Something evil is haunting the small town of Tarker Mills, Maine. Every month another person is found dead, brutally ripped apart. Can they solve what is haunting their town before the terror consumes them all?
I picked this up in a used book basement because I’m generally trying to read most everything Stephen King has written, and this particular print book was beautifully illustrated. Each chapter (or month…or murder) had at least one full-color illustration, and that just spoke to me. The story itself wound up being rather ho-hum to me, but part of that may be due to the fact that I’m rather hard to shock these days.
My favorite part of the book is that it opens with a note from King stating that astute readers will notice that the full moon couldn’t possibly have fallen on all of the big holidays he has it fall on, but that he’s taken artistic license to make it do so. The passage reads like it has a wink at the end, and I like that King assertively addresses what could bother some readers or be a controversy and acknowledges that his facts are wrong, but he did it for artistic reasons. Personally, I’m not a fan of books that take artistic licenses, but if you’re going to, this is the way to do it. Acknowledge it (don’t hide from it) and move on.
This feels like an early Stephen King book. The usual small town New England stock characters are there, but they’re not fully fleshed-out. There’s even a spunky kid in a wheelchair who reminds me of an earlier version of Susannah from The Dark Tower series (the book about Susannah was first published in 2004). The stock, rather two-dimensional characters work in this book, since the storytelling approach is basically one of folklore. We don’t need to know much more about these characters than we see on the surface, and that’s fine.
Each chapter is a different month in the year, and they sort of feel like connected short stories. By the last half of the year, the reader starts to know what’s going on, and the “short stories” become even more connected.
Fans of an underdog hero will enjoy who ends up battling the werewolf plaguing the town, as will those who enjoy seeing the trope of a trusted citizen being someone who should not be trusted. (That’s as much as I can say without being too spoilery).
This all sounds rather positive, so why did I feel ho-hum about it? The tension building didn’t work for me. Nothing that happened really scared me. The character in the wheelchair feels like a less bad-ass version of Susannah, and what I would want would be Susannah. This is perhaps unfair of me to say, since Susannah came about further down the line, but I do think it points to how King’s writing improved with time (as does everyone’s). I also just found the villain to be rather expected and cliche, although I’m sure it wasn’t when the book first came out. In general, this book just doesn’t feel like it aged particularly well, especially when compared to other older King books.
Overall, if a reader is looking for a quick, beautifully illustrated folklore style retelling of a werewolf story, they will enjoy this book. Those looking for high levels of tension or gore or in-depth character development will want to give it a pass.
3 out of 5 stars
Source: Brookline Booksmith, used books basement
The month of June in the United States is Pride Month, celebrating LGBTQ people, culture, and history. In Boston, the culmination of Pride is this weekend, with the Pride Parade and block parties. I wanted to contribute to my local celebration with a little something on my own blog–obviously a reading list! There are a lot of good reading lists out there for LGBTQ reads, so I wanted to do something a little different. First, I wanted to feature one of the letters not featured very much — the B for bisexual. Second, I wanted to to highlight both that bisexual people are everywhere and the issue of bi invisibility (more info on that term and issue here) by featuring books that have bisexual characters but that don’t mention that in their blurbs. You’d be amazed how hard it can be to just find books with bisexual characters. It’s usually downplayed or not named. So, here is my list, in alphabetical order, with a mention as to which character is bi and whether the book ever actually uses the term “bisexual.”
- Bad Glass
by Richard E. Gropp
Genre: Fantasy, Horror, Lovecraftian
Something strange is happening in Spokane, and the US military has taken control of the city, closing it and its happenings to the press. Dean sees this as the perfect opportunity to break into photography before he graduates from college and is forced into giving up on his artistic dreams to work a regular 9 to 5 job. So he sneaks into Spokane, where he meets an intriguing young woman and her rag-tag household of survivors, and quickly starts to see the inexplicable things that are going on inside the city.
Who’s bi? Dean, the main character, is bi. He at first appears to be straight but later it is revealed he also sometimes is interested in men.
My Full Review
- The Drowning Girl
by Caitlin R. Kiernan
Genre: Fantasy, Psychological
India Morgan Phelps, Imp to her friends, is sure that there were two different Eva Canning who came into her life and changed her world. And one of them was a mermaid (or perhaps a siren?) and the other was a werewolf. But Imp’s ex-girlfriend, Abalyn, insists that no, there was only ever one Eva Canning, and she definitely wasn’t a mermaid or a werewolf. Dr. Ogilvy wants Imp to figure out for herself what actually happened. But that’s awfully hard when you have schizophrenia.
