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review 2018-09-18 11:33
‘Dark Descent’ gives Elizabeth Frankenstein a voice, in a retelling of Mary Shelley’s classic, now 200 years old
The Dark Descent of Elizabeth Frankenstein - Kiersten White

It has been two hundred years since an eighteen-year old Mary Shelley gave life to one of the most haunting novels of all time and the first true work of science fiction, so Kiersten White’s retelling of ‘Frankenstein’ couldn’t come at a more perfect time. To think that the original book was written when a young girl accepted the challenge of writing a ‘ghost story’, and she originally didn’t lay claim to her own work.

 

Kiersten White has chosen to write ‘Dark Descent’ as a retelling from Elizabeth Lavenza’s perspective, a feminist retelling if there possibly can be one, set in a time when women were taught to be objects to be acquired.
In Shelley’s story, Elizabeth Lavenza (later to become Frankenstein) is a ‘gift’ given to Victor Frankenstein, a socially awkward child, and she is taken in by the affluent Frankenstein family in Geneva, saving her from her own mother and a life of destitution. Young Elizabeth tries desperately to win the favors of the volatile Victor, and to secure her place in the Frankenstein household, and soon brings in another young girl, Justine, much like herself, saving her from a life similar to her own. Justine Moritz is brought into the home as a governess to the other Frankenstein children, a calling that she is a natural at, and she and Elizabeth become fast friends. Much of this background is given to the reader by way of flashback interludes, as are the times that Elizabeth and Victor spent together back in Geneva before he leaves.

 

‘Dark Descent’ traces Elizabeth’s and Justine’s footsteps as they travel to Ingolstadt to find Victor - and his friend, Henry - which is where he went to continue ‘his studies’, but recently haven’t heard from. Following clues that are found in his letters home, they don’t have much to go on, but Elizabeth fears Victor’s obsessions and fevers have overcome him, and only she knows how to help him.
She also comes to the realization of what his experiments really signify, and wants to protect them from being discovered.

 

Without going further (maybe there are some people out there who don’t know the Frankenstein tale), what I will say is that this is a captivating, dark, and tragic story; times were bleak for many, and even more dismal for women, and this is made painfully clear in this retelling. White has made sure to paint a vivid picture of the ugly prospects that women had in the times of Elizabeth Frankenstein: the choices she mulls over in her head constantly are framed by how society judged women’s place in society and expected them to behave. None of that was science-fiction, and it provides a fascinating historical perspective, and leading questions into feminism. It’s not by coincidence that Shelley herself was the daughter of radical social philosophers, with her mother, Mary Wollstonecraft, being a writer of one of the most important founding works on family structure and women’s education in the eighteenth-century.

 

*It’s worth noting too, that the backstory and tumultuous early life of Elizabeth mirrors that of Mary Shelley (brought up by foster parents, suffered a lot of losses in her life). I find this fascinating, and feel that this permeates the writing of the original novel, and White tries to reflect this shadowing of tumultuousness, particularly in the flashbacks.

Initially I found the book slow to get into, but I later likened it to the slow discoveries that Elizabeth was making, and how the travel at the time must have felt, and I realized that this is the type of novel that I didn’t need to rush through after all. That said, at about half way, the pace picked up considerably and I didn’t want to put it down. Once the ‘monster’ comes into the story, everything seems to happen almost too quickly, and I had a lot of overwhelming emotions in the second half of the book that made it a weightier read as it went on, descending further into grief and desperation. The title is incredibly apt in that respect. I also especially love that the tone and prose feel in keeping with the period; Kiersten did an excellent job with this.

 

Few works of fiction can garner the status of crossing so many genres (horror, romance, sci-fi, literary fiction), have affected pop culture and so many types of media, for so many generations, and with one mention of the title, conjure up so vivid images and visceral reactions to its central story. Kiersten White has captured those images and the emotions effectively inside her version, without the cartoonish depiction of the modern monster, returning him to Shelley’s imagining. Upon reading, there is a sense that Elizabeth and the monster have much in common, and the misunderstanding from the world around them is palpable. There is a distinct uneasiness at the end though, and much like the end of the ‘Frankenstein’, and even ‘Dracula’, you’re left with the feeling that things are unfinished, and that the myth will continue. It’s a feeling I relish. If you have a taste for dark, gothic, or classic fiction, give this one a read; it’s also a fabulous pick especially for lovers of classic horror and science-fiction. Thank you, Mary Shelley!

