I picked up Darling Jim at the library this afternoon and just "finished" it, which in this case means I stopped really reading it early on and just sI picked up Darling Jim at the library this afternoon and just "finished" it, which in this case means I stopped really reading it early on and just skimmed through the rest to see if it could be that bad all the way through. It was. Now I feel like my brain needs a breath mint.
A handsome, sexy drifter rides his bright red antique motorcycle into a sleepy Irish town. Think Paul Newman in Long Hot Summer but on a bike - although in this case instead of being a blue-eyed blond, the drifter has "black Keanu Reeves hair" and eyes like "black pools". Oh, and he's also got a "sugar coated" voice "as smooth as a cat's." And not only does our Darling Jim ooze sex appeal but he can apparently mesmerize women from across the street with only a glance, "read [their:] desires with his eyes closed" and set sisters at each others throats in jealousy after only one day.
And his amazing powers don't end with women, either. Like a weird combination of Charles Manson and John F. Kennedy, Jim's charismatic personality and good looks ensnare the entire town. Although the evidence is overwhelming that Darling Jim is a rapist and killer, everyone but the victims turn a blind eye to it because they are so enamored with him and his amazing storytelling abilities. In fact, his loss drives one woman (who admittedly was eccentric to begin with) over the edge of insanity, causing her to imprison and torture her nieces.
And this summary doesn't even touch on the ridiculous subplot of the highly literate and thoughtful diaries written by the nieces as they are dying of rat poisoning and starvation. Would anyone who is waiting to be violently murdered take the time to write that "time has run out" and "here she comes...my dear aunt, dragging her miserable self up the stairs"? Moerk's characters do. They also have ways of getting those diaries mailed posthumously, to be found and read by a small-town postal worker who, instead of taking the information to the police, decides to "unravel" the mystery himself.
Because I am trying to be fair, I will say that on the plus side, there is a cat named Oscar in the book. Other than that...well, I suppose it could have been longer.
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
Johannes Cabal is a scientist who several years ago sold his soul to Satan in exchange for the secrets of necromancy (the control of the dead). LuckilJohannes Cabal is a scientist who several years ago sold his soul to Satan in exchange for the secrets of necromancy (the control of the dead). Luckily for the reader, Cabal may be a necromancer, but he "is not one of those foolish people who take up residence in cemeteries so they can raise an army of the dead." After all, "they're more expensive than a living one, and far less use...they march ten miles and their legs fall off. Napoleon would have approved - that really is an army that marches on its stomach." Indeed, Cabal's dabblings in necromancy are a direct result of his scientific inquiries and he has no time or patience for those with a less rational turn of mind.
Unfortunately, Johannes Cabal has found that his lack of a soul is actually causing irregularities in his scientific experiments, a situation that cannot be allowed to continue. As the book opens, Cabal is on his way to Hell to get his soul back. Satan, as you might expect, proves less than accommodating and a very well written - and funny - conversation takes place between the two of them:
"Not entirely fair," repeated Satan, all trace of jovial hail-fellow-well-met gone. "Not entirely fair?" His voice became that of the inferno: a rushing, booming howl of icy evil that flew around the great cavern, as swift and cold as the Wendingo on skates. "I am Satan, also called Lucifer the Light Bearer..."
Cabal winced. What was it about devils that they always had to give you their whole family history?
"I was cast down from the presence of God himself into this dark, sulphurous pit and condemned to spend eternity here - "
"Have you tried saying 'sorry'?" interrupted Cabal.
"No, I haven't! I was sent down for a sin of pride. It rather undermines my position if I say 'sorry'!"
Eventually - as so often happens when dealing with Satan - they agree on a wager: Cabal will have the use of a Satanic carnival (although not "Cougar and Dark's Carnival..that one's been wound up") and a year to gather 100 souls for Satan. If he succeeds, he will get his own soul back.
Jonathan L. Howard has succeeded in writing a book that is incredibly funny on the surface, while also exploring larger issues, such as the nature of Evil and when it crosses the line into Good and vice versa. Where does the responsibility of the Temptor end and become the independent act of the Temptee? And if the line is crossed between Good and Evil, is it a one way street?
Several of the characters - Cabal not the least - make extreme choices based on what they are willing to do - or unwilling to do - in the name of love, and in the end the reader is left wondering what the limits of love truly are and how far they can stretch before they break or twist into something else.
