Am I lacking some basic emotion?

alberta's book reviews

Musing Mondays random question today is ‘what is your favourite horror novel?’

I have read a few, mainly because of book group choices.

Horror novels, ghosts stories, chilly, frightening, scary. My favourite? Well I have a great disadvantage here, there is very little scary in the genre which scares me. Real life? yes that can be scary but horror no.
Some of my friends tell me it’s because I don’t believe in ghosts.

It’s true I don’t, however, I also don’t believe in elves, dwarfs and goblins but can happily enjoy fantasy. I don’t believe in magic – well not the man-made kind but I am quite happy reading magic realism or even full scale magic.

So why not ghosts or horror?

I have just now finished A Head Full of Ghosts  by Paul Tremblay for one of the book groups I belong to. A book that according to Stephen King  ‘scared the living hell out of me and I’m pretty hard to scare’

It’s a winner of the 2015 Bram Stoker Award:  garnering words of praise such as terrifying, gripping, suspenseful, bloodcurdling,  Tremblay is one of the greatest horror writer’s today.  Wonderful accolades, and I think for aficionados of horror novels justified.

Am I lacking in some basic human emotion? As I say there are many fearful and terrifying things in our world. Too many if one follows the new or travels the world. I have seen and experienced many in my long life. I cannot remember any novel which has scared me.

A Head Full of GhostsThe lives of the Barretts, a normal suburban New England family, are torn apart when fourteen-year-old Marjorie begins to display signs of acute schizophrenia.

To her parents’ despair, the doctors are unable to stop Marjorie’s descent into madness. As their stable home devolves into a house of horrors, they reluctantly turn to a local Catholic priest for help. Father Wanderly suggests an exorcism; he believes the vulnerable teenager is the victim of demonic possession. He also contacts a production company that is eager to document the Barretts’ plight. With John, Marjorie’s father, out of work for more than a year and the medical bills looming, the family agrees to be filmed, and soon find themselves the unwitting stars of The Possession, a hit reality television show. When events in the Barrett household explode in tragedy, the show and the shocking incidents it captures become the stuff of urban legend.

Fifteen years later, a bestselling writer interviews Marjorie’s younger sister, Merry. As she recalls those long ago events that took place when she was just eight years old, long-buried secrets and painful memories that clash with what was broadcast on television begin to surface–and a mind-bending tale of psychological horror is unleashed, raising vexing questions about memory and reality, science and religion, and the very nature of evil.

I found A Head Full of Ghosts disturbing, but only for the way mental problems were addressed. Because of the way reality TV can rip apart people lives. How humans in their fragility can be bullied, manipulated, failed and destroyed in the name of science, religion and media frenzy.

The story was good I enjoyed (strange word! found it satisfying, maybe is a better choice) the plot and characters kept one on board. I read it in two sessions and stayed up late to finish it. I don’t regret the time to read it, but scary? not for me:)

It also employed a favourite device of mine, the unreliable narrator. That, I like – the feeling at the conclusion that nothing is known, nothing understood, the uncertainty of life ahead and the past behind.

I think I know why it has accumulated the accolades and although I didn’t find it a horror, so I would certainly recommend it to whoever enjoys horror books.

Musing Mondays is a weekly meme that asks you to choose one of the following prompts to answer:

Musing Mondays | BooksAndABeat.com

  • I’m currently reading…
  • Up next I think I’ll read…
  • I bought the following book(s) in the past week…
  • I’m super excited to tell you about (book/author/bookish-news)…
  • I’m really upset by (book/author/bookish-news)…
  • I can’t wait to get a copy of…
  • I wish I could read ___, but…
  • I blogged about ____ this past week…

 

Psychological thrillers do not always thrill!

a little rant

I feel disappointed at my reading choices over the past few weeks. Either I am being duped by those whose job it is to sell books or my tolerance for thrillers has become such that nothing much creeps me out these days.

Psychological thrillers: A thriller is surely meant to thrill one, and just because there is a lot of internal dialogue it doesn’t make it psychological in the genre meaning of the word.

I have read three or four lately, from idle curiosity to book group reads, and settling down to a good read have been left feeling a trifle cheated. Stories with plots which promise much and deliver a reasonable story of folk, but no psychological thriller type tenseness and anxiety.

As I say maybe I am just getting too old, read too many, have become un-shockable. Blase, maybe, about people and their motives. I’m not convinced it is me I have to say, I think it is the writing, because I have read some good ones. Reads which keep me page turning, worrying about the outcome.