 

*Kudos as always to Regina Flath for her brilliant design of the cover. Stunning.

 

 

Source: www.goodreads.com/review/show/2305950033
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review 2018-09-14 19:16
WE SOLD OUR SOULS by Grady Hendrix
We Sold Our Souls - Grady Hendrix

 

 Hard rock, heavy metal, stoner rock, doom metal-it all dragged itself up out of the swamp called the blues. 

 

As a major fan of the blues, how could I not be aware of Robert Johnson's story? Legend says he sold his soul at the crossroads to play the guitar like that. Maybe he wasn't the only one doing the selling?

 

WE SOLD OUR SOULS is the story of a band in turmoil, maybe not a great band, but one that affected people. One that got people through the hard times...one that helped them celebrate the good. But when the lead singer decides that this isn't enough for him, he investigates...other avenues. Will the band survive his efforts and appeals to be something greater? Will they survive at all? You'll have to read this to find out!

 

I loved how the background of each band member was related, but I especially liked the lead character Kris, because she wasn't the stereotypical female protagonist that we so often see. (Well, let's face it-we don't see that many female leads of rock bands, in real life or especially as believable characters in books.) She was bad-ass but she didn't think so-maybe she didn't even realize it. But she was resilient and she kept on keeping on even when there was no chance of success. I think I have my first fictional girl crush.

 

As the tale progresses, several twists occurred that I didn't foresee at all. I will never look at a UPS truck in the same way again, (and I bet you won't either). I'm sure my mouth dropped a couple of times and it probably wasn't pretty, but hell, I don't care. (I won't even speak about how late last night my Kindle hit me in my face because I was so intent on finishing this story but I just couldn't say awake any longer.) The bruise was worth it!

 

At the end of each chapter you'll find little tidbits from radio or news broadcasts and some of them won't make sense until later on. I really liked them and they provided background at times, and foreshadowing at others.

 

Grady Hendrix blipped my radar with his beautiful book PAPERBACKS FROM HELL and since then I've been a big fan. This book, however, this one is truly something special. I rank it right up there with a few other books about bands that I've greatly enjoyed like Robert McCammon's THE FIVE.

 

At this point, if I haven't won you over I'm probably not going to. However, I will say, if you're a fan of well written, fast paced, dark fiction, and you love Rock & Roll, you will miss the boat by a wide, wide margin if you don't read this book.

 

My highest recommendation!

 

Available everywhere on Tuesday, September 18th, but you can pre-order here: https://amzn.to/2xdfoR5

 

*Thanks to Quirk Books via NetGalley for the e-ARC of this book, in exchange for my honest feedback. This is it.*

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review 2018-09-12 23:21
Superbly written novel based on the tragic true story of young Italian painter Artemesia Gentileschi
Blood Water Paint - Joy McCullough

My newly-formed little book club said they wanted a book possibly with poetry or essays, so this was one of my selections. I knew Joy McCullough’s book came with glowing reviews and it had been on my TBR for a while, but I wasn’t quite prepared for what I was about to read.

‘Blood Water Paint’, based on the true but heartbreaking story of the iconic young Italian painter Artemesia Gentileschi, literally took my breath away. 

 

Reading a novel based in verse (with some portions written in regular prose) with historical facts at its core, was quite new to me, and thank goodness for those mental (natural) breaks that came with the way it’s written, because it was one of the most astounding accounts of rape and incest I have ever read. This may well be based in Rome in 1610 and written in a way that doesn’t reveal certain details of such events as a reader may be used to reading, but I would still put up a big, red flag for a trigger warning. I had to put down the book for a breather about halfway through because of the tragic events unfolding within the pages. It is brutal, heart-breaking, and so emotional.

