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review 2018-02-09 15:14
A wonderful memorial full of humour, pathos, and incredible cover art.
Paperbacks from Hell: The Twisted History of '70s and '80s Horror Fiction - Grady Hendrix

Thanks to NetGalley and to Quirk Books for providing me an ARC copy of this book that I freely chose to review.

I love horror novels (and movies) although I don’t read the genre often enough (I’m not sure why, but as I review books that are submitted to some review blogs and to my own, perhaps horror authors don’t submit to these kinds of blogs and look for specialised reviewers). I have read several enthusiastic reviews of this book by some book reviewers who regularly read and review horror and I could not resist. It came very highly recommended, and it deserves all the praise.

I have not read any of the other books written by the author (and he writes fiction in the genre) but now I must admit I’m very curious. And, his collaborator, Will Errickson, has a wonderful blog that also talks about the genre (and includes plenty of cover art), that you must check: http://toomuchhorrorfiction.blogspot.co.uk/

This book is a labour of love. Of love for the genre and for a particularly fertile period of the genre (and the book follows the chronological rise and fall of those paperbacks, including brief histories of the most prolific writers, publishing companies, and subgenres) and for the cover art that is an intrinsic part of it. Although I got an ARC e-copy of the book, the many covers included in the book are gorgeous (yes, and many disgusting, disgustingly gorgeous or gorgeously disgusting) although you might recoil at some of them (but yes, many are glorious, daring, and incredibly imaginative). There is plenty of research behind the book, as the detailed credits at the back show, and the end note and acknowledgments explain, at least in part, what the process of creation of the book involved.

The book contains large doses of humour (it is difficult to talk about the plots and characters we find in some of the books without it) but it also cares deeply for the subject and there is a great underlying respect for the books, even for some whose descriptions makes one’s head spin. There is nothing too outrageous or bizarre to be included. From the better-known tomes (whose success gave rise to copycats and innumerable books trying to cash on the popular topics) like The Exorcist and Rosemary’s Baby to books I had never heard about, like George R. R. Martin’s Fevre Dreams or Dennis Wheatley’s The Devil Rides Out.  (I know I must read them, mea culpa).

I have been inspired by the book and I definitely must check some of these novels (I realised Richard Matheson had written I am Legend, The Legend of Hell House, and The Shrinking Man, and this last one’s film version is one of my all-time favourite sci-fi films).

Although the version I had is only an ARC copy and there might be some slight changes, I could not resist but share a few quotes:

Bears hate us, bats hate us, dogs and cats clearly hate us. Let’s face it, humans are delicious. In the eyes of the animals, we are walking pizzas, and the best thing is that we deliver ourselves.

In Brain Watch (1985), superpsychic powers are the result of splitting a doctor’s noggin into a quadruple brain, unlocking his ability to project illusion, become superstrong, and control the pigment of his skin to ensure a really great tan.

Rice gave vampires a voice. And then they wouldn’t shut up.

This is a book that I recommend to any lovers of the genre and to those who are curious about cover art and its recent evolution. Even if you don’t like horror and are not interested in reading the actual novels, this book is full of information about the paperback publishing business and how it evolved during those years (and we know that those who don’t remember the past…). 

The final words go to Will Errickson:

We can’t be certain that anyone is reading these books anymore. But we can hope. Because after all the monsters have flown away, hope is what’s left at the bottom of the box.

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review 2018-02-09 08:59
City of Ashes
City of Ashes - Cassandra Clare

I’m not going to review City of Ashes indepth because this was basically a gleeful hate-read. Long story short: I acquired four books in this series before learning much about it. I read the first book back in 2014 and thought it was terrible but mildly entertaining, and after my last read I was in the mood to hate on something.

 

So here we are.

 

I hate Clary. I haaaaaaaaaaaaaate Jace. I don’t like Simon. Or Isabelle. Or Alex. I want to like Magnus, but he’s doing the whole centuries-old-pedophile-dating-a-mortal-teenager thing and he is not making it easy for me. I hate the derivative cliché-fest that is Clare’s fanfic origins shining through. And I hate, hate, HATE the whole incestuous romance angle. After the first book, I was 100% sure it would come out later that Jace and Clary are not siblings. After reading this book, I am 1000% sure that particular “twist” is forthcoming. But for now they think they are siblings, and it’s gross.

 

But gosh darn it, the story isn’t terrible, even if it is derivative, and it’s fun to hate. So much fun, in fact, that I think I’ll move straight on to hating book three!

 

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review 2018-02-07 13:04
The Contadino ★★☆☆☆
The Contadino - Frank J. Agnello

With better editing, this might have been an enjoyable read. There is a good sense of place and history, and the characters are interesting. But it was difficult to get past the frequently shifting tenses, the missing commas, and even a couple of incomplete sentences. These flaws pulled me out of the story multiple times in every chapter.

