Well, 9 books for the month isn't bad. I accepted a week ago that I just haven't been able to read fast enough to expect to finish any more, even though I have several still in progress. Maybe saving my longer books for the second month of Bingo wasn't the best strategy. Oh well, it's been enjoyable anyway.
Of the above list, I would happily recommend any of the first 4 (yes, even the zombie book). The others were mostly decent reads. The only disappointment was The Amulet Thief. I had high hopes for that one but found it boring.
So not a bad month over all. I haven't managed Bingo blackout. I will finish my Bingo books in progress. There are 6 of them and 3 of those are Netgalley reads. I also have 6 more Netgalley books not yet started. Guess what I'll be doing for November!
Only one of my Bingo books never got started, the Mary Shelley. From what I've heard it's a bit slow, but I want to read it anyway. Whether I do it soon or save it for next year is yet to be seen. My priority for the moment is shifting to Netgalley commitments.
I also want to have a blitz of my samples. I may not get to it in November with so many Netgalley books but I'd like to just take some time to sit and read them, keeping in mind that many never take more than a couple of pages to reject. Whether I do any holiday reads this year may depend on how far I get with both samples and Netgalley. I'd like to start the new year with a clear samples folder, though I find it easy to slip in short books. I'll let my mood take me where it will.
Bingo has been fun. I expect to get one more from tomorrow's call, but that's it for me. Next year I'll make sure I don't lumber myself with any bricks!
by James Herbert
James Herbert can always be relied on to present an interesting story and this is one of his best. A couple looking for a house of their own are drawn to a remote cottage called Gramarye ("magic'' in old English) in the New Forest. It's a little over their price range but in need of serious repairs, leaving room for a little negotiation. Midge, the wife, is adamant that she must have this cottage and suddenly the money to make the difference appears in a rational way. She is an illustrator of children's books and the husband, Mike, is a session musician. Jobs arise in their usual haphazard fashion. The one unusual aspect of the transaction is that the previous owner had some odd criteria for whom the cottage could be sold to detailed in her will.
Mike is a city boy, but Midge grew up in the country so she adapts to the lifestyle change fastest. Mike takes a little longer to warm to remote life, especially when unexplainable things start to happen.
Things get a little weird from the start and progress as the story goes on. To explain further would require too many spoilers, but I can say that someone else wants the cottage for their own purposes. Discovering the nature of those purposes is an important part of the plot.
My favorite character was a little squirrel named Rumbo. I have no objection to most of the human characters, but this little guy was a heart stealer. All I'll say about the ending is that there was plenty of action and drama, though the magic aspect deviated into the sensational. It made for a very entertaining read all the way through.
The Magic Cottage by James Herbert
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Top Read 2017 * * * * *
Tired of the hustle and bustle of the city of London, young couple Mike and Midge are determined to find a home that offers them a brighter - and quieter - future. Much to their delight, that perfect home comes in the form of Gramarye; a breathtaking, isolated cottage that appears too good to be true. Eager to move right in and settle down, they soon experience the enchanting wonders Gramarye has to offer, along with the sinister ugliness that lurks just beneath its surface.
(WARNING: this review contains spoilers.)
I genuinely didn't expect to discover such a hidden gem when I selected a book at random from my shelf. Having never picked up a Herbert novel before, I was soon stunned by the sheer beauty of the story, which included the subtle, yet increasingly unnerving horror element that primarily lingered in the background. I could be considered a nick-picky reader, or downright pessimistic; someone who doesn't dish out top ratings all too often because even the tiniest things can impact my enjoyment, so it's a surprise and a special occasion when I find something that ticks all the right boxes. And tick all the boxes it did, and then some. This one will stay with me for several reasons, the foremost being quite personal. I know very well the longing for the perfect home - somewhere that brings happiness and contentment. Gramarye in itself sounded like my dream cottage; it simply fascinated me with its extraordinarily close ties to nature, and the magic that enveloped its walls.
I quickly became attached to Mike and Midge, and rooted for their relationship throughout the entirety of the book. Both had their flaws; Mike could be selfish, whilst Midge infuriatingly stubborn, but I found them to be more relatable due to these faults. When they were on the verge of separation, I actually felt something; a sort of dread that perhaps a happy ending wasn't in store. That's the thing about this genre; happily-ever-afters aren't a certainty, there's just so much potential, and I couldn't stop my mind from racing. Of course, there were the side characters, and each and every one had their part to play. Val, in particular stood out, especially when she displayed such bravery and loyalty to her friends in the end.
The plot itself wasn't non-stop scares or gore, but rather a slow progression of laying down the foundations, and setting the tone, before the explosive finale. I can't say this way of storytelling works for everyone, but I found myself completely immersed, and never did I believe it to be stale. Herbert truly struck me as a writer that favoured the development of his characters, and of making the reader truly care for what's happening. I daresay it's so much better than cheap thrills that ultimately mean very little.
I really do need to mention the descriptive writing, and how it truly conveyed what Herbert wanted it to. There's a particular scene that takes place in the loft of Gramarye, involving Mike and a large number of bats. Don't get me wrong, I adore bats and have no fear of them, but I don't think I've ever been as disturbed when reading before - it almost made me feel a bit sick. Such in-depth detail that worked together extremely well, resulting in the magical moments positively feeling magical, and the eerie moments giving a clear sense of unease. This is what writing's really about.
Lastly, I should probably include that I actually cried at a certain point in this book. I'm usually not such an emotional reader, where I shed tears often, but I really loved that squirrel.
I'll never forget Rumbo.
The pink, hunched thing grew in size, frail shape glistening in the light of the torch. The tiny body oozed out, smoothly and wetly, taking form - an unsightly form - discharged from the womb like an oval blob of pink topping squeezed from an icing bag, to plop onto the mother bat's stomach, caught there and suspended by its life-chord. The mother immediately wrapped wings and pouched tail around the newborn, its head striving upwards and tongue flickering out to cleanse the sticky flesh body.
© Red Lace 2017
Thought so. That was creepy, disturbing and strange. I read it as 80s Horror and could have used it for ghosts and haunted houses. This is the story of a man working for a psychic research institute who mostly debunks psychics and haunted house stories finding himself in a house that the occupants claim is haunted. There's a lot of strange stuff happening when he arrives and his usual crutch of alcohol may not work this time. There's no phone and it's the 80s.
Oh man, that was twisted. I'm not sure how some of the events in the plot worked but that was a twisted story that I'm not sure David Ash is going to recover any time soon from. I did get one of the major twists fairly early on, but still I was creeped out by it all.
It did feature 80s treatment of female characters and does linger a bit too much on value based on looks. A product of it's time.