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review 2017-08-07 18:14
Gothic psychological horror, with haunted house and ghosts for art and lovers of antiques.
PAINTED: A Horror Novel - Kirsten McKenzie

Thanks to Rosie Amber (from Rosie’s Book Review Team, check here if you would like to have your book reviewed) and to the author for providing me with an ARC copy of this novel, that I freely chose to review.

When I read the description of Painted I knew I had to read it, as it was a horror novel (and despite how much I like the genre, I don’t seem to read many of them), and it had to do with art. When I read that the author had worked in the antiques family business; that sealed the deal for me.  I had not read any work by this author before (and I understand this is the first time she writes horror) but I am pleased to have discovered her.

I don’t want to give too much of the plot away, but let’s say we have a dead painter who left very specific instructions in his will as to how to deal with the artwork he left behind. Unfortunately, there had been changes at his lawyer’s and his instructions were ignored. And we all know what happens when we ignore warnings, don’t we?

There are authors who are better at building characters than at creating a plot, and there are also authors who excel at describing places and objects but are not so good at providing psychological insights. McKenzie manages to create a great gothic atmosphere (some reviewers have said that the novel is more gothic than pure horror, but both things do not exclude each other), with a fantastically eerie and creepy house, full of even creepier portraits, and a variety of objects, furniture, and even plants that all combine to create a fabulous setting for the novel. In fact, the house becomes another character, one that hides many secrets, and of course, many ghosts.

But the author also creates fully-fledged characters, with their passions, foibles, secrets (some darker than others), and stories. Even when we do not get to share much time with them, we get flashes of their personality (be it because of their fastidiousness about their personal appearance, or because of the way they hang on to mementos from the past, or the way they present a false and harmless persona to the world when they are anything but). She manages to do this by using a variety of techniques, especially by her particular use of point of view. The story is written in the third person, but it shares the points of views of different characters. There is a certain degree of head-hopping, although I did not find it confusing and it is very smoothly done. We do see things from the perspective of all the characters. We mostly follow Anita, the young woman sent by the auctioneer’s to catalogue the paintings, because she is the first one to arrive and she spends the most time at the house, but we even get an insight into the thoughts of the lawyer’s secretary and of the farmer’s dog. And of course, the baddies (although it is not easy to decide who is good and bad in the story). There are also moments when we are told something that none of the characters could know (a great way of creating suspense and forecasting future events), like references to shadows, sounds nobody has heard yet, and things that happen behind character’s back or when they are asleep.

The character easiest to empathise and later sympathise with is Anita. It is clear from the beginning that she is battling with something that happened to her in the past and is bravely trying to get on with her life (despite still experiencing symptoms of PTSD). Her story is terrible in its own right, and it makes her reactions to what happens more justified. Some characters are nasty and difficult to like (like the lawyer), but most of them are given interesting backgrounds and scenes that make them memorable, and some are much more twisted than we realise.

I loved the details of the process of cataloguing the house contents (as I love antiques and TV programmes about antiques. Yes, I could watch The Antiques Roadshow forever and never get bored), the descriptions of the painting process, and the pace of the novel. The atmosphere is created slowly and we follow the characters’ commonsensical approach to the events to begin with and share with them their descent into paranoia and utter horror. The step-by-step reveal, the twists and turns, and the ghosts (it reminded me of The Turn of the Screw by Henry James) are also masterly rendered. And the ending… No, I did not see it coming, and as a fan of unhappy endings in horror books, this manages to satisfy, to surprise and to leave us wondering.

This is psychological horror, with ghosts and haunted house, at its best, and it does not contain gore or extreme violence (there is more menace and imagining than there is anything explicit), so I would recommend it to lovers of the genre, and to those who love atmospheric readings and don’t mind a scare or two. I cannot comment on the author’s previous writing, but she definitely has a talent for this genre, and based on the quality of her writing, I’m sure we’ll hear more from her.

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review 2017-07-12 00:22
Caliban's War - James S.A. Corey 
Caliban's War - James S.A. Corey

Better than the first. It's got most of the same elements, but instead of the noir mystery aspect this one has hardcore politics. And a non-stereotypical female main character who has agency to spare. And another non-stereotypical female main character who has nothing in common with the other one. A diverse cast and while intimate relationships aren't the focus, they are used to good effect to make the characters and the culture well-rounded.

 

I can't hardly wait to read the third one.