These books that left me cheated are good mysteries, could be better detective books, if the police force were written as if they were real! That is another gripe, I cannot believe the police would overlook so many ‘rape and self defence ‘murders’ without investigation of the most rigorous. But that is a whole new blog:)

Maybe instead of jumping on the band wagon of this genre these writer could market themselves to another less demanding one. Because, as I say the plots are good, the stories could be successful but they lack the fear and terror this old lady at least would enjoy.

I am not naming them because it might well be me at fault not the authors. They do have good reviews so maybe I am being too demanding. ‘Tis a possibility I guess:)

This post is also part of Musing Mondays

Musing Mondays is a weekly meme that asks you to choose one of the following prompts to answer:

Musing Mondays | BooksAndABeat.com

  • I’m currently reading…
  • Up next I think I’ll read…
  • I bought the following book(s) in the past week…
  • I’m super excited to tell you about (book/author/bookish-news)…
  • I’m really upset by (book/author/bookish-news)…
  • I can’t wait to get a copy of…
  • I wish I could read ___, but…
  • I blogged about ____ this past week…

Wool by Hugh Howey and Musing Monday.

alberta's book reviewsI have just spent a couple of days reading Wool by Hugh Howey- it was a book group choice, I knew nothing about it, had not read reviews or been recommended it. Running at 561 pages I crossed my fingers and hoped for a good read.

I was not disappointed.
I neglected a fair amount of stuff so that I could continue reading – went to bed far too late.

I found it quite unputdownable.

A true dystopian, as opposed to zombie led ones. The opposite of Sir Thomas Moore’s Utopia and the genre spawned by such.

This is a story of hundreds of years of living in a huge underground silo. Over a hundred levels of humanity. At first, all seems well. The population wait patiently for the day when they can leave the silo. For the world to cleanse itself of the poisons outside.

The world of deception and lies is slowly unravelled and, for me, the tension and anticipation grew at just the right pace to keep me turning those pages. I laughed, cried, chewed my lip, and worried equally. I found the characters real and, whether good or bad, they were well drawn and believable. The heroine – great – my kind of heroine. Feisty and intelligent. Also a natural born rebel.

Such a good book and then I find there are two more volumes to read – well how good is that:)

MusingMondays-ADailyRhythm

Musing Mondays is a weekly meme that asks you to choose one of the following prompts to answer:

  • I’m currently reading…
  • Up next I think I’ll read…
  • I bought the following book(s) in the past week…
  • I’m super excited to tell you about (book/author/bookish-news)…
  • I’m really upset by (book/author/bookish-news)…
  • I can’t wait to get a copy of…
  • I wish I could read ___, but…
  • I blogged about ____ this past week…

THIS WEEK’S RANDOM QUESTION: How do you choose  the books you read?

How do I choose a book to read? I haven’t really ever thought very hard about it.

There are some titles which just leap into my hands like

The Hundred Year Old Man who Climbed Out of the Window and Disappeared by Jonas Jonasson – what’s not to intrigue in that one.

Or The Remarkable Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce

Or  Gaiman’s,  The Ocean at the End of the Lane

I wouldn’t really care what genre if the title grabs me.

Then there is I suppose the cover. All I know is what puts me off so much I won’t even read the blurb. Pictures of ‘sexy’ men with six packs, temptress women, hair flowing and more flesh than covering. Anything with a vampire on it. I don’t like the pastel ‘sweet’ pictures that I associate with chick lit. There are not many covers I  object to. Apart from those mentioned.

The blurb will tell me if the premise of the book is appealing. Then I may read a couple of pages to see if the style inspires confidence.

Many new finds and enjoyable reads have come about by recommendations from friends or even, on one or two occasions, complete strangers:)

Of course, there is a host of authors, already known to me, that I will comfortable reading their next publication with no second thoughts.

I enjoy books from almost every genre.

A  new author excites the most – the chance to find a new author, a stunning story, an imagination which thrills, to experience new sensations, to live in another life.

After so many decades I don’t often make a mistake in the choosing. Sometimes I am surprised, in book groups, I have often read away from my comfort zone and found something to appeal in a book I would not have picked up myself. A good reminder that an open mind is necessary.

Musing Mondays

MusingMondays-ADailyRhythm

 

I have been writing this week so haven’t managed to read much, however, I have read one from Clare North, –  Touch. Ever since I found she was Kate Griffin in another guise I have been intrigued at the small differences in the writing – I plan on doing a piece about it later.
So books in a series, I read:

Die and Stay Dead by Nicholas Kaufmann – Urban Fantasy, No2
The Hollow City by Ransome Riggs – YA Fantasy, No 2
Primal Cut by Ed O’Connor – Detective No3

One off
Touch by Claire North – fantasy

Re-read
84 Charing Cross Road – Non-fiction

I enjoyed them all in different ways and will be writing reviews later on. I found Touch needed the most concentration, as the hero! leaps in and out of bodies sometimes many in a few moments, it was fascinating to see how Clare North handled this.  She is an amazing writer whether as Clare North or Kate Griffin. She plays with the English language inventive and at times lyrically and often with a deft British kind of humour. This book scored the highest mark from me.

