pick it up, Wings to the Kingdom is the second book in a series about Eden Moore, a twenty-something resident of ChAlthough it isn't obvious when you pick it up, Wings to the Kingdom is the second book in a series about Eden Moore, a twenty-something resident of Chattanooga, TN who has the ability to see and talk to ghosts. Eden is a reluctant medium, but when the ghosts of the soldiers who died at the battle of Chickamauga start appearing and attempting to communicate with the living, she is drawn into the mystery.
I found Wings to be a very uneven book; on one hand, in a refreshing change from most "I see dead people" stories, Eden can't simply close her eyes and contact anyone at will. Instead she compares being asked to contact a particular individual with trying to find a living person without any idea where to start looking: "...imagine...that she could be anywhere at all in the entire world. But wherever she is, there aren't any phones, and no matter how loud I shout, she won't hear me."
On the other hand, Priest leaves huge holes in the story as Eden's past is used to drive the plot but never explained, leaving a reader who hasn't read the previous book stumbling along trying to understand important characters and situations without any guidance. It's never easy to play catch up for readers who haven't read previous books, but choosing not to explain anything while still using past events as the catalyst for new situations is nothing but confusing. And because the lack of backstory isn't offset by any new clarification of Eden's character she remains two-dimensional and flat. Reading Wings will not answer such basic questions about the main character as: 'Why is she so angry all the time?', 'Does she know anyone she isn't secretly annoyed with?', and 'What does she do for a living?'. I was left with nothing but questions about Eden and very little attachment to her as a character.
And, on a picky note, Priest's characters have an annoying habit of using a "lifted nostril" to convey their feelings. Huh, what? The first time I came across the phrase I was distracted and spent several minutes trying to figure out how someone can lift a nostril, let alone do it while "dipping [their:] chin to the left". Eventually I decided it was a typo and instead of "nostril" it should have read "eyebrow". Unfortunately the phrase comes up again later in the book, indicating that Priest really expects it to convey meaning to the reader. Is it just me, or is it impossible to "lift a nostril"?
As I said, an uneven book but certainly not a bad one. I would definitely pick up another book by Cherie Priest and give her another try.
After being stuck two-thirds of the way through Her Fearful Symmetry for almost four days, I have finally admitted that I'm not going to finish it. SoAfter being stuck two-thirds of the way through Her Fearful Symmetry for almost four days, I have finally admitted that I'm not going to finish it. So why two stars? There are some books that, while I have to admit they are well written and could very well appeal to someone else, simply aren't for me. Her Fearful Symmetry is just such a book. By the time I stalled out, even the good writing and the atmosphere couldn't overcome my personal dislike of most of the characters. We all have our so-called "buttons" and by the last third most of the main characters in Symmetry were pushing mine pretty relentlessly. So, I give it two stars in recognition of the good writing and my recognition that my dislike was very subjective....more
Until I picked up Doug Dorst's Alive in Necropolis I had never even heard of Colma, CA, a real town that advertises itself as the "smallest city in SaUntil I picked up Doug Dorst's Alive in Necropolis I had never even heard of Colma, CA, a real town that advertises itself as the "smallest city in San Mateo County with over 1,600 residents and 1.5 Million souls." Yes, that's right: Colma has 1,600 living residents and sixteen cemeteries with at least 1.5 million grave sites. Some of Colma's more famous "souls" include William Randolph Hearst, Wyatt Earp, and Joshua Abraham Norton, the self proclaimed "Emperor of the United States". Doug Dorst uses this strangely unreal real location as the backdrop for a "slice of life" story about policeman Michael Mercer and some of the people in his life, including an ex-girlfriend, a fellow policeman, and a young man Mercer rescues from a prank gone horribly wrong.
This is not a traditional urban fantasy story where the fight with supernatural forces takes center stage; in fact Mercer's struggle to help the "souls" of Colma fight back against some undead bullies stays very firmly in the background. A lot of it is related after the action has taken place and the outcome already known. The true core of the book is the search by Mercer and the others for self-respect and a sense of meaning in their lives. And unlike the secondary plot involving the conflict between the ghosts, Dorst doesn't provide a tidy solution to that search that ties up the loose ends and leaves everyone better off.
Alive in Necropolis is a well written, character driven novel with a minor thread of magical realism. Unfortunately for Dorst and his potential readers, the blurbs on the book jacket make it sound like a romp into the supernatural, a la Laurell K. Hamilton's early stories. This misdirection is irritating at best and at worst it may drive away readers who might otherwise enjoy the book.
