My own unapologetic opinions on books and writing. I DO NOT accept review requests but only review books I choose to read and I don't post reviews on Amazon. I'm also persnickity about genre and plot.
A couple of suggestions were put forward for the October buddy read and I liked the look of both of them, so I've bumped the choices I had lined up for Chilling Children and for Classic Horror in favor of The Turn of the Screw by Henry James and Carmilla by Joseph Le Fanu, respectively. They are both short books which suits me as I have two 500 page-range books in progress at present.
These two plus my Vampire and Magical Realism choices will mean I've at least started all of my Bingo books, yay! Vampire is the last one that is open to substitution as the choice below is out of my free book slush pile and quality is as yet undetermined. Yes I've noticed that Carmilla could be used for Vampire, but I think it will be easier to find a vampire book than a Classic Horror I haven't already read.
The list updated:
Classic noir: The Thin Man by Dashiel Hammett (in progress)
Amateur sleuth: this mystery will have a main character who is not a member of law enforcement. A Spark of Justice by J.D. Hawkins re-read (read)
Serial/spree killer: Normally this would have been first on my exclusions, but I've been wanting to read Cabal by Clive Barker (read)
American horror story: Children of Chaos by Greg Gifune (read)
Genre: horror: The Day of the Triffids by John Wyndham (read)
Gothic: Mary Reilly by Valerie Martin (in progress)
Darkest London: Stalking Jack by Madison Kent (read)
Modern Masters of Horror: Helltown by Jeremy Bates (read)
Supernatural: Symphony of Ruin by Christina Lay (read)
Ghost: Sleepy Hollow: Bridge of Bones by Richard Gleaves (in progress)
Haunted houses: The Elementals by Michael McDowell (read)
Vampires: Vampire - In the Beginning by Charmain Marie Mitchell
Werewolves: The Werewolf Whisperer by Camilla Ochlan and Bonita Gutierez (read)
Witches: High Witch by Mona Hanna (read)
Demons: A Latent Dark by Martin Kee (read)
Classic horror: Carmilla by Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu
Chilling children: The Turn of the Screw by Henry James
Monsters: Dead Sea by Tim Curran (in progress)
80's horror: Faerie Tale by Raymond Feist (read)
In the dark, dark woods: Into the Woods by Thomas Washburn Jr (read)
Terror in a small town: Goblins by David Bernstein (read)
Magical realism: Foxglove Summer by Ben Aaronovitch
Terrifying women: Tales of Men and Ghosts by Edith Wharton (read)
Diverse voices: One Blood by Qwantu Amaru (in progress)
Free square: Mirror, Mirror by Anthony Strong (read)
by Michael McDowell
You have to love a Horror story that starts with a funeral. This one had a weird aspect, but that soon got explained in a perfectly plausible manner. The deep south accent comes over easily and actually helped transport me from reality into this alternate southern world.
I found the author's voice engaging and didn't mind a slow build up in the beginning. A southern family have two holiday homes in a place called Beldame which consists of three houses on a beach with sand dunes. The third house is unoccupied and no one is sure who owns it, but it is getting slowly buried in a sand dune.
13-year-old India gets curious about the place and notices that her father, uncle and grandmother are afraid of the third house. They warn her about the more practical dangers of sand dunes and structurally unsound properties, but her driving curiosity makes her keep looking through the windows and photographing things. Things start to get a little strange.
This is well written and the characters are distinctive. The plot builds slowly, revealing inter-family relationships and how they've developed over time. Towards the end everything that has been experienced in the third house comes out and the action goes berserk, leading to a breathtaking conclusion.
There was a time or two when someone didn't see something obvious, but otherwise it was believable as far as anything involving supernatural activity can be believable and definitely had some chills and tension to satisfy the Horror enthusiast.
Wow. I finished 16 books this month! That's not a lot to some of you speed readers, but it is for me. I average 4-6 books a month usually.
I'm also very close to finishing 2 more. :D
Just one of this month's books was a Netgalley read, Symphony of Ruin. The others came out of either my A-list or my free books slush pile, or were sourced from Amazon's daily freebies or in the case of Classics, from Gutenberg.
I didn't read any samples all month. I had about a dozen saved up before Bingo started, but the pile has been growing from all the books I see from others' Bingo reads! I'm not going to tackle that folder until November. It will be interesting to see how many collect up!
So, for October, Bingo continues. Once I hit blackout, if I manage it, I'll try the other books from my free books slush that I put aside for back-ups in case some of my choices turn out to be duds. It will give me a start on cleaning out the free books backlog!
by Mona Hanna
By the time I got a couple of Kindle pages in, I worked out that I'd walked into a YA Romance, but the writing was reasonably good so I persevered. Then a line of internal dialogue gave me a hint that there was something original about it and my interest increased. Also it's from the boy's point of view, which is less common.
