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Search tags: halloween-bingo-2017
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review 2017-09-24 16:45
Freebie Square Read
Wolves in the Dark (Varg Veum Series) - ... Wolves in the Dark (Varg Veum Series) - Gunnar Staalesen,Don Bartlett

Disclaimer: ARC via Netgalley

 

                Varg Veum is a literary character that I first meet though television.  MHZ had the Varg Veum movies on, and I watched them.  So, I started reading the series in a haphazard fashion, or in other words, totally out of order.

 

                This installment finds Veum coming out of a drinking addiction fueled by depression after a death.  In part, some of his sobering comes from meeting a woman (who has a daughter) and part of it comes from being accused of child pedophilia. 

 

                The novel opens with the arrival of the police to arrest Veum and search his apartment, and the book stays to the break neck speed.  In a cell, Veum is forced to remember as much as his drunk years as he can because someone, he doesn’t know who, is setting him up.

 

                Not many people believe him.  Strangely enough his new girlfriend is one of those who does.      

 

                I guess he is lucky that way, for those that have known him the longest, by and large, view him as guilty.

 

                On one hand, the story is a non-stop thriller.  It starts with a bust and keeps going.  The pace never seems to slow, not surprising when Veum isn’t given the time to catch his breath.  The characters are well written, possibly not the girlfriend who seems a bit too trusting, yet she is not stupid.  Even though at times it seems like too much coincidental.  The ending too, is on level, a typical white male ending.  It is difficult to image an immigrant or even a woman, even in Norway, having the same reaction as Varg Veum to the final outcome.

 

                In part, that might be part of the problem with this book – Veum never seems quite aware of the societal pressures, norms, what have you, that contribute or allow the trafficking and abuse of children (and women) to occur.  On one hand, there are times when a reader wants to smack Veum for his cluelessness on the matter.  Doesn’t he realize, the reader might wonder under her breath, in particular when he is confronting woman.  Then one wonders if this genius on the part of Staalesen.  What better way to show a problem?  There is no preaching, no holier than though.  And this provokes more thought.

 

                This book will most likely get less attention then Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.  A shame considering that it is better written and far more powerful for its subtlety.

 

 

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review 2017-09-24 10:49
The Day of the Triffids
The Day of the Triffids - John Wyndham

by John Wyndham

 

I didn't really know what to expect from this one apart from evil plants, so enjoyed the thrill of discovery as the plot slowly unfolded in the early chapters. It surprised me that there was so much of the plot focused on the issue of everyone going blind from an unrelated source before it got to any significant story about the carnivorous plants.

 

It did help set up the end of the world situation though, and showed much of the moral dilemma involved with deciding how much to help others in an unprecedented situation and whether your own survival would be compromised.

 

I'd class this as a Dystopian novel, though the man-eating plants do lend a Horror aspect. More of the plot involved survival in difficult circumstances long before the plants feature significantly.

 

There were times I wanted to shout at the characters "Why don't you..." or "Why haven't you..." and get them to do a few obvious things to improve their situation. I even wondered why it had become such a classic of Horror because much of it was more tame than I had expected. It wasn't what I expected at all, but it still made for an enjoyable read.

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review 2017-09-24 10:45
Tales of Men and Ghosts
Tales of Men and Ghosts - Edith Wharton

by Edith Wharton

 

Victorian-style literature takes a bit of patience to enjoy. It is written in a distinctively wordy style that I often enjoy, but can easily become tedious in some books.

 

Ghost stories were a holiday tradition in Victorian times and it seems some authors known for genres other than Horror lent their talents to this sub-genre, including Edith Wharton (who was born in the Victorian era, though this was released in 1910). The thing about these Victorian ghost stories is that they are seldom actually scary, but with a few exceptions, generally have an amenable ghost involved who behaves with Victorian manners and even becomes part of the family or just a minor irritation.

 

I can't say that Wharton's stories are the most stimulating that I've read. Some of the ten stories in this collection don't even have proper ghosts, but more a concept of ghostliness. One entitled The Eyes is the only one of the collection that I would describe as a proper ghost story, though that one was rather good.

 

Overall I wouldn't think of this collection first if I were going to recommend a book of Victorian ghost stories, but the one story justifies adding Edith Wharton to the list of women authors who can turn their hand to the spooky.

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review 2017-09-24 07:23
Ode to momentous summers
Dandelion Wine - Ray Bradbury

*pleased sigh* So gorgeous.

 

Dandelion Wine is a beautiful, whimsical love letter to those memories of summer that are so vivid, so powerful, we can feel the baking sun, the weight and smell of the air, the joy and lassitude when we recall them.

 

It goes from one episode to the next fluidly and with little warning, connecting and weaving them. Add in Bradbury's style and the result is a bit like dreams, a bit like memories, introspective, nostalgic and at points philosophical.

 

There were episodes to pull every shade of emotion, and I loved so many of them I'd have serious trouble picking a favorite. Grandma's cooking made me so hungry and also miss my grandfather very much. Colonel's Freeleigh's bits and John's departure made me tear a bit. I laughed out loud with the witch debacle. Lavinia's had me switch between cheering on and wanting to thump her, and scared me quite a bit. And the lime-vanilla ice-cream one! So many tangled feels!

