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review 2018-10-10 17:31
Review: Beautiful Creatures
Beautiful Creatures - Margaret Stohl,Kami Garcia

I saw the movie years ago and when I learned it was based on a book, I immediately ordered the series... And then it sat on my shelf for years.  [I really need to stop buying books and read the ones I own.

 

Anyway, I pulled this out for Halloween Bingo as my "Southern Gothic" square.  And man you don't get any more southern than the town of Gatlin.  They are hardcore confederates who hate anything that deals with superstition (even though they all frequent the local card reader) they hate outsiders, or anyone who isn't exactly like them.

 

Poor Lena never stood a chance when she came to live with her uncle Macon, the patriarch of the Ravenwood family and a recluse.  If not for the Ravenwood family, the town wouldn't even exist, but that doesn't stop the townsfolk for hating them for being different.  And they are different.  They are a family of casters who were cursed when one of their ancestors made a bargain with a book of magic.  In other caster families each child can chose the light or the dark when they come of age.  But because of the curse, the children of this family have no choice, the book chooses.  Lena is close to coming of age, she's a powerful caster, and there is a worry that she will go dark.

 

This was an interesting story as told from the point of view of Ethan, who falls in love with Lena and gets caught up in her complicated world.  He is a son of Gatlin, but he's not really like them.  And he goes against the grain to be with Lena.  

 

The story was well written and kept my attention.  I'm interested in seeing where the rest of the series goes.

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review 2018-10-08 18:45
HARK! THE HERALD ANGELS SCREAM edited by Christopher Golden
Hark! The Herald Angels Scream - Christopher Golden

Christmas! I really can't stand it, but this anthology appealed to me for the following reasons. 1. The killer cover! (For which I got to host the exclusive cover reveal on my blog, Char's Horror Corner, and it was very exciting!) 2. It was edited by Christopher Golden and I've had good luck with anthologies he's edited in the past. I'm happy to report this one was no exception!

 

This book was chock full of stories, nearly 400 pages worth, so I can't get into all of them here, but I will briefly talk about the tales that stood out for me:

 

YANKEE SWAP by John McIlveen. Wow! We go from a woman trying to avoid her sexually aggressive boss at a Christmas party, to her getting knocked over the head and waking up tied to a chair. This tale had it all-violence, surprises and plot twists along with a satisfying conclusion. Bravo! 5*

 

CHRISTMAS IN BARCELONA by Scott Smith. I loved Scott's A SIMPLE PLAN, but this tale was completely different from his usual stuff. I was able to guess the end just before the story got there, but that didn't spoil the fun at all. 4.5*

 

THE SECOND FLOOR OF THE CHRISTMAS HOTEL by Champion Mojo Storyteller Joe Lansdale. This was a perfect "ghost gets revenge" type story and I loved it, as I do most anything he writes.4.5*

 

 

LOVE ME by Thomas Sniegoski. This twisted little tale reminded me of the Tribble episode from Star Trek. What fun! 4*

 

GOOD DEEDS by Jeff Strand. I don't even know what to say about this one, but it's Jeff Strand. What else do I have to say, really? 4*

 

IT'S A WONDERFUL KNIFE BY Christopher Golden. I figured out the conclusion early on, but that didn't spoil the fun getting there. 3.5*

 

HOME by Tim Lebbon. This was a twisted little tale of the end of the world and Santa, albeit a Santa you would never recognize in a million years. 3.5*

 

Lastly, THE HANGMAN'S BRIDE by Sarah Pinborough. Sarah's books have quickly become some of my favorites in recent history, (and I'm glad I have a good-sized backlog to catch up with), but this tale really took the cake. My second favorite in this anthology, with a distinct Dickensian feel, young William and his soot-filled lungs stole my heart. 5*

 

Most anthologies are hit and miss with me-very rarely do all the stories hit their mark. In this case, though, it was pretty close to doing so, therefore I gave it a four star rating overall . Even if you hate Christmas, and you "Bah Humbug" with the best of them, this anthology has something for everyone-the variety is outstanding. So as the title suggests HARK people! Come and hear the angels scream!

 

Highly recommended!

 

*Thanks to the publisher via NetGalley for the e-ARC of this anthology in exchange for my honest feedback. This is it!*

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text 2018-10-04 20:03
Reading progress update: I've read 78 out of 563 pages.
Beautiful Creatures - Margaret Stohl,Kami Garcia

Both cool and creepy, I share a birthday with one of the protagonists, Lena.