Who’s bi? Eva Canning (both iterations of her). Also, Abalyn, a transwoman who is also Imp’s girlfriend at one point. She states that she likes both men and women but currently prefers women because men in her experience tend to negatively react to her now that she has had bottom surgery.
My Full Review
- Doctor Sleep
by Stephen King
Genre: Fantasy, Thriller
Danny Torrance didn’t die in the Overlook Hotel but what happened there haunts him to this day. Not as much as the shining does though. His special mental powers that allow him to see the supernatural and read thoughts lead to him seeing some pretty nasty things, even after escaping the Overlook. He soon turns to drinking to escape the terror. But drinking solves nothing and just makes things worse. When he sees his childhood imaginary friend, Tony, in a small New Hampshire town, he turns to AA to try to turn his life around and learn to live with the shining.Abra is a middle school girl nearby in New Hampshire with a powerful shine. She sees the murder of a little boy by a band of folks calling themselves the True Knot. They travel in campers and mobile homes, seeking out those who have the shine to kill them for it and inhale it. They call it steam. They’re not human. And they’re coming after Abra. Abra calls out to the only person she knows with a shine too, the man she’s talked to before by writing on his blackboard. Dan.
Who’s bi? Rose, the main antagonist. What makes her the antagonist or the “big bad” has absolutely nothing to do with her sexuality. She’s just an antagonist who happens to be bi.
My Full Review
- Love in the Time of Global Warming
by Francesca Lia Block
Genre: Fantasy, YA
Her life by the sea in ruins, Pen has lost everything in the Earth Shaker that all but destroyed the city of Los Angeles. She sets out into the wasteland to search for her family, her journey guided by a tattered copy of Homer’s Odyssey. Soon she begins to realize her own abilities and strength as she faces false promises of safety, the cloned giants who feast on humans, and a madman who wishes her dead. On her voyage, Pen learns to tell stories that reflect her strange visions, while she and her fellow survivors navigate the dangers that lie in wait.
Who’s bi? Pen, the main character. She has a crush on one of her best female friends in the time before the disaster, and then later falls for a transman. There is one particularly beautiful scene where she talks about being afraid of telling her friends that she likes girls the way she likes boys.
My Full Review not yet posted
- The Miriam Black Series
by Chuck Wendig
Genre: Fantasy/Urban Fantasy
Miriam Black is an early 20-something drifter with bleach blonde hair and a surprising ability to hold her own in a fight. She also knows when and precisely how you’re going to die. Only if you touch her skin-on-skin though. And it’s because of this skill that Miriam became a drifter. You try dealing with seeing that every time you touch someone. But when a kind trucker gives her a lift and in her vision of his death she hears him speak her name, her entire crazy life takes an even crazier turn.
Who’s bi? Miriam, the kick-ass main character. Miriam uses no labels for herself whatsoever (she would probably hate even being called a brunette, to a certain extent), so she also refuses to label her sexuality. However, she also states she enjoys being with all genders. It’s interesting to note that the first time Miriam’s sexuality comes up is not until the third book in the series, and only because she (minor spoiler warning) breaks up with her boyfriend. A great example of how bisexual people’s sexuality can be erased when they’re in a monogamous relationship.
My Full Review of the first book in the series
Note: This short story, which is humorous horror, was originally published in 2011 in the online horror magazine 69 Flavors of Paranoia (volume 3, menu 13). I recently discovered that 69 Flavors of Paranoia is now defunct. Their website and Facebook page are completely gone. An investigation of their twitter finds that they did not delete their twitter but they have not tweeted since evidently announcing on January 13, 2015, that they are now out of commission (view the tweet here). They did not give advance notice to any of the authors who had been published so that we could archive our stories from their zine, nor did they create an archive themselves. They, in fact, completely deleted their entire website; they did not even move it to a free host. It appears that the Internet Archive primarily archived their issue table of contents and not the stories themselves. You can view the table of contents for the issue that contained my story here. Since I never gave up my copyright nor can the story be read in their publication anymore, I have decided to re-publish it here myself. I don’t feel the need to resubmit it to other magazines right now, as I have other projects I am working on. I do hope you all enjoy it. You can view links to the rest of my publications on my Publications page.
“The Tale of Leroy of the Backwoods of Vermont”
Leroy never saw no need to leave these here backwoods of Vermont, kinda like m’self. His mama birthed him here when she was only fifteen years old in the family log cabin right up on this here hill. Her mama done whupped her good when she found out she had a bun in the oven, but her daddy put a stop to it. Every babe is a gift from God. Ayuh. That’s what he’d said. So he was birthed, and his mama done named him Leroy.