 

Library copy

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review 2017-07-05 17:10
Reamde - Neal Stephenson 
Reamde - Neal Stephenson

Gold farming in MMPORG, and game building, veterans and draft-dodgers, a British writer of fantasy with exquisitely hand-crafted languages and cultures and also an American fantasist of the most prolific stripe, Seattle hipsters and Iowan wind farmers, private jets and slow boats from China: everything and everyone has a foil in this book, but since it's over nine hundred pages, an exhaustive catalog would be really long, and far less entertaining. Stephenson manages to take a Clancy-like scenario, give it a Dickensian and international cast, keep up a Dan Brown kind of momentum even as he takes time for National Treasure sort of thinking. Lots of thinking.

 

And also I happened to notice a particular device Stephenson used to good effect: the first time a name is introduced he spells it kind of phonetically, the way the character heard it, but when the character actually appears on stage, as it were, the name is spelled as it is using the Roman alphabet and English transliteration. It's important because there are quite a few people with nonEnglish names and nonRoman writing. In the same way he keeps the plot going without taking the time to explain everything: eventually all becomes clear for a character without a lot of telling. I don't usually notice technical aspects of a novel's construction, but at over 900 pages I had a fair number of opportunities to ponder whilst doing other things which were not reading.

 

So, the upshot: an incredibly entertaining book that one can feel smug about reading. Recommended for ereaders because of the heaviness and awkwardness of holding a bound copy.

 

Library copy 

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review 2017-05-23 18:00
Review: "Death and Destruction" (Death and Destruction, #1) by Patricia Logan
Death and Destruction - Patricia Logan

 

~ 3.5 stars ~

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review 2017-05-19 00:13
The Ghosts We Leave Behind by Al Barrera

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Author: Al Barrera

Title: The Ghosts We Leave Behind

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Some call them killers--hard men from the other side of the planet sent to collect the heads of their enemies and make peace with a gun.

Freedom follows, along with all of its problems. Choice, and a lack of it. A world without the easy answers that come from being in a uniform.

And the space where the two worlds collide. Where a man tries to reconcile the person he’s become with the one he was. A new kind of battlefield, where the ghosts of his past change everything he’s ever known.

 

 

 

 

It breaks my heart to think that little by little every single day there is another person who has forgotten or is forgetting about the war in Iraq. Some forget that its even still going on as we speak, or that there are soldiers - real living beings going over there to fight in it.

I think that's the thing that shocks me most is the fact that I believe a lot of people don't take into account that these are real people who go where they are told to fight those battles. Society doesn't always take into account how young they were, how they were a part of our society one day then thrown into war the next.

Some soldiers were recruited, some volunteered but you can't look at the men and women who fought and say that they asked for what they got. The realities of war and the consequences that follow after experiencing it are something that no one should have to go through.

Sadly for many that have they are left forever changed by it.

You won't always be able to strip their sleeves and see their scars because not all wounds are on the outside but on the inside. Even when their time to return home comes due their fights aren't always over. The battle continues in the echoes of the mind and in the heart, in the memories forever seared into their very souls.

I think its hard for a lot of people to understand that because there are just too many people who would rather turn their heads and pretend the war in Iraq never took place. From your neighbor next door to the people who run this country.

We are a country who have failed its soldiers, failed to do right by them, failed to properly care of those who will be forever changed by what happened to them.

They don't want pity or sympathy, they want normalcy that they'll never be able to reclaim because so much of what they went through didn't even touch the realm of what used to be considered normal.

Its interesting to see the honest inside look and the internal debate from a soldiers perspective the questions of what is justified and what isn't and the questions that always seem to cause an influx of yet more questions even years afterward that aren't so easily answered. 

Worse yet is the fact that the death and dying doesn't end when our soldiers return home. Suicide which is also topic in this book has been at an all time high for veterans who have returned home from Iraq. The thousands who have died by suicide, the dozens who take their own lives every day..

The honest view of what its like to be in your early twenties, to do the things they have, see the things they have and have to come home dealing with the things they have just to fall between the emotional cracks of pride, shame, confusion, betrayal, anger, and sadness aren't always easily said and done. You aren't who you used to be, you don't fit into the world the way you used to and nothing quite feels the same anymore.

Things aren't all fine in the neighborhood. We need to do right by our soldiers who have been left behind, and society needs to remember that.

The Ghosts We Leave Behind is a punch to the gut inspiring honest look at the internal battle our soldiers face from day one to what they continue to battle today. This book should be on the best sellers list, everyone should read it. I couldn't put it down.

 

 

 

 

Until next time book lovers...

 

 

Krissys Bookshelf Reviews received a digital copy in exchange for an honest review from the author via Netgalley. All thoughts, comments and ratings are my own.

If any of Krissy's Bookshelf Reviews has been helpful please stop by to like my post or leave a comment to let me know what you think. I love hearing from you!

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