Shellie’s quick take: A sweet yet dark and mind-bending coming-of-age romance about a sensitive and smallOriginal review posted at Layers of Thought.
Shellie’s quick take: A sweet yet dark and mind-bending coming-of-age romance about a sensitive and small clown who is traveling with a circus during the 1960s.
Shellie’s description: It’s a slightly bizarre novel based upon the experiences of its relatable main character Webern (Bernie) Bell. What is special about Bernie is that he is only about 4 feet tall and has a hunch on his back. Not a typical person physically, he is, however, a natural fit as a circus clown for a small traveling show. While riding his unicycle near his home, he is discovered by the show’s dramatic owner, Dr. Shoenburg (Dr. Show for short). Dr. Show recognizes Bernie’s talent and propositions him for the circus. Bernie is happy to leave behind his childhood home to join the troupe, because he’s always felt like he doesn’t fit into a “normal” life. Within the circus he meets Nepenthe, the lizard girl, and falls in love; and finally he feels at home.
As this crazy story about love and growing up unfolds and events push him to face his inner workings, it becomes apparent that Bernie has his demons to work through – but he has his work cut out for him. Things become out of the ordinary when Bernie faces issues of death and has to question his identity, his familial attachments, his heart and some other weird happenings that he experiences.
Shellie’s thoughts: This is a terrific story with fun characters. I was completely intrigued about the main character Bernie, who is a sensitive soul and easy to like, which creates a desire to continue reading the story. Consequently I would say that this is more of a character-driven novel rather than action based, although it has its drama with its far-fetched ideas and happenings. It is certainly weird fiction, though what I liked best about Goldenland Past Dark is that it also feels realistic – well, almost.
In addition I particularly enjoyed the author’s simple and straightforward writing style which also sucked me in. Very clear and thoughtful, the writing just flowed for me. It’s a writing style that is relaxing without having to reread parts or to look up definitions for words.
I’d recommend this for fans of the circus and for those who enjoy likable yet non-mainstream characters - for example a bearded lady, a chimpanzee who’s behavior is almost human, a lizard girl with a disfiguring skin condition, and a grandmother who captures, cooks, and eats raccoons. It’s especially for those who want realism included within surreal events. 3.5 stars for this heartfelt and offbeat novel. I will definitely be looking for more from this author....more
A concise little novel with mystical and horror elements for the adult and older teen reader. It’s a perfeOriginal review posted at Layers of Thought.
A concise little novel with mystical and horror elements for the adult and older teen reader. It’s a perfect book for discussion since it’s layered as well.
Description: An Englishman relives a traumatic youthful event with dark fairytale-like happenings which have colored his memories and his life.
Thoughts: This is my second Neil Gaiman book. The first was The Sandman: The Dream Hunters by Neil Gaiman; illustrated by Yoshitak Amano and like the first book it has a distinct, clear and simply articulated style. I like this aspect of his writing - a lot.
It’s a great book for the Anglophile with its English setting, as the reader gets to take a trip down memory lane during a time in the not-so-distant past. There’s the sights, sounds, and tastes (yes tastes - Gaimen uses a variety of foods to illustrate the time) that many readers will love - those that have lived it and those who wish to visit it vicariously.
It has a touch of the mystical, which makes me wonder if Mr. Gaiman has been mining some of the more esoteric sciences and mysticism, since there appears to be a speckling of these ideas throughout the more mind-bending parts of the book. Certainly the disciplines contain elements that are conducive to transcending reality which this book of course does. Conversely, there is a firm grounding in a very relatable world at first, which helps to create my favorite kind of speculative story. It takes off from reality, moving into dark and weird territory which I find makes a book accessible.
There are lots of things that go into making a great book, and there are several things I loved about the trade paperback edition that I read. It contains some extras which make the book even nicer to read and handle - its cover; an informative interview with the author which includes a recipe for crepe-like pancakes with lemon and sugar on them; the copy has those lovely flaps on the front and back cover that you can use to mark your place; and best yet are the questions to consider when doing group discussions. The trade paperback is perfect for book groups. And because most book groups are generally women, elements in the story like the characters that represent women as the maiden, mother, and crone may facilitate more in-depth discussions.
Definitely, a dark book - it’s a book for adults that I think it would appeal to older teens. It’s one of my favorite books in 2014 with so many of my favorite techniques and features; it’s a 4 star for me. Highly recommended. ...more
Shellie’s quick take:A retelling of the Gothic classic Jane Eyre - it’s a special young-adult novel featuOriginal review posted at Layers of Thought.
Shellie’s quick take:A retelling of the Gothic classic Jane Eyre - it’s a special young-adult novel featuring snippets of Victorian genre classics at the beginning of each chapter. It also spotlights significant and current issues present in young women’s lives – such as romance, self esteem, drug abuse, violence - all in a readable, atmospheric story with a different type of vampire, and a sweet mythic thread.