Leroy’s folks; they didn’t trust the gubmint none. No sir. The gubmint’s the one that’s been slowly takin Vermont from the good, rignal born, old-timers and handin it over hook line and sinkah to them dammed librals. Leroy’s pappy–he alwuz insisted he married Leroy’s mama on purpose, but Leroy alwuz suspected that it was more of a shot gun affair–anyhow. He alwuz tole Leroy, “Boy! Don’t you take nothin from nobody. We’s bettah than that. We’s take care of ourselves n our own. Don’t you be like them dammed useless welfare folk.”
So his mama done taught him right there at home while his pappy went to work in the mill down the road n Gram cooked n kep house. Sometimes, Grandpappy’d take him out n teach him all’s’bout huntin and fishin and survivin without the food you kin get in a grocery store. Ayuh. Course, ventually, the gubmint done made him go to school, but it was only down at the gubmint school close by, and well Leroy, he warn’t never near the top of his class, if you know what I’m sayin.
I was friends with good ole Leroy back in the day. Ayuh. You might say that. I’d scaped from that gubmint school soon’s they let you. Been out a few years. Leroy, he was gettin close to it. Anyway, Leroy’s folks n mine, they was all on us to do our share fer the families. I’d done took to collectin fiddleheads n beer cans an sech on the side of the road when I warn’t workin in the mill with the rest of the fellers. That sorta thing’s alwuz more fun with a buddy along, so I done asked Leroy to join me on one sech excursion on a…..well durn. It musta been a Sat’day afternoon, cuz I don’t recollect havin gone to church in the mornin.
So, we was out on one of them thar back roads. Y’know, the ones that alwuz have big ole ruts in em n sometimes a farmer or a backwoodsman’ll come puttin along in his ole truck with the sharp edges, nothin like them new trucks with them pussy-ass rounded edges. An the forest, well it just come right on up near the side of the road with just them thar drainage ditches betwixt the two. Makes fer more interestin collectin that way. Sometimes you see a critter or some sech. Well, it was late spring-like. I recollect that, cuz I was collectin me some fiddleheads. They make a durn good supper if you cook em up right good with a big ole dollop of butter, y’know.
Anyway, so I was toolin my way along in one of them drainage ditches that run along the side of them old-fashioned dirt roads. It was real muddy-like. Course I didn’t care cuz you gotta wursh the fiddleheads anyway, an I had me some real good boots. Leroy, he was pokin his way along on the other side of the road. He done got a bit further down than me when he call out to me. “Hey, Bobby!” He done shout it just like that. “Hey, Bobby!”
“Yeah, what?” I done called back to him.
“Lookee here. Lookit what I found.”
I sighed n looked up expectin a whole bunch of nothin. Leroy, he warn’t exactly strong in the head department, if you know what I’m sayin. Well, thar stood Leroy. He was a scrawny kid, Leroy was. Ayuh. Scrawny n tall topped off with a shock of red hair, but not the tempmint to match. Anyhow, thar stood Leroy holdin up a squirrel by the tail. This squirrel, he wuz the deadest durn thing you ever done saw. I mean his middle was squirshed flat. His head and hind end looked like two hills with a valley in-between, an little bits of guts all full of road dirt was stuck to the poor thing’s middle. I done shook my head, cuz, y’know, guts ain’t never a fun thing to see, an I said, “Leroy! Whatchoo doin pickin up the road kill?”
“Road kill?” He let out a he-haw kinda laugh an bent forward. “This ain’t no road kill. This here’s supper!”
“Leroy, you damn fool!” I went back to my bizness, searchin fer the good fiddleheads. “T’ain’t right to eat roadkill. Them critters done suffered enough gettin squirshed to death without you hackin em up and makin one of yer god-awful stews out of em. Sides. Poor critter’s covered in dirt!”
“Bobby, you know better than to waste perfectly good food that you don’t got to pay good money fer.”
I done fixed my gaze back up at him. He was standin there with his feet planted a good couple feet apart lookin the most stubborn I ever done seen him. “I don’t believe you will. Even you ain’t that stupid.”
“It ain’t stupid to eat food God done left in the middle of the road fer ya,” his forehead had got all wrinkled and sech.
I dropped the fiddlehead I’d done plucked into my paper bag. “Aw, now you’re just joshin me. You know better than to eat it now. I can see you thinkin about it.”