It's a fairly simple story with a few clichés, most notably the boy protecting the girl when she's an all-powerful witch. It's a sweet story, but at times too sweet. I imagine it would be good for romantically dreaming young girls. The world building shows promise and the writing is good, but the plotting and internal thoughts of the main character are definitely too young for me. If it weren't for the sex, I'd say pre-teen level. The sex is mostly off-camera, but still more than I want to read about.
My only real complaint is the lack of free will involved. Surely a High Witch, according to the rules of magic established in the story, is too powerful to be compelled? But the author sets the rules so it is as it is. Not my cuppa, but the author shows potential.
I don't give much thought to the ethnicity of an author unless it has some relevance to the story. Like a story set in the Australian outback is likely to be more realistic from an Australian author than someone who has never been there or something similar. Mostly I don't know and don't think to ask.
So, with a square called Diverse Voices to fill, my first port of call was Google. Put in Diverse authors and you get a lot of results.
Then I thought, what have I got in my slush pile waiting to be read? The Google results give me well known authors. I'd rather unearth a new voice. The trouble is, most books don't come with any indication of racial group of the author unless their name indicates maybe Hispanic or Eastern. Black people tend to have names that look a whole lot like white people's names unless they actually come from Africa.
So I went for a scroll through my free books slush looking for anything that stood out and...
Qwantu Amaru stood out. I looked at the book description.
"Rich themes of voodoo, family curses, political ambitions and a quest for power are dominant in this roller coaster ride set in Louisiana."
This square is in a row that has 4 called squares. I've read 3 books for the row and am working on Dead Sea for that row. This book is 488 pages and Dead Sea is over 500. I'm doomed...
I have one other row with 4 called squares. The books I need to finish that one are more in the 250 page range. I think I'll try to finish those first and then get stuck into this. It sounds good!
by Raymond E. Feist
This one kept getting recommended and after trying a sample, I decided to give it a read. It's my first Feist and possibly my only, as sampling another of his novels didn't impress me as much.
It's a very dark story that wraps folklore, especially Irish mythology, around a modern day setting. A family buys a farmhouse with woodland attached to the property and there are local stories about the woods and some sort of sleeping evil.
What I liked was that this isn't a standard monster story with one nasty critter causing all the problems. Various otherworld entities encounter the family members, some in harmless ways and others, well, you have to read to see what happens.
The story was more sexual in parts than I expected and not always in nice ways. People really sensitive to anything suggesting rape might want to steer clear. The strange experiences are fairly subtle at first and build as the story goes along.
Another thing I liked was short chapters! It's really easy to decide to read just one more, and just one more since it's only a few pages. I got 149 pages in on the first sitting! Then towards the end found myself getting through a lot of pages without realizing as things really heated up.
The family who are central to the plot are well defined characters and some of their close associates also come across strongly as individuals. Even the twins become distinctive as their part of the story develops. At times I didn't know where the plot was going and wondered if it was just meandering or if it was setting me up for something specific, but it all came together in the last couple of hundred pages.
My one niggle is the mixing of different cultural histories and mythologies. As it happens, I recently read an academic book on Persian Zoroastrianism/Magic and crossing that over with the Illuminati in Europe and a mix of Irish/English/Germanic folklore stretched believability a little far.
Putting all that aside, I enjoyed the story and fully approve of the ending. Highly recommended for dark fantasy fans.
7 rows have either 3 books read or 3 squares called. One row has all 5 books read and 3 called!
Then there's the second row across. 4 squares called and 3 books read, but Haunted Houses is in progress and looks like a fast read and I'm about to start my Gothic book, you know, in case that square gets called. ;)
by John Wyndham
I didn't really know what to expect from this one apart from evil plants, so enjoyed the thrill of discovery as the plot slowly unfolded in the early chapters. It surprised me that there was so much of the plot focused on the issue of everyone going blind from an unrelated source before it got to any significant story about the carnivorous plants.
It did help set up the end of the world situation though, and showed much of the moral dilemma involved with deciding how much to help others in an unprecedented situation and whether your own survival would be compromised.
I'd class this as a Dystopian novel, though the man-eating plants do lend a Horror aspect. More of the plot involved survival in difficult circumstances long before the plants feature significantly.
There were times I wanted to shout at the characters "Why don't you..." or "Why haven't you..." and get them to do a few obvious things to improve their situation. I even wondered why it had become such a classic of Horror because much of it was more tame than I had expected. It wasn't what I expected at all, but it still made for an enjoyable read.
by Edith Wharton
Victorian-style literature takes a bit of patience to enjoy. It is written in a distinctively wordy style that I often enjoy, but can easily become tedious in some books.
Ghost stories were a holiday tradition in Victorian times and it seems some authors known for genres other than Horror lent their talents to this sub-genre, including Edith Wharton (who was born in the Victorian era, though this was released in 1910). The thing about these Victorian ghost stories is that they are seldom actually scary, but with a few exceptions, generally have an amenable ghost involved who behaves with Victorian manners and even becomes part of the family or just a minor irritation.