Shellie’s description: “Mousy girl” is Jane William’s nickname. She is from the lower-class and violence-ridden town called Helmsdale - or “Hellsdale” as they term it. Jane is an orphan and once ward of the state, who has lived in foster homes since she was 6 years old and remembers nothing of her previous life because of an accident. Although Jane’s life is not easy she has a stubborn tenacity, clinging to a belief that studying and getting high marks in school are her way out of the troubled and rough town - where the norm is drug addiction, prostitution, violence, and where the most ruthless males control the streets.
As a result of her good grades Jane receives an all expense paid scholarship to the exclusive and very wealthy boarding school “Birch Grove Academy”. Arriving at the school Jane is overwhelmed by her own little cottage, an expense account, and new clothes to replace the used hand-me-downs she’s become accustomed too. And just a few days after arriving, the school’s poised head mistress Mrs. Radcliff invites Jane to dinner. There Jane meets the Radcliffs’ model gorgeous son, Lucian, and their other son Jacob who is a down-to-earth musician, and not quite as cute as his brother. Jane is blatantly smitten with Lucian and annoyed by Jacob. But as are most things that appear just a little too wonderful - all is not as it seems. And this is only the beginning of the story, which is an intriguing retelling of the Gothic classic - Jane Eyre.
Shellie’s thoughts: First off, this is a physically gorgeous book. It’s a small easy-to-handle hardbound book which has a moody dark cover with a slightly metallic shine – so it glows gently. It has a stylish interior layout with Gothic themed print and decorations giving this a book a flavor that would make it a special gift for someone. Best yet is that beyond the surface it’s jam-packed with layers of wonderful stuff.
The most stand-out element is that Marta Acosta includes an intriguing trope where quotes from 100 plus year old Gothic literature are included at the beginning of each chapter. Each snippet has a significant meaning for the chapter. The quotes pull the reader into its classic writing, creating a desire to research the works that are highlighted (or at least it did for me!) Marta Acosta uses examples from authors such as Eliza Parsons, the Bronte Sisters, Henry James, Charles Dickens, Ann Radcliff, J. Sheridan Le Fanu and more. With 37 chapters and an epilogue there are loads of quotes to ponder and to “Google”.
The book also has multi-layered themes twisted to especially suit teens, containing many important elements and issues. For example, it has unique and well developed characters, great romance, a setting near San Francisco (gotta love that, since it’s my home), a “mythic” theme, and an interesting take on vampire mythology. More importantly, it also examines science, art, family, love, abuse, race and class issues (all important for everyone to think about.)
I listened to Dark Companion in audio (as well as read bits) where it features a realistic enactment from its talented reader - Kate Reading. But what I liked best was that Dark Companion is a story dealing with very real life issues that many teens face. I am also a big fan of Gothic novels - the more I read them the more I enjoy them and the deeper I go. Let’s hope this book works the same magic on its younger readers as it did on me. A splendid retelling that I recommend for teachers to give to students, for parents/adults to give to teens, and to be read in groups for discussion. It’s a 4.5 stars for me, and highly recommended....more
A slowly intensifying and terrifying page turner that details a woman’s descent into abuse, addiction, andOriginal review posted at Layers of Thought.
A slowly intensifying and terrifying page turner that details a woman’s descent into abuse, addiction, and hell and/or insanity. It’s not a novel for the faint-of-heart.
Shellie’s description: The story alternates between two different times in the main character’s life, the past (occurring during the 1970’s) and the present. The main character, Julia, is a creative personality, an artist who paints pictures and cares for her ailing mother at the family home. She also has a terrible past and secrets that come to light as the story of her youthful life unfolds.
As a young girl she didn’t have the emotional support of her parents who dismissed her art, asserting that her life should be one of traditional domesticity. In fact her mother, the only surviving family member, is still verbally abusive. This created a background which led her to choose the wrong man – a deranged psychopath. As the story moves along her secrets and the reasons for succumbing to the lure of mind-numbing substances and horrible men become clearer.
With themes of demons, angels and the beings that exist in between the realms of good and evil, Julia finds power, retribution, and some kind of peace in spite of her descent.
Shellie’s thoughts: This is a wonderful and horrifying novel. It has a writing style that is easy to read and follow, the author moving back and forth between the past and present as the main character’s terrible story is told. With no issues in the pacing or editing to mar the reading experience, it’s a seamless read.
Additionally, what Sandy DeLuca does is to lead the reader into the darkness slowly, increasing the tension so that the book becomes difficult to put down. It’s hard to turn away as the plot slowly crashes to its climax – and just like a gawker at a crime scene or auto accident, the reader is left wanting to see what’s happening even though we know it’s not going to be pleasant.