 

Paperback copy, a gift from my father several years ago, because the setting and historical events reflect our own family’s history of Sicilian immigrants to the USA around the turn of the 20th century.

 

Previous Updates:

2/4/18 - pg 3/472

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text 2018-02-06 19:43
Thought provoking story
My Name Is Venus Black: A Novel - Heather Lloyd

My Name Is Venus Black by Heather Lloyd is a thought provoking story of how a young girl commits a horrible crime and yet in so many ways is innocent.  The story is told from two points of view. First and foremost Venus and then secondary by Tessa. At the heart, the story is about family, love and forgiveness.

 

Venus Black is just thirteen when she is convicted of killing her stepfather. She escapes being tried as an adult – barely. She is sent to a juvenile correction facility to serve her six year sentence. Her brother Leo, a high functioning, autistic child, is kidnapped just days after the crime. He is never found. Once Venus serves her time and is released, she wants two things. First, to start over with a new identity. Second, to find her brother.

Unbeknownst to Venus, a young girl, Tessa, and her father have found and taken in Leo. They have raised him as their own. They have nurtured Leo and he has come to love them as much as they love him. You can imagine what happens when the two worlds collide.   

 

The author did a fabulous job with the character of Venus. There was a lot of depth to her and I empathized with her despite the terrible crime she committed. I also liked Tessa. She was an outstanding supporting character and I found her to be rather profound for her age. No doubt this is what the author intended. Another thing I liked about the story, you do not know exactly why Venus killed her stepfather until the end and the suspense was one of the things that made me want to keep turning the page, even after bedtime.  

 

The pace of the plot could not have been better. It never felt rushed at all. The only qualm I had was with the ending. It came together in this nice, neat, little package and that just does not happen in real life. On the flip side, I get that readers want a story that is all tidy in the end. Regardless, the story was well executed and I look forward to more from this author.

 

The story brings up a lot of difficult issues. For example, how does the justice system handle crimes committed by children? Where does the system fail in helping children like Venus? What does it mean to forgive someone or yourself?  These are just a few of the questions that come to mind. Because of this, My Name Is Venus Black would make an excellent book club pick.

 

I received an ARC, from the publisher, via Library Thing’s early reviewer program. Thank you!

 

For more of my reviews, and author interviews, see my book blog at www.thespineview.com.

Source: www.thespineview.com/genre/fiction/my-name-is-venus-black-by-heather-lloyd
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text 2018-02-05 22:31
Not a sappy romance
Keturah (The Sugar Baron's Daughters) - Lisa Tawn Bergren

I am not big on sappy romance, but love historical romance when the history has an important presence in the story.  This is exactly what I got with Keturah by Lisa Tawn Bergren, a beautifully written historical romance about women of strength in the 18th century.

Lady Keturah Tomlinson, a recent widow, and the oldest of Lord Banning’s three girls, has just received word of her father’s passing, on the Caribbean island of Nevis, where he was overseeing the running of the sugar plantation, Table Top, which provides the wealth for his family. She soon learns that the plantation’s sugar crop has been declining in recent years and that her father has mortgaged the plantation, as well as her family home in England, on a gamble to revive it. If she wishes to save all she has ever known, and provide for her sisters, she must get to Nevis, hire an overseer, and get the next harvest is the ground as quickly as possible. It may sound simple, but for a woman in the 18thcentury practically impossible.

As chance would have it, her childhood friend Gray Covington is also headed to Nevis. He has a small inheritance and plans to use it to revive his family’s own small acreage on Nevis. He is asked by a friend of Lord Banning’s to watch over the Banning girls and provide assistance as best he can. He quickly discovers that Lady Keturah is headstrong and does not trust or want anything to do with him or any other man for that matter. He will have to earn her trust quickly if he is to honor his promise and help her save Table Top.

What made me want to read this book is the setting of the story. I love the Caribbean and have been all over it, including St. Kitts and Nevis. The Caribbean islands are dotted with the remnants of sugar plantations and both English and French forts. Therefore, I was delighted to find that Ms. Bergren accounts where true to the period. In addition, the reality of slavery and women’s rights of the period are never easy subjects to write or read about, yet her story was truthful without being degrading. Keturah is, in short, a thoughtful written fictional account of life on the islands during that time.

While the main story line is the relationship between Keturah and Gray, the subplots worked well with the whole and added more depth to the overall work. Given that the book is at heart a romance, there is not a lot of action; nevertheless, there is enough intrigue and suspense to keep the reader wanting to turn the pages. There is a religious element to the story but it is subtle and not in any way off-putting.

I recommend Keturah to readers of romance and historical fiction both. It is a well done historical fiction and well worth adding to your TBR list.

I received a free copy via Library Thing’s member giveaway.

Source: www.thespineview.com/genre/fiction/keturah-by-lisa-tawn-bergren
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