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review 2018-09-29 09:19
. It was hard to be a woman in the Regency period and Austen knew it all too well! A must read for Austen lovers.
Rational Creatures - Christina Boyd

I thank Christina Boyd for sending me an ARC copy of this book that I freely chose to review and for offering me to the opportunity to join the blog tour for its launch.

I have read and reviewed one of the Austen based collections Christina Boyd has edited in the past (Dangerous to Know: Jane Austen’s Rakes & Gentlemen Rogues, check that review here), and when she told me what she was working on, I did not hesitate. I have met many talented writers through her collection and the books she has edited and have to warn any readers that you are likely to end up with a long list of authors added to your favourites if you keep on reading.

I am sure no Austen reader would think that, but some people not so well versed in her work sometimes think that her novels are only about silly girls of the Regency period, normally of good families, flirting and forever plotting to marry a rich and attractive man, with nothing of interest in their heads other than attending parties and fashionable balls, and not a hint of independent thought or opinion. Nothing further from the truth. The title of the collection highlights the status of Jane Austen’s female characters. There are nice women, some cruel ones, vain, prejudiced, stubborn, naïve, impulsive, but they are not the playthings of men. They work hard to prove they are “rational creatures” and they try, within the options open to them at the time, to take charge of their lives and their own destinies.

In the foreword, Devoney Looser writes:

In its pages, the best of today’s Austen-inspired authors use their significant creative powers to explore new angles of love and loss, captivity and emancipation. These stories reimagine both, beloved female characters, like Pride and Prejudice’s Elizabeth Bennet, and loathed ones, such as Persuasion’s Penelope Clay. The results are comical, disturbing, and moving.

I could not have said it better. While when I reviewed Dangerous to Know I said anybody could enjoy the stories but connoisseurs of Austen would likely delight in them, in this case, I think this is a book for Austen fans, and those particularly interested in feminism and in the early supporters of the education of women. Mary Wollstonecraft’s A Vindication of the Rights of Woman is mentioned in the foreword and also makes its appearance in some of the stories, and it clearly informs the readings the authors make of the characters and the novels they pay homage to. In a matter of fact, the book could also have been called A Vindication of Austen’s Women.

While some of the contributions are short stories in their own right, although centred on one of Austen’s female characters, some are vignettes closely linked to one of her novels, showing the background to some events in the story, or exploring the reasons for the decisions taken by some of the female characters that might have surprised us when we have read the novels, particularly so, perhaps, due to our modern sensibilities. Each story is introduced by a quotation from the novel in question that helps us get into the right frame of mind.

The catalogue of stories and characters is long and inclusive. We have: “Self-Composed” (by Christina Morland) about Elinor Dashwood, “Every Past Affliction” (by Nicole Clarkston) about Marianne Dashwood, “Happiness in Marriage” (by Amy D’Orazio) about Elizabeth Bennet (one of the most famous and well-known heroines in the Austen canon and I think most readers will easily identify with the character and her plight), “Charlotte’s Comfort” (by Joana Starnes) about Charlotte Lucas (I will confess I’d always wondered about Charlotte’s decision to marry the horrendous Mr. Collins. I enjoyed this version of events and it makes perfect sense), “Knightley Discourses” (by Anngela Schroeder) about Emma Woodhouse (it was a pleasure to catch up with Emma again, a happily married Emma, here), “The Simple Things” (by J. Marie Croft) about Hetty Bates (perhaps because I’ve never been married, I am always drawn towards characters who remain single, and I found this episode particularly touching), “In Good Hands” (by Caitlin Williams) about Harriet Smith (it was good to see Harriet get her own voice and not only be Emma’s plaything), “The Meaning of Wife” (by Brooke West) about Fanny Price (I liked this rendering of Fanny Price as she gets enlightened thanks to Wollstonecraft’s Vindication), “What Strange Creatures” (by Jenetta James) about Mary Crawford (which introduces a touch of mystery), “An Unnatural Beginning” (by Elizabeth Adams) about Anne Elliot (another one I found particularly touching), “Where the Sky Touches the Sea” (by Karalynne Mackrory) about Sophia Croft (this is not a character I was very familiar with but I loved her relationship with her husband, her self-sufficiency, and the realistic depiction of grief), “The Art of Pleasing” (by Lona Manning) about Penelope Clay (as a lover of books about cons and conmen, I could not help but enjoy this fun story full of twists and fantastically deceitful characters), “Louisa by the Sea” (by Beau North) about Louisa Musgrove, “The Strength of Their Attachment” (by Sophia Rose) about Catherine Morland, “A Nominal Mistress” (by Karen M. Cox) about Eleanor Tilney (a fun story with its sad moments, and a good example of the type of situations women could find themselves in at the time), and “The Edification of Lady Susan” (by Jessie Lewis) about Lady Susan Vernon (an epistolary story that I thoroughly enjoyed, and another one recommended to people who love deceit and con games).

