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text 2017-12-14 12:45
Char's Horror Corner: Top Ten Audiobooks of 2017!
Blackwater: The Complete Saga - Michael McDowell,Matt Godfrey
The Lesser Dead - Christopher Buehlman
Born to Run - Bruce Springsteen
Between Two Fires - Christopher Buehlman
The Memory of Running - Recorded Books LLC,Ron McLarty,Ron McLarty
Nightmares and Geezenstacks - Matt Godfrey,Valancourt Books,Fredric Brown
You Will Know Me: A Novel - Megan Abbott,Lauren Fortgang
Behind Her Eyes: A Novel - Sarah Pinborough
The Silver Linings Playbook: A Novel - Matthew Quick,Inc. Blackstone Audio, Inc.,Darwin Porter
Empire Falls - Richard Russo

 

This has been the year of the audiobook for me. I believe I've listened to more of them this year than ever before. And boy, this year brought two of my favorite authors to life through the power of voice. Let's get on with it, shall we? (Oh, and click the cover to see my original review!)

 

 Blackwater by Michael McDowell, narrated by Matt Godfrey

1. My number one audio of the year, (and indeed, of ALL time) is Blackwater. Written by the fabulous Michael McDowell and performed by Matt Godfrey, this epic tale spans generations of the Caskey family and their matriarch, who may or may not be altogether human. The star of this show is McDowell's writing-he brings his sharp wit and his knowledge of family dynamics to the table and then Matt Godfrey brings it all home. Blackwater clocks out at just over 30 hours of listening, and I was never, ever bored. 

 

Blackwater: The Complete Saga - Michael McDowell,Matt Godfrey 

 

 The Lesser Dead written and performed by Christopher Buehlman

2. Christopher Buehlman was unknown to me at the beginning of 2017. Now, in December, I count him among my favorite authors. I've read or listened to ALL of his novels since April, starting with Those Across the River and ending with The Lesser Dead. Mr. Buehlman narrates The Lesser Dead himself and in most cases, I don't think that's wise. In this case, he knocked it out of the park. I later learned that he performs at Renaissance Fairs, sometimes as a storyteller and sometimes as a professional insultor. Perhaps his experiences with performing has honed his voicing skills because this book was KILLER. After I finished listening, I "rewound" it, so to speak, and listened to the last chapter again. Oh my goodness, oh so killer!

 

The Lesser Dead - Christopher Buehlman 

 

Born to Run written and narrated by The Boss

3. I'm not a big fan of Bruce Springsteen, but I'm a bigger fan since I listened to his memoir. I have always been a fan of his songwriting abilities and it seems that that skill transferred well to writing this book. I'm sure a true Springsteen fan would get even more out of this book than I did, but I sure did love listening to that husky voice relate how he got started, learned to dance, (to pick up women), and how he struggled to get and keep a band, not to mention a marriage, together.

 

Born to Run - Bruce Springsteen 

 

Between Two Fires by Christopher Buehlman, narrated by Steve West

4. Between Two Fires by Christopher Buehlman, narrated by Steve West was totally and completely INSANE! Some truly scary scenes were depicted in this story and thanks to the vivid writing and expressive voicing, I can still picture them clearly in my head. 

 

Between Two Fires - Christopher Buehlman

 

 The Memory of Running, written and performed by Ron McClarty

5. The Memory of Running, written and narrated by Ron McClarty. I got turned on to Ron McClarty because he narrated Empire Falls by Richard Russo. Then, when I looked for additional performances by him I discovered The Memory of Running. From what I gather, it was originally available only as an audio book which Stephen King highly recommended. Eventually it became available in paper form as well. Anyway, Mr. McClarty used to play a recurring judge on Law & Order, but writing and narrating is most definitely his forte. I loved this weird tale of memories, acceptance and bicycling across the United States.

 

 The Memory of Running - Recorded Books LLC,Ron McLarty,Ron McLarty

 

 Nightmares and Geezenstacks by Fredric Brown, narrated by Matt Godfrey

6. A thoroughly entertaining collection of short stories, some of them super short, but all of them a lot of fun. For the most part, I prefer reading short stories rather than listening to them, but Matt Godfrey's talent made me change my mind about that. 