 

Artemesia was such a talented artist, but she and other women - within the book, we also learn the stories of both Susanna and Judith - basically had no rights or the right to an opinion in those days; women were stoned to death, and other brutal punishments were served at the hands of men who saw women as property. Artemesia’s father sees his own daughter as such, having her do the paintings and call them his own, and turns a blind eye to the events in this own home while he drinks after his wife/her mother dies. It’s hard to read such things, but throughout, Artemesia stays adamant that she will persevere and not let these men steal her ability to show her truth on the canvas. 

 

It’s uncanny that the ‘me too’ movement resonates so strongly when reading a book like this, but four centuries later we shouldn’t be having to make the comparisons, perhaps. I was so moved by this book, and by my own experience, and I hope many young women reach for this book and get a discussion going. I’m looking forward to our book club meeting; this isn’t ‘light poetry fare’ by any means, and this book SHOULD spark a lot of conversation. Artemesia’s life (and many others) shouldn’t be in vain, for these experiences are too common place. 

 

A note on the writing: Joy McCullough, as a debut author, has written a masterpiece. She wrote this as a play and then adapted it to be read as a book in this form. It’s masterful, and so beautiful to read. Since she’s local to Seattle, I’m happy to say she will be at the book club that will be meeting today; I’m glad we connected. I can’t wait for our group discussion. Absolutely superbly written. 

 

**Update: Congratulations go out to Joy for the announcement that Blood Water Paint is on the long list for the 2018 National Book Award for Young People’s Literature.

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review 2018-09-12 16:35
BLOG TOUR REVIEW and GIVEAWAY: 'What The Woods Keep' by Katya De Becerra
What the Woods Keep - Katya de Becerra

 

 

I can't express how excited I am to be on this blog tour....

Many months ago I contacted Katya about her book, because I was drawn to the synopsis; here I am with it being a week away from it being on the shelves, and I get to review it for her (finally)!

 

This kicks off a thrilling season of books, I'm so excited. This one is perfect for all of you who love this witchy, cool season, when the leaves are falling and we are picking out our Halloween outfits.

 

**Thank you SO much to the amazing Cherry Karl (Karlita) of Tale Out Loud for having me on this one, and hosting this tour for Katya; I wouldn't have missed this one for the world. I wouldn't have allowed it!

 

 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR, KATYA

 

 

 

Katya de Becerra was born in Russia, studied in California, lived in Peru, and then stayed in Australia long enough to become a local. She was going to be an Egyptologist when she grew up, but instead she earned a PhD in Anthropology.

'What the Woods Keep' is her first novel.

 

Contact Katya:  WebsiteGoodreadsTwitterInstagram, & Facebook

 

 

 ABOUT THE BOOK

 

PUBLISHER: Imprint/Macmillan

GENRE: Young Adult, Science Fiction, Dark Fantasy

RELEASE DATE: September 18th, 2018

 

SYNOPSIS:

'What the Woods Keep' is the stunning debut of Katya de Becerra, who combines mystery, science fiction, and dark fantasy in a twisty story that will keep you mesmerized right up to the final page.


On her eighteenth birthday, Hayden inherits her childhood home―on the condition that she uncover its dark secrets.

Hayden tried to put the past behind her, and it worked. She’s getting ready for college, living in a Brooklyn apartment, and hanging out with her best friend and roommate Del. But now it’s all catching up with her: her mother’s mysterious disappearance a decade before, her father’s outlandish theories about a lost supernatural race, and Hayden’s own dark dreams of strange symbols and rituals in the Colorado woods where she grew up.

As soon as Hayden arrives at her hometown, her friend Del in tow, it begins: Neighbors whisper secrets about Hayden’s mother; the boy next door is now all grown-up in a very distracting way; and Hayden feels the trees calling to her. And among them, deep in the woods, Hayden will discover something incredible―something that threatens reality itself.

 

Add it to GOODREADS!