Leroy done stomped over from down the road so’s he was leanin down an lookin in my face real close-like. “I’ll go eat it right now, an you kin watch me.”
Well, it ain’t easy to get good entertainment up in these here hills, so I said I’d come watch. Leroy figured he’d just tell his mama he done got hungry and et early. My place was the closest to whar we were, y’see. Ayuh. This place rightchere. He done cooked it up right thar on that same stove. My mama was out in the garden, an my pappy was over visitin his pappy. I called out to my mama that we was hungry and was gonna fix us up some of the food we done found on the road. She just sorta grunted at me. Mama warn’t never much on words. I got myself around and warshed and done cooked my fiddleheads up in that butter like I done tole you before right good while Leroy, he went out back to skin and prep that durn squirrel. He come back in, an he started fricasseein it with some gravy mah mama had left over in the fridge whilst I set myself down and ate me some of them nice buttery fiddleheads.
You warnt to learn how to cook it? I can teach you later. Right, right, first Leroy.
So Leroy he done make himself this fricassee. I was gettin all ready to be mad at him for wastin my mama’s gravy when he done set himself down with a bowl and a spoon, and he just started spoonin that squirrel into his mouth like it was the best dish at the church potluck. The whole time he was starin at me with this…..weird grin. Like he was some coyote who knew the farmer left the chicken coop open, n he was about to get himself an easy all you can eat buffet. I got all froze like watchin that smile in that gaunt face of his. Watchin him eat that thar fricassee.
His spoon, it clanked at the bottom of the bowl, an he done lifted the bowl up and licked it clean. He put that bowl down, n he said, he said, “See? I done tole you. Ain’t nothin wrong with eatin a critter, no sir no way.”
I shook my head. “I still say. T’ain’t right,” an I got up and started to warsh the dishes when Leroy, he made this funny sound. Kinda like he got himself stuck in a zipper. I turned around, n thar’s Leroy, standin next to the table, holdin his bowl with a funny look on his face. I mean, his face was all twisted up. One eyebrow up here, another down there, his mouth in a weird twisty line, his nose wrinkled up.
“Leroy!” I snapped. “What’s wrong with you? If you gonna puke up that damn fricassee, you better get out the back door and out of my mama’s kitchen!”
An that. That’s when he sorta half-pointed at his stomach. It was wigglin. All on its own. Kinda like how a lady with a bun in the oven, her tummy will wiggle when the babe moves around? Well that’s what his was doin, only his belly was flat.
Then Leroy, he done scream and double over. He started screamin out, “Help me! Help me, Bobby! Oh it hurts; it hurts!”
I dropped the dishrag, right there on the floor, right next to the sink. I done grabbed him an tried to help him stand up. “I gotcher,” I told him. “I gotcher.”
His eyes, they got all wide like a little kid’s do when he done first see a scary movie. I dunno why, but I looked down. Inside his stomach, thar was a shape of a squirrel. I mean you could see the outline of his head all’s the way down to his fluffy little tail. Seein that, well, I done lost my grip on Leroy, and he fell down on the floor, writhin in pain. He looked just like a snake. Ayuh. He let out the biggest durn yell I ever heard. I think the only time I ever heard one close was that time Frank down the road done got his foot stuck in a bear trap. My mama, she must’ve started to yell an come runnin then, but I didn’t notice. No way, no how. Cuz right then a squirrel covered with blood an mucous an bile an whatever all else was in Leroy’s stomach done come bustin out of his gut. Bits o’ Leroy hung from his teeth, an his beady black eyes done give me the once-over. I ain’t never seen nothin so frightenin in all my born days then nor since. No way. That squirrel, well then that squirrel, it shot me a look. That look said, it said, “Tit for tat. Tit for tat.” Then it skedaddled on out the door.
Leroy, he was writhin on the floor, graspin at that hole in his stomach with one hand an reachin out to me with the other. Well, I didn’t know what to do. Just then, my mama, she come runnin in an see the blood an guts all over her nice, clean floor. Then she sees Leroy with his guts pourin out of him, n she starts screamin. “What done this? What happened, Bobby? Tell me what happened!”
“It was a squirrel, mama. A squirrel et its way out of him!”
Leroy, he was slowin down with the movin an the writhin, n he let out a gasp n collapsed back on the floor. His eyes hangin open.