When I was a kid reading a good book meant immersing myself in the story so deeply that often coming back to the "real world" was like waking up fromWhen I was a kid reading a good book meant immersing myself in the story so deeply that often coming back to the "real world" was like waking up from a dream. That rarely happens now that I'm an adult, there's a part of my brain that always remains distant from the story and never really stops thinking about things like groceries and whether the dog needs a bath. I miss that feeling of really losing myself in a book and am always on the lookout for a book that can help me recreate it. I am happy to say that F.G. Cottam's The House of Lost Souls is that kind of a book.
I find myself wanting to use the word "atmosphere" to describe Cottam's book. Many times while reading I'll find myself skimming over the descriptions because they never stop being words on a page, but Cottam can describe the way the afternoon light slants in through a window, or the sound of a neighbor's stereo, in a way that you can see - and almost feel - the reality of the scene. Not only does this give his characters and story more depth, but it makes the scary parts much, much scarier. I found myself haunted by some of the scary images in Cottam's book the way I hadn't been since I first read The Shining. And not necessarily even the climactic scenes, in fact one of the scariest moments for me was when Paul Seaton notices a shopkeeper looking at him through a store window. Paul is across the street in a phone booth, the details are indistinct and they don't exchange a word, but the scene is terrifying.
The only problem I had with House of Lost Souls was that when I was done reading it I couldn't settle down to read anything else. Nothing else was as well written, as atmospheric and most of all as frightening as Cottam's book. In the end the only way I could solve the problem was by going to bookdepository.com and ordering both his other books. I may still be dissatisfied with other books, but at least that gives me something to look forward to....more
If I may quote Forrest Gump for a moment, I'd like to say that The Dark Descent is like a box of chocolates. Not so much because you "never know whatIf I may quote Forrest Gump for a moment, I'd like to say that The Dark Descent is like a box of chocolates. Not so much because you "never know what you're gonna get" - because these stories are almost uniformly well written - but because the best way to consume it is a few pieces (stories) at a time, so they don't get overwhelming and start tasting all the same (or make you sick).
The editor, David Hartwell, has divided the story collection into what he calls three "streams": 1) moral allegorical, or stories that are "about the intrusion of horror into reality...[and:] the colorful special effects of evil." 2)psychological metaphor, or stories that "have a monster at the center" whether supernatural or psychological, and 3)fantastic, or stories that generate horror through their "ambiguity as to the nature of reality". He admits himself that these are not hard and fast descriptions, in fact many stories cross boundaries, but it is an interesting way of looking at the history of short horror fiction.
It's also interesting to see which types of stories appeal to you the most. I found myself most interested in the "third stream", the fantastic stories, although I had already read almost all of them. Of the other sections, I found I had read only four of the "second stream" stories and three of the "first stream". Whichever type of story appeals to you the most, David Hartwell has done an excellent job in choosing examples from the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, including some from several writers whose names do not spring to mind when the subject of horror writing is being discussed. ...more
"...an apt analogy for the relationship between writers and editors.... writers are to editors as Scarlett O’Hara is to Rhett Butler–the former, passi"...an apt analogy for the relationship between writers and editors.... writers are to editors as Scarlett O’Hara is to Rhett Butler–the former, passionate to the point of temporary blindness; the latter, surefooted and collected, all the while attempting pragmatism, though it must be passion, in the end, that drives them in the same direction." -In Defense of Editors, Deena Drewis, The Millions
In a world where original ghost stories sometimes seem to be in short supply, Haunted Lily demonstrates both that Sidney Fox doesn't lack original ideas and that she can take a few of ghost fiction's more well-used ideas in new directions. The overall plot is pretty basic: Darby McGregor, an Englishman confronted by a supernatural presence in his home, joins Lily Dufrene, medium, ghost-buster and survivor of child abuse, as she tours the American South investigating and attempting to exorcise local ghosts. However, with locations varying from a carnival to a frat house, Sidney Fox uses this framework to tell several mini-ghost stories which are the most interesting parts of the book.
That's the "upside" of Haunted Lily, and it's quite an impressive one. Unfortunately, the presence of an "upside" indicates a "downside" as well. In this case, the downside is summed up by Fox's choice to self-publish her book via iUniverse.com. (Note: I know nothing about iUniverse and am not attempting to critique their service. ) A more traditional editing process might have minimized or eliminated the numerous grammatical and factual errors that distract from the story. It's also possible that a professional editor could have helped Fox to streamline parts of her story and reduce the number of times she repeats information to the reader, often in the same paragraph and once even in the same sentence. In short, Haunted Lily is a diamond in the rough and it takes a lot of patience on the part of the reader to see through the rough surface to the possibilities underneath. I hope that Sidney Fox continues to write but considers using a professional proofreader and editor for her next books....more
If you are looking for a traditional horror novel, you won't find it in The Little Stranger. This book is not a variant on The Shining that just happeIf you are looking for a traditional horror novel, you won't find it in The Little Stranger. This book is not a variant on The Shining that just happens to be set in post-WWII Britain: it is essentially historical fiction that happens to have a touch of the supernatural about it. And as historical fiction it is excellent. Sarah Waters evokes the atmosphere not only of another time (1947) but, for Americans at least, another place as well because in many ways The Little Stranger is a very "British" novel. In her depictions of the Ayres family and Hundreds Hall, the author shows us the final death throes of an entire British way of life that had lasted for centuries in one form or another. Whatever our modern feelings of distate for a formal class system may be, the author makes us feel how devastating the loss of it was for those at the top, and how it left them adrift, not only physically due to lack of servants, but ethically as well: for if they are not, as Mrs. Ayres describes, "an example" of all that is good for those below them, what purpose do they serve?