 

REVIEW:

Now that you have read the synopsis, which really doesn’t come close to explaining how thrilling and complex this book is, let me get into the deep, dark woods of Promise, Colorado. Don’t enter without being prepared to read something that will test your belief in the supernatural, at the same time as serve up facts about physics and give you a story steeped in myth and old blood rites.


This book feels like it blurs the lines between science-fiction, fantasy, and mystery, targeting a young adult audience, but it’s a highly intelligent read (it comes from a real smart cookie of an author, so that doesn’t surprise me).

 

‘What The Woods Keep’ centers around an eighteen-year old girl called Hayden, who is suffering an identity crisis, as she inherits the Manor she grew up in, and trying to come to terms with her mother’s disappearance so many years ago and the dark secrets behind it. She struggles with how she sees her father’s work and his hair-brained theories that have got him ostracized from the scientific community, and also with what she knows about her mother’s contradictory beliefs of mythology, the rituals she seemed to practice in the woods, and her own frightening dreams.


Hayden’s friendship with her roommate Del, who she brings back to Promise with her, who seems to be her diametric opposite, and a grounding force in her life, is a constant source of support, and a voice of reason (I’ve always wished for someone like that); I thought their interactions were some of the most lovely things about book. Exploring relationships is key to this novel: the two friends, the loss of a mother, how a father impacts his daughter, reuniting with old friends, and navigating it all while developing a relationship with the inner self and growing up.

 

One of the key elements to the woods and town of Promise giving you nothing but the chills, is the way in which Katya is able to paint such a dark and vivid picture of the inhabitants. I don’t like making comparisons to other books (so I won’t) but since I’m a ‘Twin Peaks’ fan, I’ll go there; I definitely got that sort of vibe when I read this, and I’ll tell you that was my favorite show of the 90’s. The individual characters of Abigail Reaser, Hayden’s childhood friend Shannon, (now all grown-up), the bizarre Elspeth, even Hayden’s psychiatrist…they all are so original and/or fabulously strange. There is also so much atmosphere swirling around the small town, the weather being so stormy, the ravens flying near Hayden, the close by woods, you can feel it all when you’re reading the book; knowing that the girls are out there in that big house alone, it’s all what will make you stay reading with the lights on. The dark and stormy tone of the book, the loneliness of the house in the woods, and the creepy characters particularly make this the perfect autumnal read.

 

The story beneath the surface of the novel, of the ‘Nibelungs’, is fascinating and mysterious, and having it run concurrently in the same book with a basecamp where blood samples are being collected, mean (Norse) mythology and science-fiction are melded together. Katya’s background in anthropology, Egyptology, and with her traveling around the world, give the pages its personality, and I love how she used everything from her love of movies and books (references to Stephen King and David Cronenburg), to her sense of displacement as an expat (I understand this!) to influence her work. And the beginnings of each chapter are so brilliant, that you may want to have a notebook for all the useful facts**and pieces of knowledge that are shared.

This is seriously one of the most unique, intelligent, and mystical novels I’ve ever read. The twists and turns continue right up until the very end and the pages will take you to strange depths that are unexpected and exciting. And the further you delve into the woods, the more likely it is you will be pulled in to Miss Katya’s ‘Promise’; it’s quite the adventure, with an ending that will leave you hoping there’s another book coming.

 

 **Facts and topics included: laws of thermodynamics, sleepwalking, Norse gods. If anything, you will be a smarter person for having read this book!

 

GET THE BOOK! PRE-ORDER LINKS

- Order on Amazon 

- Buy from B&N.com (Barnes & Noble) 

- Order at Book Depository

- Get at Books-A-Million 

- Order from Indiebound 

 

 

AND FINALLY....THE GIVEAWAY!

 

There are 2 COPIES of WHAT THE WOODS KEEP up for grabs, and all you need to do is ENTER *HERE* ~ GOOD LUCK!!

 

 

 You can follow the whole blog tour and all my blog buddies by following this *LINK*

 

 

As always, HAPPY READING!!

~ Katherine

x

 

PS. Katya, it was definitely to my liking. 

 

 

 

Source: www.goodreads.com/book/show/29748448-what-the-woods-keep?ac=1&from_search=true
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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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