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review 2020-03-03 03:26
Lord Byron was not a nice man
The Poet and the Vampyre: The Curse of Byron and the Birth of Literature's Greatest Monsters - Andrew McConnell Stott

Back in 2014 I read a book called The Seven Lives of John Murray which gave a somewhat one-sided description of Lord Byron (keeping in mind his relationship to the publishing house and its publisher). However, I still felt I had a pretty firm grasp on the man and his relationship to Percy Shelley. And then I read The Poet and the Vampyre: The Curse of Byron and the Birth of Literature's Greatest Monsters by Andrew McConnell Stott. The author primarily uses historical material from two people who knew Byron and the Shelley's well (and kept detailed diaries and letters): Claire Clairmont (Mary's step sister) and John Polidori (Byron's physician). Because John Murray's relationship to Byron was mainly a professional one the veil wasn't quite lifted as to what sort of a man he really was and I'm sorry to tell you this but he was a mean-spirited bully. Much of Byron's suffering was of his own making and he made sure to share the wealth with others. He drew creative people to him like a moth to a flame but they were undoubtedly going to be burnt once they got too close. I especially felt sorry for Mary and her sister Claire. Claire was totally besotted with Byron and much like the other women in his life when she became a yoke around his neck he discarded her. (Don't even get me started on the child they had together.) Poor Mary suffered just as much if not more so than her sister. There was so much loss her in her life, ya'll. (Rather than spoil all the history I'll leave it at that to whet your appetite.) Now John Polidori was a name I don't recall ever seeing before but as an aspiring writer and devotee of Byron he of course did not make it away from him unscathed. [A/N: I should point out that there all being together happened during one summer and yet it makes for a lot of historical material especially considering the correspondence that flowed between them afterwards.]

 

All in all, this was a very interesting historical novel which gave a much less biased depiction of the major players than what I had already read. Honestly, my one complaint is that I felt there was no one central character in this book which made it feel somewhat unmoored. Is this a book about Byron or a book about Shelley? Either way, neither one comes out especially smelling like roses (although Shelley would be my choice any day of the week over that scoundrel Byron). 9/10

 

*By the way, this book was generously sent to me from my cooler than cool friend Katie who works as an editor over at Pegasus Books. Thanks for always looking out, Katie! (Obviously, this in no way influenced my review but I do appreciate the free lit.)*

 

What's Up Next: It Takes One by Kate Locke

 

What I'm Currently Reading: Ninth House by Leigh Bardugo

Source: readingforthehckofit.blogspot.com
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review 2019-09-18 21:59
Southern Gothic
Wickers Bog: A Tale of Southern Gothic Horror - Mike Duran

 

Sirens aren't just for sailors.

 

This made me think of The Legend Of Wooley Swamp by the Charlie Daniels Band.

 

Well, if you ever go back into Wooley Swamp, well, you better not go at night
There's things out there in the middle of them woods
That'd make a strong man die from fright
Things that crawl and things that fly
Things that creep around on the ground
And they say the ghost of Lucius Clay gets up and he walks around

 

I always feel guilty reading short stories.

 

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review 2019-06-15 10:20
Creature/cosmic horror, a great protagonist, and a fascinating historical setting
The Resurrectionists (The Salem Hawley Series) - Michael Patrick Hicks

Wow! I read and reviewed another novella by Michael Patrick Hicks not so long ago (or at least it remains very fresh in my mind), and I’d read great reviews for this novella as well, so I knew it would be good. In this novella, like in the previous one, the author manages to pack great (and pretty scary) action scenes, to create characters we care for, and to bring depth into the proceedings, with a great deal of sharp social commentary, all in a small number of pages.

This novella also combines elements from a large number of genres, and it does it well. Yes, it is horror (and “cosmic” horror fits it well) but that’s only the beginning. We have historical fiction (the 1788 Doctor’s riot, which took place in New York as a result of the actions of a number of medical students and their professors, known as Ressurrectionists [hence the title), who robbed graves to get bodies for study and experimentation, disproportionately those of African-Americans, was the inspiration for the whole series, as the author explains in the back matter); elements of gothic horror (fans of Frankenstein should check this novella out); some of the experiments brought to mind steam-punk, there are monsters and creatures (Lovecraftians will definitely have a field day); a grimoire written in an ancient  language with fragments of translations that brings the occult into the story (and yes, secret societies as well)… All this in the historical background of the years following the American War of Independence, characters traumatised by what they had lived through, and an African-American protagonist, Salem Hawley, who has to deal with the added trauma of past slavery on top of everything else.