 

It was an excellent read to savor, and one I'll revisit.

 

 

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review 2017-09-24 05:15
Halloween Bingo - American Horror - irony
Wieland: or, the Transformation, an American Tale - Brown Charles Brockden

 

 

This has been on my Kindle for ages and ages, and on my priority list almost as long.

 

Wieland, or the Transformation: An American Tale was published in 1798, one of the first "significant" novels published by an American.  I'm not sure what that "significant" means, though it's certainly noteworthy that Wieland was both popular and influential.

 

One of the attractions for me, however, is that it's written from the point of view of Clara Wieland, the sister of Theodore for whom the novel is ostensibly titled.

 

The story is more or less straightforward -- Theodore and Clara's father had been something of a religious fanatic, who died apparently of divinely-ordained spontaneous combustion in a "temple" he had built on his property in rural Pennsylvania.  Years later, in the grip of similar fanaticism, Theodore murders his wife and their four children as well as a young female companion.  An itinerant "biloquist" -- ventriloquist -- named Carwin confesses to having provided various mysterious voices but denies using his talent to induce Wieland murder his family.  Theodore eventually realizes what he's done and takes his own life.  The end, sort of.

 

The style is awkward, and I can't say this was a fun read.  The novel purports to be a letter Clara is writing to an unnamed friend -- and I thought I wrote long letters?? -- so it's all tell and no show in a decidedly 18th century manner.  But Clara as a character and narrator often has more in common with a kick-ass heroine of the 21st century than with her gothic descendants of the mid-20th century.  Wealth inherited from her father permits her to live independently, and she even makes plans to reveal her affections to their object rather than wait for him to do so first.

 

Unfortunately, before she has a chance to do that, there's a classic "big misunderstanding" and everything goes to hell.  Sound familiar?  Yeah, the more things change and all that.

 

The ventriloquism device didn't work for me.  Regardless how clever the ventriloquist, there is still the matter of distance across which a voice can be "thrown."  Had Carwin's talent been more smoothly woven with the belief/disbelief that Wieland or Clara or her love interest Pleyel had actually heard divine voices, it might have worked better.

 

But that's a criticism coming from two and a quarter centuries of popular fiction later.

 

The novel's focal point, if you will, is the mass murder of Wieland's family.  This event was based on an actual case that occurred in 1781 in New York, in which the father slaughtered his wife and children and claimed God had told him to do it.  What struck me about Wieland, however, was that the murders don't occur until almost two-thirds of the way through the novel -- 62% on my Kindle.  By this  point, Carwin has played his games, Pleyel has learned of and revealed Carwin's sordid history, and Clara's romantic future has been destroyed by the Big Miz.  Her brother's religiosity is a very minor issue; he's been portrayed as devout, yes, but also studious and a good father and husband.  Unlike his own father, Theodore Wieland hasn't (yet) become a nut job, to use  2017 terminology.

 

Up to then, this has been Clara's story, told by Clara -- as told by Charles Brockden Brown, of course.  Then the men screw it all up.

 

Wieland kills his family then testifies in court that yes, of course, he did it because God commanded him to do it.  How could it be wrong if it was God's will?  So the court decides he's the equivalent of insane -- unable to distinguish right from wrong, essentially -- and condemn him to life in prison.

 

Interestingly -- remember, this was published in 1798 -- Clara's maternal uncle is a physician who argues that Wieland's hallucinations are an indication of mental illness, while Clara argues that they weren't hallucinations at all but rather the product of the evil Carwin's machinations. 

 

It all winds down with Carwin's doleful confession to Clara, tempered by his insistence that he wasn't the one to tell Wieland to kill anyone, and then Wieland himself escapes his prison, threatens Clara, suddenly sees the error of his ways (regains his sanity???), and kills himself.

 

There follows a kind of postscript, in which Clara recounts her life after her brother's death, and while she achieves a certain happiness or maybe at least contentment, almost everyone else has a kind of "life's a bitch and then you die" ending.  Still, the whole thing seemed rather remarkable to be told from the woman's point of view until

 

the very last paragraph.  'Cause yep, it's always the victim's fault.

 

I leave you to moralize on this tale. That virtue should become the victim of treachery is, no doubt, a mournful consideration; but it will not escape your notice, that the evils of which Carwin and Maxwell were the authors, owed their existence to the errors of the sufferers. All efforts would have been ineffectual to subvert the happiness or shorten the existence of the Stuarts, if their own frailty had not seconded these efforts. If the lady had crushed her disastrous passion in the bud, and driven the seducer from her presence, when the tendency of his artifices was seen; if Stuart had not admitted the spirit of absurd revenge, we should not have had to deplore this catastrophe. If Wieland had framed juster notions of moral duty, and of the divine attributes; or if I had been gifted with ordinary equanimity or foresight, the double-tongued deceiver would have been baffled and repelled.

Brown, Charles Brockden. Wieland: or, the Transformation, an American Tale (Kindle Locations 3308-3314). Kindle Edition.

 

 (emphasis mine, above)

 

Wieland is one of those books I'm glad I read because of its importance to the literary history of fiction by, for, and about women.  But I can't say I enjoyed it.  Only recommended to those who are truly dedicated.  (It's not scary or creepy or gory or anything else.)

 

 

 

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