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SheriC

Portable Monsters

Reading, for me, is entertainment and an escape from the real world. But it can also inform and stretch the boundaries of the life I live.

Currently reading

Home For the Haunting
Juliet Blackwell
Fear: Trump in the White House
Bob Woodward
Progress: 17 %
Everything Trump Touches Dies
Rick Wilson
A Little Princess (Audio)
Frances Hodgson Burnett, Virginia Leishman
The Return of the King
J.R.R. Tolkien, Rob Inglis
Progress: 35 %

Fragment ★☆☆☆☆ (DNF)

Fragment - Warren Fahy

It started out well, with an interesting mock essay on the historic cycle of new species introduced into an environment that can take over, decimate the existing flora or fauna, and change that environment forever. Then we're given a delicious little episode of a ship's crew being attacked by some mysterious monster on a remote island. Then... ugh. It appears that the whole story is going to be set with a ship full of reality show scientists and crew, who are obviously destined to explore the monster island. The momentum comes to a full stop when the narrative suddenly becomes more interested in describing every new character in full reality show terms - their appearance and clothing in excruciating detail, their Personality Type. 

 

Sorry, can't do it. Even the anticipation of getting to see at least some of them eaten by monsters won't keep me reading. DNF at 5%, after 36 minutes of audio. 

 

I planned to read this for 2018 Halloween Bingo, for either the Modern Masters of Horror square or the Genre: Horror square, but I have other backup books that I will read for those instead. 

The Elementals ★★★★★

The Elementals - Michael Rowe, Michael McDowell

They don’t get much better than this. It’s a wonderfully slow burn of a story that builds up to a gross-out creepfest. The characters were fun, some people get what they deserve (yay!), some wholly undeserving people get it (oh no!), and the scary stuff is left satisfyingly under-explained for a lingering aftertaste of mystery (ahhhh).

 

Audiobook, via Audible. I have mixed feelings on the performance by RC Bray. I liked his voices and infection, and his Southern accents were very plausible. But at times he was a little too deadpan, which flattened the story a bit. I read this for the 2018 Halloween Bingo square Southern Gothic : mystery, supernatural, suspense or horror set in the Southern part of the United States. This horror story is set in Alabama.

Home for the Haunting- 5%

Home For the Haunting - Juliet Blackwell

”By gosh, if I’m going to sink into the quicksand of do-good volunteerism, I’m taking my friends and family down with me”

 

said everyone who has done charity work, ever. 

PM's Halloween Bingo Update #1

Whew, I think I'm caught up on my posts! I've been reading things in sort of random order, so almost all of them haven't been called yet. I've also updated my marker key to differentiate between called/not called.

 

CALLED:

I3 Classic horrorThe Halloween Tree (Ray Bradbury); audio ★★★☆☆

 

NOT CALLED:

B1 Country house mysteryThe Moonstone (Wilkie Collins); audio; owned ★★★★☆

B2 DeadlandsMy Life as a White Trash Zombie (Diana Rowland); audio; owned ★★★★★

G3 Relics and CuriositiesStrange Weather: Snapshot (Joe Hill); audio; borrowed ★★★☆☆

G4 Creepy CarnivalsThe Devil in the White City (Erik Larson); bound; owned ★★★☆☆

 

Strange Weather ★★★☆☆

Strange Weather - Joe Hill

Dementia is cruel, in the way it steals from the person who suffers it, and steals from the people who love them. Joe Hill externalizes and personifies it in Snapshot, about a boy who finds that the woman who raised him and loved him as a mother is being attacked by a man with a camera that doesn’t just capture memories, but steals them, leaving empty spaces and confusion and fear behind.

 

“The idea that these days had been taken from her struck me as vile. It was a swallow of curdled milk. It was indecent.

 

There was no justification for the loss of her memories and understanding, no defense the universe could offer for the corruption of her mind. She had loved me, even if I’d been too witless to know it or value it. Anyone who looked at these pictures could see she loved me, that I delighted her somehow, in spite of my fat cheeks, vacant stare, and tendency to eat in a way that smeared food all down my bad T-shirts. In spite of how I thoughtlessly accepted her attention and affection as my due. And now it was all melting away, every birthday party, every BBQ, every plucked ripe peach. She was being erased a little at a time by a cancer that fed not on her flesh but on her inner life, on her private store of happiness.”

 

There’s more about the boy and how he battles the evil man with the camera and what he does with his life, but this was the essence of the story for me, the wish that it was as simple as a bad man with an evil camera who could be defeated, and that people would never have to lose their memories and essential selves again.

 

Audiobook, borrowed from my public library. As usual, Wil Wheaton brings the story to life with an outstanding performance. I read this story for the 2018 Halloween Bingo square Relics and Curiosities: concerning magical, supernatural or haunted objects, such as spellbooks, talismans or swords. The memory-stealing camera in this story fits the square.

