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review 2018-09-18 02:52
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.

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review 2018-09-16 20:57
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.

 

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review 2018-09-16 20:46
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.

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review 2018-09-16 18:32
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.

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review 2018-09-15 23:20
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.

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