The writing styles vary between the stories, but there are no actualisations or reinventions. The stories are all set within the Regency period, and the authors observe the mores and customs of the period, seamlessly weaving their vignettes and stories that would be perfectly at eas within the pages of the Austen novels they are inspired by. The characters might push the boundaries of gender and social classes but never by behaving in anachronistic ways, and if anything, reading this book will make us more aware of what life was like for women of different ages and different social situations in that historical period. What we get are close insights into the thoughts and feelings of these women, many of whom were only talked about but never given their own voices in the original novels. It is amazing how well the selection works, as sometimes we can read about the same characters from different perspectives (the protagonist in one of the stories might be a secondary character in another one, and the heroine in one of the stories might be a villain in the next), but they all fit together and help create a multifaceted portrait of these women and of what it meant to be a woman of a certain class in the Regency period.

I have said before that I feel this collection will suit better readers who are familiar with Austen’s universe, but, to be fair, I have enjoyed both, the stories centred on novels I knew quite well, and those based on characters I was not very familiar with, so I would not discourage people who enjoy Regency period novels and have read some Austen, but are not experts, from reading this book. By the time I finished the book, I admired, even more, the genius of Austen and had decided to become better acquainted with all of her novels. Oh, and of course, determined also to keep sharing the collections and books by this talented group of writers.

In summary, I recommend this book to anybody who loves Austen and has always felt curious about her female characters, protagonists and supporting players alike, and wished to have a private conversation with them, or at least be privy to the thoughts they kept under wraps. If you want to know who these women are and to see what it must have been like to try to be a woman and a rational creature with your own ideas in such historical era, I recommend this collection. As a bonus, you’ll discover a selection of great authors, and you’ll feel compelled to go back and read all of Austen’s novels. You’ve got nothing to lose other than a bit (or a lot) of sleep!

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review 2018-09-09 20:34
THIRTEEN DAYS BY SUNSET BEACH by Ramsey Campbell
Thirteen Days by Sunset Beach (Fiction Without Frontiers) - Ramsey Campbell

 

Quiet horror is one of my favorite sub-genres and with that in mind I was looking forward to this release from one of the masters. Admittedly, my expectations for this were high and I'm sorry to report that THIRTEEN DAYS BY SUNSET BEACH didn't meet them.

 

A man, Ray, takes his wife and extended family on vacation to an island in Greece. It's the first time that the entire family has vacationed together and everyone has been looking forward to it. It's not long, however, before they begin to notice strange things. Why are there no mirrors in their hotel rooms? Why are different members of the family having similar dreams each night? Even more intriguing, why are those same family members displaying bite marks on their bodies? You'll have to read this to find out!

 

First,  I did like the writing style and quality, and I enjoyed the foreshadowing. (At times, I think the foreshadowing was the only thing that kept me reading.) What brought me down quite a bit was the pacing and some of the characters. I didn't feel much for any of them, other than Ray, the elderly protagonist and Jules, whom I couldn't stand. (Really, I couldn't stand him-a more annoying, fussy, controlling man you couldn't find anywhere.) I hated him enough that I considered quitting this book more than once. Between him and the pacing, I came *this* close. But every time I said to myself "This is it! I'm done!" something happened that kept me going.

 

Overall, I'm sorry to say that this book didn't work well for me. The writing quality is there though, which is why I'm going with 3 out of 5 stars. What doesn't work for me might work exceedingly well for you, so if the synopsis sounds good, go ahead and give it a shot. Ramsey Campbell is a master of the horror genre after all!

 

*Thanks to Flame Tree Press via NetGalley for the e-ARC of this book in exchange for my honest feedback. This is it!*

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