The story is narrated in the third person, mostly from Hawley’s point-of-view, although we also get to see things from the perspective of some of the less savoury characters (not that anybody is whiter than snow here, and that ambiguity makes them all the more real), and it is a page turner, with set action pieces and scenes difficult to forget. The rhythm of the language helps ramp up the tension and the frenzy of some of the most memorable battle scenes (we have memories of real battles and also battles against… oh, you’ll have to read it to see), which will be very satisfying to readers who love creature/monster horror. There are also some metaphysical and contemplative moments, but those do not slow down the action, providing only a brief breather and helping us connect with the characters and motivations at a deeper level.

I guess it’s evident from what I’ve said, but just in case, I must warn readers that there is plenty of violence, extreme violence, gore, and scary scenes (especially for people how are afraid of monsters and strange creatures), but the monsters aren’t the only scary beings in the story (there is a scene centred on one of the students —the cruellest one, based on a real historical character— that made my skin crawl, and I think it’s unlikely to leave anybody feeling indifferent). Also, this is the first novella in a series, and although the particular episode of the riot reaches a conclusion, there are things we don’t know, mysteries to be solved, and intrigue aplenty as the novella ends (oh, and there’s a female character I’m very intrigued by), so people who like a neat conclusion with all the loose end tied, won’t find it here.

I have also mentioned the author’s note at the end of the book, explaining where the idea for the series came from, offering insights and links into some of the research he used, and also accounting for the historical liberties he took with some of the facts (I must confess I had wondered about that, and, as a doctor, there were scenes that stretched the suspension of disbelief. Fans of historical fiction might take issue with the factual inaccuracies if they are sticklers for details. Perhaps a brief warning at the beginning of the book might put them at ease, because I think that moving the note to the beginning could detract from the element of surprise and enjoyment). I was fascinated by this historical episode (I was more familiar with the body snatchers exploits in the UK), and I’ll be sure to read more about it.

A thrilling story, well-written, packed with action, creature and cosmic horror, a great protagonist and a fascinating historical background. I can’t wait for part 2!

Thanks to NetGalley for providing me an ARC copy of this novella that I freely chose to review.

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review 2019-03-24 16:36
The Silent Companions
The Silent Companions - Laura Purcell

I´m a little bit fed up with gothic horror novels. The Silent Companions is another one of these lackluster attempts at writing an atmospheric, creepy and scary book and doesn´t hit the mark on any of these three things. Add to this a main character, who I disliked from the very first page and an ending, which didn´t make any sense at all.

And I would really appreciate if an author gives a more sophisticated reason for a malicious spirit being evil. In this book it basically boils down to "The ghost is evil because the person in real life has been evil". No explanation whatsoever why said person is evil and above all, what was the objective of this ghost. Why did it do all the things it did? 

 

I get it, it´s a "devils spawn" kind of plot. I was so bored by all of it.

(spoiler show)

Since this book wasn´t scary at all, I´m not batting an eyelash at putting out the lights tonight. On to the next read.

 

 

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review 2018-09-16 07:26
The Haunting of Hill House (audiobook) by Shirley Jackson, performed by David Warner
The Haunting of Hill House - Shirley Jackson,David Warner

I'll be brief, since I only just read and reviewed a paper copy of this back in June.

David Warner's narration was good, although I occasionally wished that a female narrator had been chosen instead, since he didn't always fit Eleanor and Theodora very well. From the look of things, both Audible and Kobo only have the version of this book narrated by Bernadette Dunn, which might potentially have worked better for me for that reason.

This is definitely one of those books that invites rereading. This time around, I knew what was going to happen and could therefore approach the story's events in a different way. Although I enjoyed that aspect and ended up with a new favorite interpretation of what happened, I was still frustrated with the way The Haunting of Hill House promised more of a ghost story than it actually delivered. It had some great creepy moments, and I just wanted more. Instead, I got several characters who became increasingly difficult to tolerate, and that ending.

I appreciated the ending more this time around than I did the first. In fact, taking my new interpretation of the story into account*, it was a perfectly logical and fitting ending. But I really wanted more creepy haunted house stuff, and ghosts.


 * That Hill House

wasn't actually haunted, but that its unsettling architecture had a tendency to affect its occupants' emotional states. And also, that Eleanor was telekinetic and Theodora was telepathic, but neither one of them had conscious control over their abilities or knew that they were using them.

(spoiler show)

 

(Original review posted on A Library Girl's Familiar Diversions.)

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