84 Charing Cross Road I have read many times in my life from way back when it first arrived on the scene. this time it was a re-read for a book group. It never fails to entertain me .I was trying to guess how often I had read it and I think it is probably around the  20 mark.

The Hollow City is, as the first in the series, a fine example of how the best of the YA genre overlaps the adult market.  They are beautiful books for the old photos alone and the plot lines, characters and action are supurb.

Now Primal Cut is not for the squemish and I’m not sure I could read too many of these detective stories but this old lady does enjoy a bit of gore and an easy read.  Quite blood thirsty moi:)

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84, Charing Cross Road

It all began with a letter inquiring about second-hand books, written by Helene Hanff in New York, and posted to a bookshop at 84, Charing Cross Road in London. As Helene’s sarcastic and witty letters are responded to by the stodgy and proper Frank Doel of 84, Charing Cross Road, a relationship blossoms into a warm and charming long-distance friendship lasting many years.(Goodreads)
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Die and Stay Dead (Trent, #2)


A brutal murder in Greenwich Village puts Trent and the Five-Pointed Star on the trail of Erickson Arkwright, the last surviving member of a doomsday cult. Back in the day, the Aeternis Tenebris
cult thought the world would end on New Year’s Eve of 2000. When it didn’t, they decided to end it themselves by summoning Nahash-Dred, a powerful, terrifying demon known as the Destroyer of Worlds. But something went wrong. The demon massacred the cult, leaving Arkwright the sole survivor.

Now, hiding somewhere in New York City with a new identity, Arkwright plans to summon the demon again and finish the job he started over a decade ago. As Trent rushes to locate a long-lost magical artifact that may be the only way to stop him, the clues begin to mount… Trent’s past and Arkwright’s might be linked somehow. And if they are, it means the truth of who Trent really is may lie buried in the twisted mind of a madman( Goodreads.)

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Miss PereHollow City (Miss Peregrine’s Peculiar Children, #2)grine’s Home for Peculiar Children was the surprise best seller of 2011—an unprecedented mix of YA fantasy and vintage photography that enthralled readers and critics alike. Publishers Weekly called it “an enjoyable, eccentric read, distinguished by well-developed characters, a believable Welsh setting, and some very creepy monsters.”

This second novel begins in 1940, immediately after the first book ended. Having escaped Miss Peregrine’s island by the skin of their teeth, Jacob and his new friends must journey to London, the peculiar capital of the world. Along the way, they encounter new allies, a menagerie of peculiar animals, and other unexpected surprises.

Complete with dozens of newly discovered (and thoroughly mesmerizing) vintage photographs, this new adventure will delight readers of all ages( Goodreads.)

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BeforePrimal Cut the days of the National Health Service and modern psychiatry, common wisdom called for brain paste – a mash of the pituitary glands of cow – as a remedy for mental illness. Doctors have forgotten; the general public has forgotten; but Bartholomew Garrod, of East London s Garrod s Family Butchers has not forgotten, and he is using more than just animals to treat his brother . . . he is murdering people.When a body is found, ripped apart and torn, although the slashings appear random, Detective Inspector Alison Dexter recognizes that the marks are actually butchers cuts of meats: the primal cuts.Meanwhile, in Cambridgeshire, a vicious bare-knuckle fight, results in a dead body, complete with bite wounds. Are the cases linked?As Alison Dexter investigates, she starts receiving threatening letters and body parts – human body parts. Time is running short and Dexter desperately needs to find the murderer . . . before he finds her.(Goodreads)

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Kepler haTouchd never meant to die this way — viciously beaten to death by a stinking vagrant in a dark back alley. But when reaching out to the murderer for salvation in those last dying moments, a sudden switch takes place.

Now Kepler is looking out through the eyes of the killer himself, staring down at a broken and ruined body lying in the dirt of the alley.

Instead of dying, Kepler has gained the ability to roam from one body to another, to jump into another person’s skin and see through their eyes, live their life — be it for a few minutes, a few months or a lifetime.