My mama. She believed me that a squirrel done it, but we knew them thar cops from down the hill wouldn’t, so we just tole them that Leroy done gutted himself like them Japanese soldier fellers do sometimes. I dunno if they believed us or not. Truth be tole, no one from down off the hill missed Leroy that much.
But us? Us good ole-fashioned Vermont folk up on the hill? Oh we remember Leroy. Ayuh. And that, that’s why not even the mangiest, strangest lady or feller up on this hill, no matter how hungry, no matter how skeered of the gubmint, they won’t never eat no roadkill.
© Amanda McNeil 2011
Here on Opinions of a Wolf, I open up to submissions of review copies in November and December. I predetermine a number I will accept to be reviewed the following year. You can view more about my review process here. You may view the accepted review copies post for 2014 by clicking on the year. For 2015, I decided to accept 6 books.
This year, 37 review requests were submitted. This means I only accepted 16% of the submitted books. Put another way, each book only had a 16% chance of being accepted.
Authors submitting to me were 59% male, 38% female, and 3% preferred not to say. Last year only 26% of the submitting authors were female. I am pleased at the increase for two reasons. I’m a female author myself and like to support other female authors, but also the world is approximately half female, and I’d like for my submissions to reflect that.
14% of authors submitting self-identified as GLBTQA! I am really pleased at this, as I actively sought out authors identifying this way. However, 19% of the books were identified as having significant GLBTQA content. This means that more than just GLBTQA people are featuring GLBTQA characters, and that makes me really happy.
The above graph depicts the genres submitted to me. I only accept the genres listed in the graph. You can easily see that scifi was by far the most submitted genre, with 35% of the books. This is followed by thriller and horror with 24% and 16%, respectively. Nonfiction was clearly the least submitted, with only 6% of the books being any type of nonfiction at all. Next year, I would like to see more variety in my submissions as far as genres go. More cozies, paranormal or western romance, and nonfiction.
When I was doing my initial pass through of the books submitted to me, I created a document of blinded book summaries. This means I only saw the summaries of the books, no other data, not even the title. They were also randomized so I had no idea which were submitted when. Using this technique, I eliminated half of the books. In the final pass through, things like gender of the author, genre, and GLTBQA content were taken into consideration to give me a more diverse reading list for the year. I also took into consideration whether or not the author was willing to participate in a giveaway, as well as the format of the book being offered, particularly when doing a tie-breaker. For instance, all other things equal, if one book was willing for me to host a giveaway and another wasn’t, the one with the giveaway won.
I provide these stats for two reasons. First to give everyone an idea of the competition the accepted books were up against. It’s an accomplishment to be accepted for review here! Second, I want those considering submitting to me this November and December to look at these stats and take them into consideration when submitting. Consider the fact that I don’t want to read only scifi all year. If you have a nonfiction or a cozy waiting to be reviewed, it has a higher chance of being accepted. But enough stats! It’s time to get to the accepted review copies!
The review copies are listed below in alphabetical order by title. The authors of the accepted review copies are half female and half male. One of the authors identifies as GLBTQA, and one of the books has GLBTQA content. Summaries are pulled from GoodReads or Amazon, since I have yet to read them myself and so cannot write my own. These books will be read and reviewed here in 2015, although what order they are read in is entirely up to my whim at the moment.
The Everlasting: Da Eb’Bulastin
By: Rasheedah Prioleau
After another incident of sleepwalking, Aiyana Gamelle wakes up lying under the stars on the Beach of Sa’Fyre Island, an island off the cost of South Carolina with a rich Gullah and Native American history.
Knowing these incidents of sleepwalking have something to do with her long awaited transition into queen of the island, Aiyana shrugs them off as little more than a nuisance to be expected since her lineage leads to a mysterious African goddess.
Aiyana moves forward with plans to host a week long festival that will end with her succession to the island throne, but the murder of an important guest and the passing of her grandmother threaten to bring the festivities to a screeching halt. Then Aiyana learns that the transition involves an unwanted possession and the revelation of a dark family curse.
Mark of the Harbinger: Fall of Eden
By: Chris R. McCarthy
Stranded from Earth for five-thousand-years with no hope of rescue, a deep space colonization ship named Eden becomes the new home for humanity. Half its population lives a life of luxury, while the other live in destitution. When a man wakes aboard the ship without memories, he must uncover the clues of not only his identity but his origin.
With the help of a female rebel he becomes embroiled in the plot to overthrow an oppressive regime, and forced to decide if doing so could cause the extinction of the human race.
