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Search tags: in-the-dark-dark-woods
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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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review 2019-10-08 11:37
Mistletoe
Mistletoe - Alison Littlewood

by Alison Littlewood

 

This starts out pretty depressing. Leah has bought a house her husband wanted, but the husband and children are dead. The first chapter doesn't reveal how that happened, but focuses on Leah and her internal processing of her grief.

 

The writing in this one is poetic, just beautiful. The early plot progression reminds me of Stephen King. Mysterious voices, snowballs thrown by invisible entities, mysterious visions, etc. A strange toy found in the barn adds a creepy factor.

 

Leah meets her closest neighbours, a divorced woman and her son, as well as a brother, and starts to feel like she can make new friends now who don't remind her of her previous life. Only other things do keep reminding her. A child's shape on the wall, the sound of a boy's laughter. Is it the ghost of her lost son or the spirit of a child who was killed on the property generations ago?

 

To make things more disturbing, Leah starts having visions when she touches objects that have some connection to the past. Not her past, but that of the house itself. About halfway through we learn what happened to her family and the mistletoe begins to feature strongly. The orchard is dying, but the mistletoe somehow keeps creeping into the house.

 

Lots of ghostly happenings in this one. The time slips are well done and there's an unexpected twist near the end.

 

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review 2019-10-06 22:26
The October Man: A Rivers of London Novella - Ben Aaronovitch
The October Man: A Rivers of London Nove... The October Man: A Rivers of London Novella - Ben Aaronovitch

A significant part of the pleasure of any of the Rivers series is the part where the magic-using police officer gets to explain to someone else that there is real magic, but that it's hidden by agreements between nations after WWII. Just as part of the fun of Dr. Who is the doctor getting to explain about the tardis.


Another pleasure of reading the books in this series is the cast. Many a writer would set a story in a modern German city and have an exclusively white-by-default cast. It doesn't have to be a big thing or a plot point, although there is one minor detail revealed only because someone is Black and it's a tiny wonderful moment.


If the women or the mystery were stronger, it'd be perfect. As it is, highly enjoyable.

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review 2019-10-05 22:40
Out of Salem - Hal Schrieve
Out of Salem - Hal Schrieve

I read this as part of Halloween Bingo, so the fact that this book could reasonably be applied to about half the squares is woth mentioning. This is the first book I've read which used the singular nongendered they/their as pronouns, which slowed me down a bit at the beginning. But it worked, and never felt gimmicky. Z. was a plausible fourteen year old zombie who's entire family died in an auto accident: only Z reanimated.

 

There's werewolves and high school bullying and good teachers and bad teachers and a growing movement in favor of shooting all the monsters. As a metaphor, it is terrifying. But it's also the story of school misfits becoming friends, and of teens solving a mystery, so there is significant fun as well as the terror.

 

I'm delighted it was recommended to me, and I can't wait to read Shrieve's subsequent books. As good as this debut was the next one should be astounding.

 

 

Library copy

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