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 |

  • 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…



The Last Wish by Andrzej Sapkowski

alberta's book reviewsI attend a small sci-fi/fantasy book group. ‘Tis smallish last meeting there was seven of us there to discuss The Last Wish by Andrzej Sapkowski. Out of seven what, I wonder, is the chance of all of them enjoying it? I don’t know but I did expect someone to like it. Nope. I was the only one who not only enjoyed but thought it was the best we had read for the six months I have been part of this group and we have had some really good reads.

I don’t play video games, I never have, so I had not come across these characters before. The characters did come before the games I understand. I enjoyed this book so much it was like a slap across the face that everyone else trashed it so thoroughly. That they found it boring and tedious, it made no sense to them.

That they didn’t find the layers of richness, the insights into changing civilisations, the authenticity of the monsters and fairy tales, that I had, saddened me.

I felt puzzled and out of sync. I had been looking forward to sharing something I had enjoyed with others and it didn’t happen:( ah well these things happen and I really ought to know better; all my life I have found very few books my friends enjoy as I do, they all have have different tastes to moi.

I shall enjoy The Last Wish on my own:)


The Last Wish

The Last Wish by Andrzej Sapkowski

Geralt is a witcher, a man whose magic powers, enhanced by long training and a mysterious elixir, have made him a brilliant fighter and a merciless assassin. Yet he is no ordinary murderer: his targets are the multifarious monsters and vile fiends that ravage the land and attack the innocent. He roams the country seeking assignments, but gradually comes to realise that while some of his quarry are unremittingly vile, vicious grotesques, others are the victims of sin, evil or simple naivety.

One reviewer said: ‘This book is a sheer delight. It is beautifully written, full of vitality and endlessly inventive: its format, with half a dozen episodes and intervening rest periods for both the hero and the reader, allows for a huge range of characters, scenarios and action. It’s thought-provoking without being in the least dogmatic, witty without descending to farce and packed with sword fights without being derivative. The dialogue sparkles; characters morph almost imperceptibly from semi-cliche to completely original; nothing is as it first seems. Sapkowski succeeds in seamlessly welding familiar ideas, unique settings and delicious twists of originality: his Beauty wants to rip the throat out of a sensitive Beast; his Snow White seeks vengeance on all and sundry, his elves are embittered and vindictive. It’s easily one of the best things I’ve read in ages.’ Amazon blurb.

The best bit is?  I have discovered this author after  he has written for decades, so I have enjoyment for a couple of years. Yay:)

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 |

  • 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:Which one book would you say everyone must read?

As to this question I have spent the whole day pondering it. One book everyone should read? I believe this a question I find impossible to answer, although I would like to. One’s first thoughts ranges over the classics, many are important life changing, let alone history changing, then I considered the modern authors(last 100 years !) all those amazing books. There is not one I could pick above others. So I admit defeat:)

Musing Monday:February 23rd

musingmondays51Musing 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: Do you enjoy debating / discussing the books that others are currently reading? Why, or why not?

I blogged about this past week:

Last week I reviewed five books for the British Book reading challenge, on this blogsite, over three blogs in succession. I have moments when that is all I want; easy, exciting, escapism reads. I came to Urban Fantasy late in life but I guess the seeds of enjoyment were always there.

Otherwise I contributed to 1000speak blogathon where bloggers wrote their take on compassion. There are hundreds of bloggers who joined in and it’s certainly worth looking at a few.

If you ask people what they like best in their heroes, compassion, in it’s many forms and labels, comes up high on the list.

It is I think hard wired into our DNA. We forget it too often as our lives get so tangled and busy but everywhere you go in the world of ours compassion is there. I saw it firsthand years ago on my travels and see it constantly now at home. The ability to put oneself into another’s skin – to feel what they feel.  In times of great disaster it leaps to hold out its hands.  Parents can look at their children and feel another’s pain, can look around their neighbourhoods and feel the loss So lets raise a cheer for the compassionate and celebrate  can feel it every day, those who carry it so far they are willing to put their lives on the line to do so.

As to discussing a book with others:

I used to hate doing this and dreaded those times, when studying for Literature exams, when we expected to do so. My friends and I used to watch all the plays we could, in London, standing for hours in the gods. We watched Shakespeare, Osborne, Becket, Elliot, Brecht amongst many many others.  Immersed ourselves in modern authors and had to dissect and find hidden meanings endlessly.