The Mediator Pattern
By: J.D. Lee
Some people wait an entire lifetime for purpose. Some don’t find it at all. Some spend an eternity searching for paradise… for a Utopia. But sometimes purpose and paradise come at a cost.
BelisCo-San Jose boasts all the latest breakthrough technology: the fax machine, the electric typewriter, the tri-ox system transport vehicle and the newest technological breakthrough, the porta-fax. With innovations galore, BelisCo-San Jose is a modern-day Utopia—perfectly designed, complete with adult-only zones, smoking and non-smoking zones, cannabis, cigarettes, food, work, income, and reliable, clean transportation—all provided by BelisCo.
But things are not entirely as they seem in San Jose. It is here that jaded, chain-smoking Marcus Metiline’s world is turned upside down. After taking a mediation job with the ubiquitous BelisCo and meeting a peculiar doctor beyond the city’s zoned limits, Marcus’s world quickly unravels. It all starts with flashes of déjà vu and memories that have gone astray. As Marcus searches for answers to the increasingly strange events around him, it’s not long before he discovers that the fate of the world rests in him.
He’s been told exactly what he needs to do… But is something bigger moving him along?
Porcelain: A Novelette
By: William Hage
Out near the Pine Barrens in New Jersey sits the Whateley Bed & Breakfast, home of a wide collection of knick-knacks and antiques for its guests to view, including a beautifully ornate porcelain doll. However, after the Whateley’s latest guest purchases the doll as a gift, a horrifying series of nightmarish events begins to unfold.
By: D.S. Kenn
Genre: Paranormal Romance
Terric Blythe is a hybrid demon and wolf shifter whose life has largely been spent in anonymous cities, moving among people while keeping them at arm’s length. The list of those who matter to him is short, but when he cares, he does completely. He has allowed himself to love the one person who truly knows him.
Jordyn Kinsley is an achingly beautiful vampire, haunted by her past. Choices and chance brought her into a world filled with evil, tragedy, and loss. At her lowest point, she encountered Terric. She learned to trust him, her demon with the heart of a wolf.
Their anonymous life in New York made it easy for Jordyn to isolate herself. Realizing she needed a change, Terric found their new home in Provincetown, Massachusetts. The tip of Cape Cod, where paranormal beings live easily among humans, is filled with closely guarded secrets. As Jordyn begins to heal and discover her strength, it’s clear she will one day be ready to stand on her own. The wolf must decide if he will return to existing in solitude or if he will follow her lead and explore what life has to offer.
Set Adrift is a story of love and loss, of deeply abiding friendship, and of sacrifice. The Immortal Isle series will grab ahold of your heart and have you falling in love with the inhabitants of this small coastal town.
By: A.R. Meyering
Sarah Wilkes is desperate enough to do anything, even make a deal with the devil—or in her case, a familiar spirit.
After her twin Lea is murdered, Sarah finds college life impossible and longs to escape. Everything changes when Sarah realizes a familiar spirit is stalking her and offers to transport her to the terrifying and fantastical realm of Unreal City. The payment for admission? A taste of her blood. Unable to resist, Sarah is drawn into an alternate reality that is a dream come true…at first.
The deeper she explores Unreal City, the more Sarah’s reality becomes warped. Death surrounds her as people are murdered in the same fashion as her sister. She has no choice but to continue her visits to Unreal City, which grows darker by the day.
Is finding out the truth worth becoming part of Unreal City forever?
Dr. Montague is a scholar of the occult, and he invites three other people to stay with him in Hill House, which is notorious for being haunted. There’s jovial Theodora, timid Eleanor, and the future heir of the house, Luke. What starts as a light-hearted adventure quickly turns sinister in this horror classic.
I actually started reading this audiobook way back in September for the Readers Imbibing Peril challenge. It’s only 7.5 hours long, so I thought it’d be a quick read. I think the fact that it wasn’t demonstrates quite well how not drawn into the story I was. This is a classic haunted house tale that perhaps might not work for the modern reader, depending on how much horror they generally imbibe.
This is going to be a quick review because I honestly don’t have too much to say about the book. Four people arrive at a house. Things appear normal, except one of them, Eleanor, clearly is a bit more emotionally unstable than the rest. She is, for instance, shocked that anyone is interested in her or asks her questions. She also has trouble with her own identity, such as knowing for sure what she likes to eat. Odd things start to happen in the house, and because Eleanor is odd, the others aren’t sure if it’s the house doing them or Eleanor herself. Eleanor becomes overly attached to Theodora. Drama ensues.