Another lingering remnant of that way of life that plays an important role in the story is the idea that what you can achieve is - at least partially - determined by who your parents were in local society. Dr. Faraday, the son of a shop-keeper and a mother who had been "in-service", still feels the awkwardness of being the first in his family to "rise above their place". The resistance of what is left of "county society" to the new ideas of equality and independence is very obvious when they gather at Hundreds Hall for a small evening party and find Dr. Faraday in attendance, drink in hand. Regardless of his evening dress, they immediately assume he is there only because someone is ill. It has to be explained to them that he is there as a guest and even then there is some awkwardness, not because of who Dr. Faraday is, but because of who his parents were. Dr. Faraday may be a perfectly nice man and a skilled doctor, but he's still not quite "their sort".
If immersion in the atmosphere of a historical period does not interest you, you will not like The Little Stranger. A great deal of what is horrifying in the novel - and it is horrifying - is intimately tied to that cultural period of British history. If the supernatural "incidents" are pulled out of the story and examined strictly for their shock value a la modern horror novels, they will be disappointing. This book is the result of many different threads, interwoven so skillfully that they cannot be separated and still make any sense. The supernatural aspects of the story are also of the more ambigous variety. If you enjoyed The Haunting of Hill House, The Turn of the Screw or even the more modern A Good and Happy Child you will enjoy the frightening elements of The Little Stranger. If you prefer your supernatural forces to come with complete explanations, this book may feel incomplete to you.
As most other reviewers have mentioned, Henry James' writing is extremely...dense. Sometimes while I was reading I had a vision of myself as a jungleAs most other reviewers have mentioned, Henry James' writing is extremely...dense. Sometimes while I was reading I had a vision of myself as a jungle explorer wielding a machete against the encroaching undergrowth, trying to find the path. Most of the time I enjoyed the challenge, but I have to admit that there were times I gave up on a particular sentence(s) and skipped ahead. Once you get past the style of writing, The Turn of the Screw is a story about...well, it's about "something". What that "something" is depends on who is reading the story and the interpretation they choose to give to it. Ghosts? Insanity? Child Abuse? Supernatural Forces? All of the above? As I said, it depends on who is reading it.
In my opinion the ambiguity of it is what makes it a classic. It must be extremely difficult to write a story that no one can pin down, even after 111 years. If you surf over to Wikipedia, you'll find the story described as "ostensibly a ghost story" that "has lent itself to dozens of different interpretations", and that no one has been able to "determine what exactly is the nature of evil within the story". I think would take some pretty impressive writing skills to achieve that kind of ambiguity.
I do think it would be very interesting to read a psychological study comparing people who believe the unnamed governess was protecting the children against a supernatural evil with the people that believe she is an Unreliable Narrator and can't be relied on to tell the truth. It might say something interesting about who we are, depending on what we believe.
Me? I put myself firmly in the Unreliable Narrator camp. For me the scariest part of the book was watching - from the inside - someone go insane and the consequences that has on the children. But that's just me....more
I had high hopes for this novel, particularly as it started out well and demonstrated that Richard Dansky has some writing talent. In the end, my lessI had high hopes for this novel, particularly as it started out well and demonstrated that Richard Dansky has some writing talent. In the end, my less than enthusiastic review comes down to two main factors, one of which is entirely my fault: namely that the "paranoia" theme - particularly in a small town where everyone seems to be in on "the secret" and is vaguely hostile to the newcomer - is one of my least favorite plot types.
Leaving my own preferences aside however, I can see that Richard Dansky has some original ideas and has a real talent for writing descriptive passages. After reading the book I could not only imagine what his parents' home looked like, but almost smell it as well. The only real fault I had with his writing was a "cardboard-y" feel to his characters that never let them move beyond one dimensional place holders. Even the narrator is described unevenly and his decisions and actions lack a coherent motivation.
That being said, I would definitely pick up another book by Mr. Dansky as he has all the potential to be a very fine writer. ...more