I remember watching Peter O’Toole playing Hamlet in the long version nearly 5 hours of, I have to confess, torture on the legs! My friends always wanted to discuss, analyze on the way home and I only ever wanted to sit on the tube and relish in quiet what I had seen.

Live it for a few more hours.

For years after reading groups sprang up around the country I avoided them like the plague

Not for me.
Horrid idea.
Just enjoy the books.

Then I lost my books and spent three years in loneliness and decided in desperation to join a reading group. Treat reading

As homework
A task

It worked a treat, I remember it was a Minette Waters book. I found it difficult to discuss, at first I lurked on the fringes. It wasn’t pretentious as it had been in the days of exams, it was fun.

It was fun?
Well I never!

Now, well yes, I still have some reservations, some books which  I hold so dear I will not discuss them with others.

I belong to two reading groups now, down here on earth, none really in cyberspace. I love discussing our designated reads at the groups, especially if opinion is so divided there is an ‘interesting’ discussion about it. I have also taken on board genres and authors I would never have tried before and because of the discussions read them with a mind as to whether and why others would enjoy them. I believe this has made me far more tolerant, understanding of ‘others’ it has also added whole genres to my ‘likes’. More willing to step outside my comfort zone in pursuit of a good read.
Took a few decades but yes I do enjoy discussing books with others.

Mabinogion & Confessions: Reading Challenges

Mabinogion by Unknown authors and Confessions by Augustine Bishop of Hippo


alberta's book reviews

These two books have been read for the Literary Movement, the Pre-printing Press, New to You , Books in Translation Reading Challenges 2015 and Mabinogoin also applies to the British Books Reading Challenge and Mount TBR Challenge.

I knew that  the Pre- Printing Press and early stages of The Literary Movement Challenge would take me a little outside my comfort zone for many reasons. I had not realized just how far outside that would be.

I had thought when I joined up that I would as far as possible concentrate on British books, there being many of the great classics that I have not yet read. If I added extra each month I would then venture elsewhere. So for January I began with The Mabinogion. A Welsh collection of, originally oral, tales. Having finished that I decided to have a go at Confessions by St Augustine. Bishop of Hippo.

So how did the two books read for this challenge in January go. Difficult both.

I will outline the main difficulties I had with both, at the start, so that you will know where I am coming from.

They took time to read, absorb and understand. I am an avid reader, have read for decades, am not put of by length, language or age of books. I love books, short and sharp, books with long detailed descriptions. However, I am also a fast reader. I gobble them down.

Reading slowly is very difficult for me. A physical discomfort. It is as exhausting for me as running a marathon. One of the main obstacles that prevents me listening to books.

Also with books this old translation is always going to be a problem. Translation can make or break a reading. Modern day ones stand a better chance of fulfilling expectations. This old from such completely different worlds how is a translator to manage the task.One can be fluent in a language and still not get it. Even with English the differences in meaning in words say from Shakespeare’s time to now can be vast. With Mabinogion for instance it is transcribed from oral telling at some moment in time into old Welsh then translated into English at various times since. So there is always one part of my brain questioning every thing, very tiresome.

So main problems accounted for, let us continue, I gave both 3 stars on Goodreads which is a good mark for me, it means I liked the books

1) I did sort of enjoy The Mabinogion – a bad habit of mine is to dive into a book and read the foreword at the end! If anyone else has this bad habit – don’t with this book. I went back to the foreword a third of the way through, to untangle the negativity I was feeling toward this catalogue of slash, burn and kill collection!

It is first and foremost a translation of a gathered together collection of oral folk stories, centuries old. The foreword explained some of motifs and symbolisms I had not come across before, the language and characters, the reason for and possibilities of. I went back to reading mollified and settled down to read it properly as a piece of research, not as a collection of stories.

I have never found that the oral translates well into the written. Watch a good oral teller of tales is like watching a play, there are visual clues, emphasis on certain words, actions which can reinforce or belie the words. Set down in print all that rich layer of complexity is lost.

I do understand why this collection stands so highly among the books of the period, and I gained a certain satisfaction at having my prejudices about the conduct of the ‘knights’ verified yet again, they really were not a nice mob.

Once I was back on tract and listening to the voice of the folk lore, taking on board the times they first were narrated, the history they were set into and the beliefs and superstitions of the times I could enjoy the read.