None of the house horror scenes really got to me, because frankly I’ve seen worse in plenty of other horror I read. I do love the genre. The parts that actually disturbed me were when the others in the household were inexplicably cruel to Eleanor. That dynamic of an odd woman randomly tossed in with strangers who proceed to be mean to her in a highschoolish way held my interest more than the house did. People and their cruelty are so much more frightening than a haunted house. I understand that the book is sort of leaving it up to the reader to wonder if the house or the people really drive Eleanor crazy, but frankly I think the ending removes all question on this point.
Similarly, there are definitely some undertones in the Theodora/Eleanor relationship that indicates they might possibly have had a fling early on and then Theodora abruptly distances herself from Eleanor when she gets too clingy. None of this is said outright, however it is heavily implied that Theodora’s roommate back home is her lover who she had a quarrel with, and she and Eleanor establish a close bond early on in the book. The problem is this all stays subtext and is never brought out in the open of the book. I get it that this book was published in 1959 so it probably had to stay subtext and was most likely shocking to a reader in the 50s. But to me, a modern reader, it felt like the book kept almost getting interesting and then backing off from it. The combination of the former issue and this one meant that I was left feeling unengaged and uninterested. Basically, I feel that the book didn’t go quite far enough to be shocking, horrifying, or titillating.
The audiobook narration by Bernadette Dunne was excellent as always, and the main reason I kept listening rather than just picking up a copy of the book and speed reading it. I love listening to her voice.
Overall, this classic was boundary pushing when it was first published but it might not come across that way to a modern reader. Readers who read a lot of modern horror might find this book a bit too tame for their tastes. Those interested in the early works of the genre will still enjoy the read, as will modern readers looking for horror lite. Readers looking for the rumored GLBTQ content in this book will most likely be disappointed by the subtlety of it, although those interested in early representation in literature will still find it interesting.
3 out of 5 stars
It’s time for the second gift list here at Opinions of a Wolf (see the first, 10 Non-book Gifts for Book Lovers here). I thought with Hanukkah next week and some holiday parties already happening that it would be interesting to provide a list of cheap ebooks. Ebooks make great last-minute gifts, as you can purchase them literally on your phone on the way to the party and have them arrive in your recipient’s email with them none the wiser that you waited until the last minute. Since you can schedule when the gift email arrives, no one needs to know that you scheduled it only 5 minutes ago. Ebooks are also great because you can find them for very cheap but a reader who loves ebooks doesn’t care how much the ebook cost. A book is a book is a book! I’m not just going to tell you a list of cheap ebooks though. I’m also going to give you a little reader’s advisory–tell you who the book would be best for. Without further ado, here is the list, in order of cost from least to most.
For the lover of YA who enjoys a touch of fantasy:
Initiate by Tara Maya
Dindi is about to undergo her people’s initiation test and ceremony that not only welcomes her to adulthood but also will determine whether or not she is a member of the Tavaedi. The Tavaedi are a mix of religious leader, healer, and warrior who cast magic spells by dancing. Since Dindi can see the pixies and other fae, she thinks she has a chance. But no one in her clan has ever successfully become a Tavaedi. Meanwhile, an exiled warrior, Kavio, is attempting to shed his old life and the haunting of his father’s wars and his mother’s powers. But he slowly discovers a deadly plot that brings him directly to Dindi’s initiation ceremony.
This is a unique piece of YA fantasy set in a tribal world inspired by Polynesia. The romance is light and slow-building, and the focus is primarily on growing up and becoming an adult. See my full review here.
For the urban fantasy reader without a lot of time:
Cursed by S. A. Archer
London works for hire doing investigations mostly for parahumans, and her best friend is a vampire who keeps hoping she’ll consent to being turned. Her life isn’t run-of-the-mill, but it isn’t too bad either, until one day she gets Touched by a Sidhe and finds herself sucked into the Fey world bubbling just beneath the surface of the regular one.
This fast-paced novella is perfect for the reader without a lot of time who still wants to get some urban fantasy into their day. See my full review here.
For the lover of the style of classic scifi:
The Coin by Glen Cadigan
When Richard’s physicist professor uncle dies tragically in a plane crash and leaves him his coin collection, he is shocked to find a brand-new dime from 2012. The only thing is, it’s 1989. A note from his uncle states that the coin is important. Richard thinks the answer to the mystery might be in his uncle’s personal diaries he also left him, but he’s not a physicist and can’t decipher them. As the year 2012 approaches, Richard increasingly wonders what the coin is all about.