 

Nightmares and Geezenstacks - Matt Godfrey,Valancourt Books,Fredric Brown

 

 

You Will Know Me by Megan Abbott, narrated by Lauren Fortgang

7. Competitive teenage girls are just about the scariest monsters out there, and I know scary!

 

You Will Know Me: A Novel - Megan Abbott,Lauren Fortgang

 

 

Behind Her Eyes by Sarah Pinborough, narrated by cast

8. The book everyone was talking about at the beginning of the year! Usually, I avoid those like the plague. However, the audio was available at the library, so I decided to give it a go. I vividly remember listening to this while I was cleaning and then, for the last half hour or so, I just sat on the sofa, stunned. 

 

Behind Her Eyes: A Novel - Sarah Pinborough

 

 

The Silver Linings Playbook by Matthew Quick, narrated by Ray Porter

9. Audible was giving this one away for free, so what did I have to lose? I loved the movie, but as usual, the book was a little different. That said, I loved the book too! 

 

The Silver Linings Playbook: A Novel - Matthew Quick,Inc. Blackstone Audio, Inc.,Darwin Porter

 

 

Empire Falls by Richard Russo, performed by Ron McClarty

10. This book came to me highly recommended by a fellow reader. Even though a book about small town life with no evil children or haunted houses is really not my thing, Empire Falls MADE IT my thing. I've since listened to two more audiobooks of Richard Russo's work, (Everybody's Fool and Nobody's Fool), and I tracked down McClarty's Memory of Running, (see above.) Now, I just need to track down the HBO series of this FANTASTIC novel. 

 

Empire Falls - Richard Russo 

 

This year I've learned the following:

 

Ron McClarty and Matt Godfrey can both narrate the hell out of any story, and I will happily listen to them perform their grocery lists.

Authors sometimes CAN perform their own stories and do it better than anyone else.

 

I've finally accepted that audiobooks are an acceptable form of reading and I look forward to finding new narrators and discovering new worlds to listen to in 2018.

 

Thanks for reading if you've stayed this far! I hope you'll join me in enjoying audiobooks in 2018! 

 

 

 

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review 2017-12-08 16:38
Burnt Offerings by Robert Marasco
Burnt Offerings: Valancourt 20th Century Classics - Robert Marasco,R.C. Bray

Marian is a 70’s housewife and she is tired of city life and coerces her husband, Ben, into checking out a summer rental with a beach that is far from the sweltering heat, stink and noise of the city. He says it sounds too good to be true and whines, “but honey, we can’t afford it”. But he caves. Should’ve stood your ground, man!

 

The rental turns out to be a giant estate on 200 acres. There are 30 rooms and all they have to do is pay $900 for the summer and leave “Mother” sustenance three times a day. Ummm, what? Yes, Mother is staying! Apparently, Mother doesn’t leave her room and will be no trouble at all as long as you keep to the feeding schedule or so say the weird brother and sister who are renting the place and who skedaddle out of town leaving no contact information as soon as the couple agrees to rent the place.

 

Marian immediately takes to the home as if it were her own, obsessively preparing meals for Mother and cleaning and fretting (which sounds like a vacation in Hell to me) while Ben, his aunt and their young son fritter away their days in the sun. But that doesn’t last long. Soon enough eerie events start to occur and Marian’s obsession with the house intensifies. They can try to escape but the house wants what it wants!

 

This was an unnerving listen that allows the dread to slowly build. It is read expertly by R.C. Bray who is perfect for this kind of old-timey story. His voice is so serious and wizened just enough to set the scene and make the words even creepier. But, folks, it was written in the early 70’s and its 70’s roots are definitely showing in some of the dialogue.

 

“I’ll do the talking. Just look pretty and keep your mouth shut.” Ben says this to Marian and she doesn’t punch him the face.

 

At another point Marian says (out loud, mind you) to Ben, “You know I’m the dumb one.” He accepts this as fact and again does not get punched in the face and they move along with their day.