I would recommend Descent especially to women who love horror or crime fiction since it involves issues that are important to and about women, but I’d also recommend it to anyone who loves literary horror, since they too will enjoy the book. A word of caution though - this book is extremely dark, has strong language, and is at times violent. It’s NOT for persons of sensitive or delicate sensibilities. But since I love tastefully dark, visceral and shocking reads it’s a 4 star in my opinion. ...more
An intriguing literary critique and more, by Margaret Atwood, based around science fiction. It’s for bookOriginal review posted at Layers of Thought.
An intriguing literary critique and more, by Margaret Atwood, based around science fiction. It’s for book lovers as well as fans of the author and the genre.
About: This audio version of In Other Worlds is a catalog of Margaret Atwood’s relationship with science fiction and contains a number of her unpublished lectures including those titled “Flying Rabbits”, “Dire Cartographies”, and “Burning Bushes”. In the lectures she gives examples of the books which are important to her and her perspective around science fiction and more – how each book she describes affected her development, its place in history, and how it helped to create the genre as we see it today. Also included are her personal, respectable, and well thought out definitions for the sub and overlapping genres within the broad scope of speculative literature and science fiction. At the end of the book are two short stories written by the author and read by Susan Deneaker.
Thoughts: I devoured this short read/listen, since I adore anything sci-fi and books about books. It was a complete pleasure for me. Atwood has some intriguing ideas about what the genre of science fiction is all about, especially for me considering my obsession with defining genres. That Atwood goes into depth was helpful since I learned many things from this book, which for me is what it’s all about. I now have other ways of referencing and categorizing a book.
I am certain that this is not a book for everyone, however, I would recommend it as a must read for any serious science fiction geek. It’s also good for the reference shelf since it contains loads of information on classics, and of course those interesting “speculative” genre definitions that she has provided. In my opinion it’s a great listen. I will be purchasing a paper copy for my personal library. I give this terrific nonfiction book - a big 4 stars....more
A darkly funny yet introspective and mildly gory novel about a zombie who becomes emotionally human and faOriginal review posted on Layers of Thought.
A darkly funny yet introspective and mildly gory novel about a zombie who becomes emotionally human and falls in love. And it has a great cover!
About: The main character, whose name is “R”, has little or no memories of who he was prior to his “death”. So a letter is all he uses as his name. He does know a few things about himself though - based upon the suit he wears he thinks that he must have been a professional. Better yet, he was probably good looking since his appearance is not “as bad” and he doesn’t smell “as much” as the other zombies he knows. Also he has a growing ability to communicate beyond the prerequisite grunt or moan, which continues to improve as he starts to ponder about who he is and his purpose in “life”.
To complicate things more, while out on a hunt with his zombie “buddies” he gets a taste of a young man’s brains which allows him to see and feel this victim’s (or should I say lunch’s) memories. In doing so he begins to share growing feelings for a feisty and pretty young woman who is his dead meal’s girlfriend. As he explores his growing love interest, the two share a common bond - a desire to look beyond their apocalyptic world. As they do so, inner turmoil and growth abound, all mixed with a lot of drama, some violence, understandable campiness, and light romance.
Thoughts: This novel borders ever so slightly on the literary side, with its interesting and almost too lengthy existential processes – all around R’s personal growth, meanderings, reflections and angst. It is not your usual horror book since it is only mildly scary and delves into the emotional changes of a zombie beginning to remember that he was once a man.
Recommended for readers desiring a “lighter” zombie story, who enjoy some reflection mixed with romance; also for those in need of some farcical fun. It has an unbelievable ending which is also redemptive. I liked this story at 3 stars. ...more
An intriguing book of very short literary stories with mostly horrific speculative twists. It has an unusualOriginal review post on Layers of Thought.
An intriguing book of very short literary stories with mostly horrific speculative twists. It has an unusual insight and quirkiness with unique and thought-provoking stories, and some that will leave you with a smirk.
This is author Ben Loory’s first book of odd tales, yet he has published many in literary magazines over the past several years. His new collection feels like modern and bizarre fables - a book for those looking for something a bit out of the ordinary.
The stories range from downright silly and funny to completely strange, while others will make your heart ache and more than a few may prevent you from sleeping. The stories in the book contain themes ranging from talking octopi who live on land rather than water and live like humans, to monsters of various kinds and much more. Definitely an adult book with some mature themes and not recommended for youngsters; it’s a book for “kids at heart”.
I read the book in it’s ARC/ebook format, but I have seen the paperback copy at our local indie book store. It is small, thin and easy to handle or to carry with you. Perhaps pick it up and read when there is a extra few minutes to fill, maybe before bed, or any time where one is interested in a mind altering, or potentially guffaw inducing “quickie” – each story will only take a few minutes to read. I give this collection a 3.5 stars and just love the interesting cover with the orange tentacle, UFO and blue water back ground. ...more