 

There are three other (short stories? novellas?) in this collection. Loaded was a horribly plausible story of a trigger-happy security guard whose prejudices lead him to shoot innocent bystanders in the excitement and confusion of responding to an actual shooting. It was maybe a little too realistic to be enjoyable, my stomach felt twisted through most of it, but the effect was spoiled in the end as Hill was just a little too heavy-handed with the evil, a little too over the top. Aloft was maybe the most fun of the four stories, on its surface about a guy who parachutes, not to the ground, but onto a mysteriously solid cloud. But the story is more about isolation and loneliness, and how we can fool ourselves into believing dysfunctional relationships give more, promise more, than they do. Rain seemed more up my alley as a straightforward weird horror – I mean, really, rain made of sharp needles of crystal that shred anybody unlucky enough to get caught in it? – but for some reason, it bored me enough that I skimmed most of it.

 

The Moonstone ★★★★☆

The Moonstone - J.I.M. Stewart, Wilkie Collins

Because I read somewhere that The Moonstone was the first detective mystery novel, and because I’ve read very few mysteries not written in the last 50 years or so, I expected a different sort of book. I was looking for an early Poirot or Sherlock Holmes, and instead found it more like a romance with a mystery to drive its plot. It certainly had a super detective from London, offset by a bungling local investigator.

 

The mystery was fun to unravel, even though it wasn’t terribly hard to guess around all the red herrings. The romance was not too implausible, although I feel a little squeamish about the whole first-cousins thing. The scandals were fun, the goofily pompous servant was fun, and the heroine was satisfyingly spirited and self-willed and intelligent. But Miss Clack absolutely stole the show. I’d have read this book only for her sections. I want some Miss Clack fanfiction, STAT.

Audiobook, the Naxos audiobooks edition, with the full cast. The performances were all very good, but Fenella Woolgar as Miss Clack was amazing. I read this for the 2018 Halloween Bingo square Country House Mystery: a closed circle murder set during a gathering like a house party. This book is primarily set at a wealthy family’s English country estate, where the Moonstone in question disappears the night of a small party.

The Devil in the White City ★★★☆☆

The Devil in the White City: Murder, Magic, and Madness at the Fair That Changed America - Erik Larson

While interesting, this book was just not very satisfying, in the end. If it was supposed to be a story of the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair, then I would have wanted a lot more of the first person experiences of those who attended it and more of how it impacted daily life in the century that followed. If it was supposed to be a story of H.H. Holmes and his murder castle, then I would have wanted a little more in depth about his victims and the society and atmosphere that allowed him to operate as he did. Instead, it was both stories, sort of folded into one another, but not really meshing. Plus another superficially told story of the Chicago mayor’s murder. Altogether, it was an okay read, but tbh I skimmed a lot of the parts detailing all the politics and finances and schmoozing that went into getting the Fair built.

 

One thing was clear, and that is that the targeting and victimizing of vulnerable women is the same as it ever was:

Rather, the trick lay in choosing a woman of the correct sensibility. Candidates would need a degree of stenographic and typewriting skill, but what he most looked for and was so very adept at sensing was that alluring amalgam of isolation, weakness, and need. Jack the Ripper had found it in the impoverished whores of Whitechapel; Holmes saw it in transitional women, fresh clean young things free for the first time in history but unsure of what that freedom meant and of the risks it entailed. What he craved was possession and the power it gave him; what he adored was anticipation – the slow acquisition of love, then life, and finally the secrets within.

 

 

Hardcover edition. I read this for the 2018 Halloween Bingo square Creepy Carnivals: horror/mystery/supernatural/suspense set in or concerning a carnival, amusement park, or other party/festival. This book fits as the setting is the Worlds Fair, even including the first ever Ferris Wheel.

The Pecan Man ★★☆☆☆ (DNF)

The Pecan Man - Cassie Dandridge Selleck

I tried, I really did. But maybe the author was a little too true to the voice of her main character, because the first hour of this was just like listening to somebody else’s old granny rambling her way through a story. Maybe it got better, but I didn’t wait around to find out. DNF

 

I intended to read this for the 2018 Halloween Bingo square Southern Gothic : mystery, supernatural, suspense or horror set in the Southern part of the United States. It seemed to fit because it was a murder/miscarriage of justice story set in Florida. Since I wasn’t able to finish it, I’m going with The Elementals - Michael Rowe,Michael McDowell  instead.