 

Ahhh, the 70’s. I am so very glad I was too young to have to deal with this WTFery!

 

If you like haunted houses and haven’t listened to this story on audio, what the heck are you waiting for?

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text 2017-11-26 12:48
16 Tasks of the Festive Season - Square 10: Pancha Ganapati
The Invention of Nature: Alexander von Humboldt's New World - Andrea Wulf
A Is for Arsenic: The Poisons of Agatha Christie - Kathryn Harkup
William Pitt the Younger: A Biography - William Hague
Metamorphoses - Denis Feeney,Ovid,David Raeburn
The Daughter of Time - Josephine Tey
Treffpunkt im Unendlichen. - Klaus Mann
Making History - Stephen Fry
Gilded Needles (Valancourt 20th Century Classics) - Christopher Fowler,Michael McDowell,Mike Mignola
Risiko: Roman - Steffen Kopetzky

Tasks for Pancha Ganapati: Post about your 5 favourite books this year and why you appreciated them so much. –OR– Take a shelfie / stack picture of the above-mentioned 5 favorite books.  (Feel free to combine these tasks into 1!

 

Inspired by Murder by Death's post this morning, I've pondered over my morning coffe which reads qualify as myfavourite books this year. Although there is still time for a truly great read to come up in the next month (I am looking at you, Winter by Ali Smith), below is my list of 5 (or, erm, 6) favourite books of 2017 (I have not considered re-reads for this, btw.):

 

The Invention of Nature by Andrea Wulf.

Although, I knew of Humboldt (and his brother), I had no idea of the extent of his influence on the sciences and of the adventures he went on to gain the deep understanding of the world that he did. I am still amazed at both. I am still amazed at the difficulties he faced. I am still amazed at everything I learned about his and his times from Wulf's extraordinary book. 

 

A is for Arsenic by Kathryn Harkup.

I love the works of Agatha Christie and I also love a good bit of science mixed with history - and this book had all of it. What is more, I particularly enjoyed how this book started a discussion with my mom (a retired chemical engineer) about all things chemistry and how scientific discovery changed crime fiction. For that alone, this book deserves 5 stars.

 

William Pitt the Younger by William Hague. 

One of the biggest surprises this year, not because of the subject (Pitt had been on my radar for quite some time) but because of the author. What I learned from Mr Hague's excellent account of Mr Pitt and the political landscape of Georgian Britain is that I may not agree with the author on everything (especially political outlook) but that this doesn't lessen my appreciation for the excellent work he has produced with this book. The sheer amount of research that must have gone into this is staggering. 

 

Metamorphoses by Ovid (tr. by David Raeburn)

This is the book that has taken me longest to read this year, but it is a book that demands a slow and deliberate read. Becoming reacquainted with the myths and legends of Ancient Greece and Rome has brought home how far we've come as a society, how much we still face the same issues, and how much I miss reading the "classics". 

 

The Daughter of Time by Josephine Tey.

As it turns out, my 2017 seemed to be geared towards a history side - and I loved it - with a mix of murder mystery thrown in for balance. Tey's book takes both and showed how a good "vintage" mystery can actually take a serious turn. Tey loved history and it shows when she used her laid-up Inspector to investigate not just the murder of the Princes in the Tower, but also how history itself is subjective and prone to be re-written for the benefit of propaganda ... and how easy it is to fall in line believing anything by virtue of it being repeated as truth over and over. 

A timely read for 2017.

 

Treffpunkt im Unendlichen by Klaus Mann.

I've been a fan of Klaus Mann's for a while, and in this book he shows how spot on his powers of observations were when he wrote about the times he lived in. Treffpunkt is one of the best books I have read to bring to life the Lost Generation in the late 1920s / early 1930s. Loved it.

 

 

 

Of course, there are some honourable mentions too:

 

Making History by Stephen Fry. 

 

Gilded Needles by Micheal McDowell (I'm still in love with basically every single book of McDowell's that has crossed my path.)