I can't say that Wharton's stories are the most stimulating that I've read. Some of the ten stories in this collection don't even have proper ghosts, but more a concept of ghostliness. One entitled The Eyes is the only one of the collection that I would describe as a proper ghost story, though that one was rather good.
Overall I wouldn't think of this collection first if I were going to recommend a book of Victorian ghost stories, but the one story justifies adding Edith Wharton to the list of women authors who can turn their hand to the spooky.
I've been looking forward to starting this one. It's another off my A-list, which means I've read a sample and found it worthy. I was going to start it after finishing a couple of the others I have in progress, but the square was called and it's well placed for me, so now I have a good excuse. I'm likely to finish a third book on that row today or tomorrow and the fifth one to finish the row is another one I'm really anxious to try.
This one is from my A-list. It's 538 pages, but I don't care. I've waited long enough and I want to read it.
Those who have followed me a long time will know I have a process for finding really good stuff to read.
1. A book gets my attention, whether it's a good cover or someone mentions how good it is or whatever, it comes under my radar.
2. I order a Kindle sample. Eventually I read it. If something is on a special sale I might fast track that stage, but usually samples collect and I get to them in batches. For example, I'm not spending the time reading samples during Bingo but I did read one that was on .99 yesterday. It failed.
3. If the sample makes me feel I want to read the book, I decide how much. How much am I prepared to pay? I put it on my ereaderiq.com list.
4. A price drop occurs and I get an email from ereaderiq to tell me about it. If I don't remember reading the sample, I might revisit it. I have a folder on my Kindle for samples that passed vetting. In most cases, I buy it. The really intriguing books get added to A-list to get to sooner.
5. Eventually I read it.
So, when Bingo came up this year, I looked at the Monsters square and immediately thought of this book because sea monsters! Monster Horror is one of my favourite sub-genres and I love a good sea story.
I got a start on this story last night and the atmospherics are amazing! I've seen Tim Curran's name highly praised by the Horror readers here on BL and now I can see why. Even at 1%, I'm expecting him to attain favourite author status as a result of this read and I'll be looking out for more of his.
Some authors are just that good. Plus this square intersects two rows that each have three squares called. The further I get on those 538 pages, the better position I'll be in if one of them completes, including this square getting called. :D
Also it's good to have something really good to read while getting through a few lesser reads to fill squares.
by Christina Lay
Ghosts, Fae, magic, Alchemy and a monster from out of the catacombs bringing death to the city. It's all here! The story reads like a very well written Fantasy novel and got my interest right away.
Remy is an Alchemist's apprentice and with the Alchemist away, he is left to discover what is coming out of the catacombs to kill people. He encounters ghosts and other creatures in the world of darkness, effectively an underworld journey.
Despite being treated like a lowly ratboy by the local hoity-toity, he gets on with the job and seeks to discover why one of their class got buried with commoners. Remy is a likeable character who lets the class insults roll off and applies his own wits and knowledge to untangling some confusing clues to what's really going on.
The story is fast moving and leads into a dark journey beneath the city that brings out some of our most primal fears. At times it reminded me of the surreal worlds of Roger Zelazny or The Deathgate Cycle by Weis and Hickman, though not in as much intricate detail. It was an interesting read and I think a new author to watch.
I had another book picked out for this square about a scary circus, but it reached DNF by page 2. Not only was the story promising to be crap, but the author called circus people carnies, which is a cardinal sin with me. Do some research! Don't write in a setting if you can't be bothered to learn something about it. Circuses are not carnivals and carnivals don't have big tops. What's so hard?
Anyway, I decided to select another book for the square. At first I thought I might peruse through my folder of Horror stories looking for women authors, but there were rather a lot of male authors so I took another tack. I Googled women Horror authors.
This of course took me to Classic authors like Mary Shelly, but it also revealed that some Classic women authors known for other genres have also written Horror stories! This includes Louisa May Alcott and Edith Wharton.
So, I now have The Abbot's Ghost, or Maurice
However, I wasn't on computer at the time and could get Edith Wharton's ghost stories for free from Amazon, so that's the one I'm reading for the square. I do love a Victorian ghost story.
I'm not a big fan of YA Romance, but this is shaping up to be pretty good!
There's a bit of world building involved with rules for magic and prejudices that make witches keep quiet about their abilities, plus it's written from the boy's point of view which is less common.
In a lot of ways it is just another sweet Romance directed at a young audience, but it's enjoyable enough to continue reading. I might even read the sequels, though I might save them for future Bingo reads.
It doesn't count as Bingo because the squares haven't all been called, but I have a row completed. :D
Now the question is, which to target next? The diagonal row or the second across row? Both have three called squares. So I'm doing one from each that are fairly short and we'll see what happens next. I really want to start Dead Sea by Tim Curran for Monsters square, but it's nearly 600 pages!