Books, old books in particular convey the social and political climes of the times they were written in. Reading between the lines can open up new (old) mindsets, but also show how we essentially do not change so much over time.

Thinking back I think I would have enjoyed them more if the Knights had not been part of them. I know they are the main characters,if they had been called anything but Arthur’s knights. However, that is just me, I’m telling why I didn’t personally like it as much as others; reading other reviews I can see I stand alone in my dislike of knights! The magic and mayhem were fun and in places humorous, shape shifters, giants, dashing heroes what’s not to like.

This collection shows the conflict and overlap between early Christianity and fairy lore. I read it as an insight into the times, forget character development there isn’t any and besides the audience would have known their folk heroes. Look for the clues and motifs. Consider the influence back and forth between folk/faerie myth, the romance of later and these tales. It is fascinating to come across familiar themes that one has found across the nations.

Last but not least probably better to read in short bursts.

2) Confessions by Augustine Bishop of Hippo
Now this one took me even more way way out of comfort. Even slower reading required for the thought and pondering the words provoked. And also, for me, the sieving out of the language. I do read, with great interest, religious books, everything fascinates, even religion. I do know quite a lot about the Christian Church; Church of England primary school and Roman Catholic secondary education. Thirteen years of instruction.

I found the language used in Confessions extreme, and irritating after a while. It felt at first as if I was listening to a very long prayer or sermon, even eavesdropping on a confessional. I do not mean to offend.

I persevered and was glad I had. I won’t read it again, I am too old to have to take a week reading a book. However, I fully understand why this book stands as such a classic of a read.

As a memoir, one of the first, it would stand so, the story of his early life and struggles to find his God are a fascinating insight into that period. Then there is close affinity to those ancient philosophers, still reasonable fresh to his times, not as ancient as now:) His questing after answers in a time when mankind still had no answers shows how mankind is imbued with this desire to ‘know’ ‘understand’ the environments around, below and above them in a way we believe other animals do not have. Although we do not know even that for a certainty.

He was a man of curiosity, intellect, imagination, will power and honesty.Honesty about his supposed sins, his ignorance and his failings. Honesty is a virtue we all should cherish when we come across it.

I went to read reviews after having read the book and I fall short of the praise everyone had for the book. I did not find anything new to ponder. I did not find the language inspiring or uplifting. I found it intriguing and interesting. Especially the light it threw on early Christianity and could see and understand with more sympathy the insecurities and early struggles of the time, where all those centuries of ‘misuse’ of the ‘Word’ had been born.

I am glad I read it. I am glad I read both of them,it is good for one to wander away from the normal paths in life:)

Madness of Angels

senior hands on a bible

In discovering Stray souls and Kate Griffin I discovered her other series and a new hero, Matthew Swift. I immediately turned to see what delights Matthew could offer me.

Madness of Angels by Kate Griffin

The Matthew Swift books were written before The Magical Anonymous series was begun. These tales are again about London. The style of the narration in this particular book, I’m sure, will annoy many readers, and may indeed turn them away from the book which would be a shame. Give it some time and the eye and internal ear will adjust.

Matthew is possessed by the multiple voices of the electric angels, one voice speaking for the many, and as such there occurs a plurality to the narration. However, when it is Matthew’s un- possessed mind speaking, we go back to the singular voice. it is confusing for the first few pages, but one soon gets the rhythm of it and it does help, the switches from one person to plural, to explain the reality of Matthew’s mind.

Matthew Swift wakes up in a room with no idea of the where, what or when of his life and neither do we. Kate Griffin does not let us in on this fact, we have to discover all as Matthew does, in pieces, and try to make sense of it in, bits. This is a darker world than that of Magical Anonymous and the madness of the  title seemed to me to sum it up well; Matthew is slightly mad, suffering from mental instability, as he struggles with his thoughts and desperately tries to make sense of what has happened to him now, two years previously and what happened in the intervening years.

Another aspect of writing where Kate Griffin excels, is in bringing a city to life. I was transported back to London of my childhood, sounds and smells and very feel of the place. The magic in this world is updated and incorporated into modern life and technology. This is no old age magic, but magic that is completely bang up-to-date.

It’s a difficult book, fascinating, but no easy read. If you can hang on in there. A Madness of Angels is an exhilarating book, I hope many will enjoy it as this old lady has. Sit back, let the madness take you on an experience.