 

Risiko by Steffen Kopetzky 

 

 

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review 2017-11-20 18:45
The Happy Man: A Tale of Horror by Eric C. Higgs
The Happy Man: A Tale of Horror - Eric C. Higgs

THE HAPPY MAN: A TALE OF HORROR is one bizarre piece of work from the 80's, brought back by Valancourt Books. I finished this book on Saturday and I still am not sure what to make of it!

 

A couple moves in to a new housing development in a suburb of San Diego. Charles Ripley and his wife are mostly on an even keel, despite a tragedy that occurred shortly after the move. Then, the Marsh's move in next door and even though they don't know it, the lives of the Ripley's are soon about to change.

 

First-the good. It is very difficult to put this book down. The chapters are short, (heck, the BOOK is short), and fast paced. Once things start happening, they don't stop happening until the very end.

 

Second-the baffling. I'm not sure what the point of THE HAPPY MAN is supposed to be? I'm pretty sure there's some commentary going on here about housing developments, suburbia, immigration, sex, monogamy, corporate America, family dynamics, drug use, the decline of morals in society and so on, but was that the point? I don't know!

 

Perhaps it's this simple: A man thought he was happy and then was shown that he wasn't? Or that it didn't take all that much to turn a happy, regular guy into something else altogether? Maybe everything is just as much a facade as was Charles Ripley's demeanor? Charles wasn't that good of a guy in the first place and it only took a small nudge to send him down the road of....well, you'll have to read this to find out.

 

I'm going with a 4/5 star rating because I'm still thinking about this short novel days later and also because it was VERY difficult to put down once started. I'm also going with RECOMMENDED, if only so that you and I could talk about it and I could see what you think, when you're done!

 

You can get a copy here: The Happy Man: A Tale of Horror

 

*I received an e-book free from Valancourt Books in exchange for my honest review. This is it!*

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review 2017-11-14 18:45
Childgrave by Ken Greenhall
Childgrave - Ken Greenhall

 

CHILDGRAVE is a beautifully written quiet horror story, with a sketchy small town lurking in the background. By the time the secrets of the town are revealed, it's too late for the reader to turn back.

 

As I get older, I find myself more and more drawn to quiet horror. I can do without gore and torture and all that if I have a tale that's well written and atmospheric. I also need compelling characters and CHILDGRAVE has that in spades. The main character, Jonathan, is a widowed photographer. He, his daughter Joanne, and his housekeeper Nanny Joy, are so well drawn I feel as if I know them personally.

 

When Jonathan's photos of his daughter seem to show specters in the background, while at the same time Joanne seems to have developed some new invisible friends, Jonathan is intrigued. Are the two events connected? Who is Conlee, the name of Joanne's new invisible friend? Lastly, what is Chilegray and how is connected to Conlee? You'll have to read this to find out!

 

I'll get it out of the way now-this is a slow moving story. What kept me interested was the quality of the writing and the characters. Jonathan is a quirky man. He has few friends and little interest in fashion or modern day trends. His housekeeper Nanny Joy loves jazz and Jonathan's daughter, but is concerned about the appearance of Conlee and the specters in the photographs. Jonathan's agent Harry is hilarious and his girlfriend, Lee, is interesting as well. NYC of the 70's is the main setting, and it was fascinating to read about the city during that time of social upheaval and change.

 

I was inexorably drawn to the conclusion which leads the reader to a small town hidden in a valley. "Evil in a small town" is one of my favorite tropes and Greenhall knew how to deliver it in a chilling and shocking- yet believable way. You find yourself wondering what you would do in such a situation and I continued to think about it all night long...hours after finishing the book. I can't say that I blame Jonathan for the choices that he made.

 

While CHILDGRAVE isn't the psychological, fast moving story that both ELIZABETH or HELL HOUND were, it was excellent in its own quiet and compelling way. Slowly drawing the reader down into the valley where secrets are kept for generation after generation, Greenhall deftly brings things to a head and left this reader wishing for more.

 

Highly recommended!

 

You can get your copy here: CHILDGRAVE

 

*Thanks to Valancourt Books for providing this e-book free, in exchange for my honest review. This is it.*

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