Kepler means these host bodies no harm — and even comes to cherish them intimately like lovers. But when one host, Josephine Cebula, is brutally assassinated, Kepler embarks on a mission to seek the truth — and avenge Josephine’s death.(Goodreads)

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Musing Mondays is a weekly meme that asks you to choose one of the following prompts to answer:
  • I’m currently reading…
  • Up next I think I’ll read…
  • I bought the following book(s) in the past week…
  • I’m super excited to tell you about (book/author/bookish-news)…
  • I’m really upset by (book/author/bookish-news)…
  • I can’t wait to get a copy of…
  • I wish I could read ___, but…
  • I blogged about ____ this past week…

THIS WEEK’S RANDOM QUESTION:

Have I read The Shannara Chronicles by Terry Brooks – have I seen the TV version?

The answer to both parts of the question s no – have I missed something is this a series I should have read. I am always open to recommendations although  my TBR pile is huge and tottering.  Sorry cannot comment on the books.

Two Books which will stay with me.

 

lifetime passionI have read two extraordinarily debut novels this Christmas. You know the kind – they make one wonder why anyone would bother trying to write!:(

Elizabeth is Missing by Emma Healey and The Shock of the Fall by Nathan Filer.

Both explore with compassionate and delicate understanding the disintegration of minds. Both deal with past memories, loss and grief. However there could not be such disparate characters; the first deals with dementia and the second with schizophrenia. Elizabeth is Missing has an 82 year old woman as a very unreliable narrator and in The Shock of the Fall the narrator is a young man.

Both protagonists are trying to negotiate the alien world that their mental illness has created. How they achieve this and manage a reasonable outcome for themselves is told through muddle, confusion, anger, depression, frustration, medication and a darkish sense of humour which bubbles through. Leavening what could be beyond bearing.

Elizabeth Is Missing

In this darkly riveting debut novel—a sophisticated psychological mystery that is also a heartbreakingly honest meditation on memory, identity, and aging—an elderly woman descending into dementia embarks on a desperate quest to find the best friend she believes has disappeared, and her search for the truth will go back decades and have shattering consequences.
Maud, an aging grandmother, is slowly losing her memory—and her grip on everyday life. Yet she refuses to forget her best friend Elizabeth, who she is convinced is missing and in terrible danger.
But no one will listen to Maud—not her frustrated daughter, Helen, not her caretakers, not the police, and especially not Elizabeth’s mercurial son, Peter. Armed with handwritten notes she leaves for herself and an overwhelming feeling that Elizabeth needs her help, Maud resolves to discover the truth and save her beloved friend.
This singular obsession forms a cornerstone of Maud’s rapidly dissolving present. But the clues she discovers seem only to lead her deeper into her past, to another unsolved disappearance: her sister, Sukey, who vanished shortly after World War II.
As vivid memories of a tragedy that occurred more fifty years ago come flooding back, Maud discovers new momentum in her search for her friend. Could the mystery of Sukey’s disappearance hold the key to finding Elizabeth? (Goodreads)

Maud struggles to remember the everyday, lives by the uncertain aid of written notes which spill from pockets and bags. They are out of order and so is she. The fixation which drives her to seek answers and drives her daughter, her carer, Elizabeth’s brother and the police to distraction is the idea that her friend is missing, she will brook no denial. But in the way of things although the present is a jigsaw of mainly missing pieces her memory of childhood is sharp, clear, full of distinct detail and troubled.

The Shock of the FallI’ll tell you what happened because it will be a good way to introduce my brother. His name’s Simon. I think you’re going to like him. I really do. But in a couple of pages he’ll be dead. And he was never the same after that.’                                                                                  
    There are books you can’t stop reading, which keep you up all night.There are books which let us into the hidden parts of life and make them vividly real.There are books which, because of the sheer skill with which every word is chosen, linger in your mind for days.
The Shock of the Fall is all of these books.
The Shock of the Fall is an extraordinary portrait of one man’s descent into mental illness. It is a brave and groundbreaking novel from one of the most exciting new voices in fiction.  (Goodreads)

Whereas I know quite a bit about dementia and associated complaints; have helped and assisted various elderly relative and friends in my life time; I know nothing at all about schizophrenia but Nathan Filer sounds authentic and he has been a mental health nurse. I found the account as believable as I did the account of Maud’s mental decline.

Mathew’s narration wanders, backtracks and  although is sometimes vague it is mostly sharp and observant. He is plagued, also, by a childhood memory, when his brother died. We know about this within the first few pages,he also sees and converses with his brother. Matthew is sometimes controlled by his drugs or deliberately refusing to take medication. He writes his account in various places and in different mental states.

Neither subject is what one immediately thinks of as a ‘good read’ however I would recommend both of these as such. Both books will remain with me for a long time.

I hope to read more of both authors in the future.