This novella is a fun new take on the storytelling methods of classic scifi. The science is strong enough to be interesting but not too challenging, and the result of the mystery is surprising. See my full review here.
For zombie fans who enjoy a touch of romance:
Hungry For You by A. M. Harte
A collection of zombie-themed short stories and poetry with the twist that they all have to do with romantic relationships in some way, shape, or form.
This short story collection is different and fun simultaneously. It will appeal to zombie pans, particularly women. See my full review here.
For the reader of lesbian romance who loves fairy tale retellings:
Braided: A Lesbian Rapunzel by Elora Bishop
A lesbian retelling of Rapunzel. Gray, a witch’s daughter, visits Zelda every day. The witch switched Gray’s fate into Zelda, so now Zelda is the one entwined with the spirit of the tree that the people worship. She must live on the platform and every day lower her hair for people to tie ribbons and prayers into. Gray feels horrible guilt over their switched fates, but she’s also falling in love with Zelda.
this is a fun retelling of Rapunzel, particularly if you’re looking for a non-heteronormative slant or enjoy a more magical feel. Note that this is part of a series entitled Sappho’s Fables, which consists of lesbian retellings of fairy tales. The novellas may be mixed and matched. See my full review here.
For the reader of women’s fiction with an interest in Scotland:
Emotional Geology by Linda Gillard
Rose is a textile artist with bipolar disorder who for years found her medication dulled her ability to work. After a stunning betrayal that landed her in a mental hospital, she has moved to a quiet, extraordinarily rural island in Scotland in an attempt to control her illness with as little medication as possible so she may still create her art. Her life isn’t quite as quiet as she imagined it would be, though, with a warm neighbor, Shona, who introduces her to her brother, a teacher and poet.
This is an emotional, challenging, touching read for fans of contemporary fiction with a heart. See my full review here.
For the horror fan:
Gargoyles by Alan Nayes
Amoreena is determined to be a doctor and help people. She’s a hard-working, scholarship student on the pre-med track in her third year of college. Unfortunately, her single mother just got diagnosed with metastatic cancer and lost her health insurance. With no time for a job and no money for the bills, Amoreena is grateful when she is approached by a surrogacy clinic to be a surrogate for $50,000 with payments upon successful insemination and each trimester. But after she’s successfully inseminated, Amoreena becomes increasingly concerned that something is not quite right with her baby.
If your horror fan loves Rosemary’s Baby and is particularly freaked out by evil pregnancies, they will love this book. See my full review here.
For the lover of noir and urban fantasy:
One Death at a Time by Thomas M. Hewlett
Jack Strayhorn is a private eye and a member of Alcoholic’s Anonymous. Only, he’s not an alcoholic, he’s one of the vampires who meet in a secret vampire group that exists under the umbrella of AA to learn how to control their urges and feed on humans without killing them. He’s just returned to LA, his death site that he hasn’t been back to since he had to run in 1948 after becoming a vampire. When his current missing person case shows up dead next to a Fae politician, Jack gets dragged into a mixed-up underworld of Faes, werewolves, drugs, and a group of vampires determined to rule the world.
This is a delightful mix of urban fantasy and noir and is a strong first entry for a new series. See my full review here.
For the reader of thrillers and fans of Gone Girl:
I’ll Sleep When You’re Dead by E. A. Aymar
Tom Starks has not been the same since his wife, Renee, was brutally murdered with a baseball bat in a parking lot. He’s been struggling for the last three years to raise her daughter, who he adopted when he married Renee. When Renee’s killer is released after a retrial finds insufficient evidence to hold him, Tom becomes obsessed with dealing out justice himself.
This is a unique thriller, with its choice to cast the opposite of a bad-ass in the role of the main character. This grounds the typical revenge plot into reality, lends itself to more interesting, unique plot twists, and has the interesting aspect of a flawed, nearly anti-hero main character that the reader still roots for. See my full review here.
For readers of multi-generational family dramas and GLBTQ lit:
The Value Of Rain by Brandon Shire
Charles hasn’t been home since his mother and uncle sent him away to an insane asylum at the age of fourteen after he was found in the embrace of his first love–Robert. Now, ten years later, his mother, Charlotte, is dying, and he comes back to take his revenge.
This is one of those genre-defying books. Shire explores the devastating effects of prejudice, hate, secrets, and lies throughout family generations, and that is something that is simultaneously universal and tragic. See my full review here.
I hope this list helps you find a read for yourself or a gift for another. Feel free to ask questions about any of these books or ask for recommendations for books for particular recipients in the comments!