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review 2019-11-23 19:16
Sleeping Beauties - Owen King,Stephen King
Sleeping Beauties - Owen King,Stephen King

 

 

for Modern Masters of Horror

I enjoyed this enormously. There were some surprises and some poor reading on my part (my earlier race comment was wrongish, because of my failure to notice and/or remember the race of characters, but also kind of accurate given later developments - it's complicated). Anyway, nice work with archetypes and fairy tales and a premise that is clearly fantasy, but also very grounded and concrete. There's a large cast and lots of plot. But also really nuanced and generous, kind even. Stephen has always showed an understanding of and sympathy with abused women, so a whole lot of compassion towards the inmates of a women's prison is no surprise. But there is also a lot of anger, some of it directed at people behaving badly and some of it directed at society for creating and exacerbating iniquity. Dickensian.

Good on these two for writing a book that is absolutely entertaining, but more than just entertaining.

Good for many squares, and recommended to those who don't care for horror in general.

Library copy
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text 2019-11-23 19:07
Sleeping Beauties - Owen King, Stephen King
Sleeping Beauties - Owen King,Stephen King

for Modern Masters of Horror

 

I enjoyed this enormously. There were some surprises and some poor reading on my part (my earlier race comment was wrongish, because of my failure to notice and/or remember the race of characters, but also kind of accurate given later developments - it's complicated). Anyway, nice work with archetypes and fairy tales and a premise that is clearly fantasy, but also very grounded and concrete. There's a large cast and lots of plot. But also really nuanced and generous, kind even. Stephen has always showed an understanding of and sympathy with abused women, so a whole lot of compassion towards the inmates of a women's prison is no surprise. But there is also a lot of anger, some of it directed at people behaving badly and some of it directed at society for creating and exacerbating iniquity. Dickensian.

Good on these two for writing a book that is absolutely entertaining, but more than just entertaining.

Good for many squares, and recommended to those who don't care for horror in general.

Library copy

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review 2019-11-05 01:56
The King of the Castle - Victoria Holt
The King of the Castle - Victoria Holt

This is what I was expecting The Black Pearl to be more like: a young orphaned penniless English woman accepts a job doing [art restoration] at a castle with a dark and dangerous lord of the manor and a changeable and undisciplined child. There are horseback rides and formal dinners and quaint local customs and a difficult man intrigued by a staunch and somewhat contrary, not especially pretty woman, who is never flirtatious or coy and isn't at all shy about telling him when he's doing things wrong. There is danger, and careful nursing at home, a valuable inheritance, and at least a couple of other single men who might be attracted as well, but are much more charming.

 

I loved it for so perfectly being what I expected. But boy, did I find the presumption of inherent class to be repugnant. There are actual peasants. It isn't clear exactly when this is set sometime after trains but before rural electrification or antibiotics. Surprisingly few deaths in childbirth, but lots of orphans.

 

Fun stuff. Especially the horrible sexism that's all about carving out a place for one exceptional woman. Gah. I'm ready to fight on the barricades and eat the rich. Interestingly there's a strong parallel between the story of the brave noble ancestor hiding out from the mob with a kind servant and the stories Southerners like to tell about the aristocratic ancestor's brave struggles during and after the civil war.

 

Used for Relics and Curiosities in honor of the secret messages that reveal clues to the long-lost emeralds. I guess valuable jewels aren't as crass as regular money.

 

Library copy

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review 2019-10-13 16:36
The Night Country - Stewart O'Nan
The Night Country - Stewart O'Nan

I would never have picked this up if it had this cover. Mine looks like this Which is at least very Halloweeny.

 

I get what O'Nan was doing, and I respect it. He was writing his own nostalgic look back at youth as shown in one moody Halloween. And yeah, Something Wicked This Way Comes is wonderfully moody. But rereading it last year I didn't love it as much as I thought I did. And my  biggest problem with it is also my biggest problem with this: so much nostalgia, so little of anything else.

 

Marco is telling us the story. He's one of several teens who died in a wreck on Halloween one year ago. Marco, Toe, and Danielle are ghosts. Tim survived in good physical shape but with an unbearable burden of guilt and loss. Kyle survived but lost his personality and his memories and many of his life skills. His mother has devoted this past year to his recovery and rehabilitation and is aware that he's never likely to be an independent adult. Brooks is the first officer on the scene and the wreck has ruined his life as well.

 

It's very stylish this story, but not very engaging. Read for

 

Personal copy

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review 2019-10-10 02:10
Wylding Hall - Elizabeth Hand
Wylding Hall - Elizabeth Hand

This is a very atmospheric story: although not the usual haunting. It's presented as the oral history of an up-and-coming British folk band in the 60s and the story of what happened the summer their producer sent them to a decaying manor house in the middle of nowhere to rehearse and write material for their second album.

 

Hand paces the story well, giving us little bits of creepiness along the way, and grounding it in the mundane: they're just broke teenagers hoping this is going to be their big chance. The house is a weird one, added onto every century or so. The villagers are stand-offish. The summer is gorgeous, the songwriting is going well, and the rehearsals are great. Just little bits of wrongness here and there.

 

It absolutely feels like the reminiscences of aging hippies: the sex, the drugs, the ratty old clothes. The band members have different voices and personalities, and the whole thing comes across as exactly the kind of urban legend you'd hear about a band after several decades, or a Whatever Happened to special on MTV or something.

 

Very well done, and a clever twist on a number of tropes. I rather like the setting (in time and space) for being not at all gothic, but rather idyllic. This is the pattern of most of E. F. Benson's ghost stories and adapted well. It'd make a gorgeous film.

 

Library copy

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