A note for audiobook readers: the narrator of this one - Christopher Cazenove - is excellent. He has perfect timing, and listening to him create the voices of the characters adds another level of enjoyment to the book....more
A strange book that started out at four stars, slipped to three somewhere in the middle and then thudded down to two stars in the last chapters. JonatA strange book that started out at four stars, slipped to three somewhere in the middle and then thudded down to two stars in the last chapters. Jonathan Barnes has a great imagination but I had the same problems with it that I did with his earlier book, The Somnambulist: none of the characters were realistic or sympathetic and by the end the tension sort of drained away.
Still, I would pick up the next book he publishes out of curiosity....more
6/19/09, p. 114: Read about this online. According to the website: "Dark Art combines the experience of a traditional thriller novel with a multimedia6/19/09, p. 114: Read about this online. According to the website: "Dark Art combines the experience of a traditional thriller novel with a multimedia-fueled “out of book” narrative. Clues in the novel — and items that come with the novel, such as ID cards and photos — propel readers into an online experience where they become protagonists themselves."
6/22/09: I think I'm too much of a traditional reader to appreciate this as a book. I also like computer games however, and Personal Effects Dark Art would make an excellent computer adventure game. As a game I would give it a higher score, but I was expecting a book (a book with additional ways to read it, but still a book) and as a book I have to give it two stars. The writing was adequate, but the over-the-top gothic elements and the hipster slang of the narrator and his "tribe" were jarring and annoying because my brain was applying "book" standards of narrative, not "game" standards....more
The final novel in a series has a lot to measure up to, and in my opinion the last Joe Pitt novel didn't live up to its four predecessors. I am a bigThe final novel in a series has a lot to measure up to, and in my opinion the last Joe Pitt novel didn't live up to its four predecessors. I am a big fan of Charlie Huston - and his Joe Pitt character in particular - but both of them seem to have lost their edge in My Dead Body.
Dead Body picks up a year after the events in Every Last Drop and while most of the threads are picked up again, they aren't picked up in a way that is consistent with the books that came before. Most of the characters from the previous books act...well, out of character. And while all the various dangling questions are given explanations, it felt a bit like Huston had written himself into a corner with the big reveal at the end of Every Last Drop and decided that the only way out was to slash and burn anything and everything. And I do mean everything.
I think that Huston sums up what happened pretty well in his blog:
"Someone did ask me the other day how I felt about finishing the series. All I could think to say was, “Bye, bye, Joe Pitt.” Joe was six-three and over two-hundred pounds. That’s a load to carry for five years."
I think he was just ready to put Joe down and move on, but I'm disappointed that my crush on Joe Pitt had to end this way....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
Darkly Dreaming Dexter is definitely not a typical "serial killer vs. police" novel. The protagonist, Dexter Morgan, works with the Miami P.D. analyziDarkly Dreaming Dexter is definitely not a typical "serial killer vs. police" novel. The protagonist, Dexter Morgan, works with the Miami P.D. analyzing blood splatter at crime scenes, and as a result he becomes involved in the city-wide search for a serial killer victimizing area prostitutes. The twist, of course, is that Dexter is a serial killer himself. Not the serial killer currently being hunted by the police, but a serial killer, nonetheless.
In general, I stay away from novels about serial killers and anything that could be filed under "True Crime". Although I do read scary books, I consider myself a fan of "non-human" horror: I'll pick up "The Shining" while avoiding "Helter Skelter", mainly because of the level of human cruelty and gore that is usually involved. That said, I doubt it's possible to write a book about a serial killer - let alone a book about two serial killers - without some descriptions of grotesque violence. However the author, Jeff Lindsay, does keep the descriptions to a minimum and doesn't indulge in gratuitous descriptions of gore just for the shock effect.
In any case, in my opinion the reason to read "Dexter" is not the high-tension police chase or the body count, but Dexter's continuous inner-monologue. Lindsay does an excellent job of giving a voice to someone who does not see himself as a human being at all. Dexter is a self aware - and self described - monster with the intelligence to mimic human behavior, even when he doesn't understand it. He spends a great deal of time studying humans in order to "pass" as one himself. This gives him a strangely objective view of his own motivations and his honest descriptions of the inner places he falls short of being human are the most chilling parts of the book. Dexter might be a terrifying figure when he's holding a knife, but he is even scarier when he confesses to being "pretty sure" that he doesn't want the other serial killer to slaughter someone Dexter knows. Dexter is too self-aware to hide from himself that he identifies with the unknown killer and would love to join him and "play", while at the same time he is too sociopathic to find that admission disturbing. He just admits it to himself, without judgment, and moves on.
I will search out the other "Dexter" books by Jeff Lindsay, not because they are amazing examples of police procedurals, but because Dexter Morgan is one of the most unique characters I've ever come across. ...more
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