My Life as a White Trash Zombie ★★★★★

My Life as A White Trash Zombie - Diana Rowland

I’m always happy when I read a book that I thoroughly enjoyed. I’m even happier when it was a book recommended by a friend. I’ve never cared for zombie stories, so I was a little dubious when Mike Finn recommended this one to me for the reading performance as much as for the story itself. But it delivered! The story itself was fun, with a little pathos, a little romance, and a little mystery. But the performance by Allison McLemore pushed it over the five-star threshold for me. The voice she gives the main character is absolutely perfect, and her pacing and emotion are spot on.

 

Audiobook, via Audible. Highly recommend. I’ll be looking for other books read by McLemore, for sure.

 

I read this for the 2018 Halloween Bingo square Deadlands: elements of the undead - zombies, wights, vampires and other revenants. It fits the square because, obviously, zombies.

Fear: Trump in the White House - 17%

Fear: Trump in the White House - Bob Woodward

I don't suppose I could use this for the Halloween Bingo Doomsday square? 

...

...

Just kidding!

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...

(sort of)

The Halloween Tree ★★★☆☆

The Halloween Tree - Ray Bradbury, Bronson Pinchot

Bradbury gifts us with his wonderful imagery and realistically grubby little boys, as usual, which made reading this book worthwhile. As a story, though, it was not nearly as engaging as I usually find his work. It probably works better for a young audience, as a not-overtly-scary tale of the real origins of Halloween, the meaning of death and sacrifice, and explores some different cultural ideas of death and the afterlife. I was most struck by the bleak, yet accurate description of how time changes for us as we become adults.

 

Audiobook version, via Audible. I’m not sure what it is about Bronson Pinchot’s readings that I love so much. He doesn’t really try to provide distinct voices for the dialogue, but his performance is more that of a wonderful storyteller, using inflection and pacing to draw us in and keep us spellbound. Although this won’t be one of my favorite Bradbury stories, I think I’d like to have an illustrated hardcover, because such beautiful images painted in words just deserve to be brought to life visually as well.

 

 

I read this for the 2018 Halloween Bingo. The square is Classic Horror - Horror fiction that was published prior to 1980 (Called 9/1/18). This book fits because it was originally published in 1972.

 

The Forgotten Garden ★★★★★

The Forgotten Garden - Kate Morton, Caroline Lee

I loved this story. The structure is a little convoluted, as it follows three storylines in time, slowly unravelling the mystery of a child who was found abandoned on an Australian dock. There is the story of the child, the story of the child as a mature woman searching for her origins, and the story a grieving young woman seeking answers to what her grandmother was up to. But the characters and the damage wrought by selfishness and secrets and lies and the emotions of grief and love and loss really drive this story as much as the mystery. I loved the parallels to Frances Hodgson Burnett’s The Secret Garden, and I was also irresistibly reminded of Shel Silverstein’s The Giving Tree. Not just the overt theme in Silverstein’s story of the glory of sacrificing everything for a loved one, but also the underlying theme of how the ones you love may just take and take and take until you are mutilated beyond recognition.

 

Audiobook, purchased via Audible. Caroline Lee’s performance is outstanding.

I Am No One You Know ★★★☆☆

I am No One You Know - Joyce Carol Oates

This is my first experience with Joyce Carol Oates, so I’m not sure if this is typical of her work. I found it both compelling and frustrating. The stories were mostly character portraits, and those characters were usually damaged, isolated, seeking to explain or understand themselves. Pretty grim reading, in other words. As for frustrating, they were structured almost like flash fiction, where there is no narrative arc. Every story just… stops. I could have been okay with this through a handful of stories, but I was weary of the whole thing long before I got through all nineteen.   

 

eBook, purchased via kindle.

 

 

Previous Updates:

6/24/18 – 1%

Book Haul! Audible 2 for 1 Sale

The Elementals - Michael Rowe, Michael McDowell Blackwater: The Complete Caskey Family Saga - Michael McDowell, John Langan The Android's Dream - John Scalzi 'Salem's Lot - Ron McLarty, Stephen King

Usually I don't find anything I especially want at the Audible sales, but I think I got 4 good ones this time. And for you Halloween Bingoers, they have a number of horror and mystery/thriller books that fit the categories. 

Beartown ★★☆☆☆

Beartown: A Novel - Fredrik Backman

I have a strong suspicion that this book is going to take a very dark turn at some point and probably get to be much more interesting, but I’ve been struggling to make myself keep on with it for several days now and have decided to give up. I keep yelling at the book: “Just get on with it!” I don’t care about hockey, and the characters and their motivations and this story of a dying town and the residents’ hopes and anger and despair have just not been very compelling so far.

 

DNF at 37% after almost 5 hours of listening time. Audiobook, borrowed from my public library via Overdrive. Marin Ireland’s performance is not the problem.

Is it September 1 Yet?

***stolen & modified from Twitter