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RIP8main200So it’s September tomorrow and that means the start of one of my favourite blogging event’s, Carl’s RIP VIII and the opportunity to read scary and thrilling stuff along with lots of other members of the book blogging community.

As is traditional I have pulled together a book list out of which I hope to be able to meet Peril the Second, where I need to read four books that fit the description of perilous. I’d love to be able to read them all, but we’ll see how that goes.

My list is (in no particular order):rip8peril2nd

A pretty good selection I think, and I’m looking forward to all of them.

rip8perilonscreenI may also take part in Peril on the Screen but no real plans on what that might involve, though it is really about time I re-watched one of my Desert Island Films, Son of Frankenstein with *sigh* Basil Rathbone.

Well now, this one is a bit special.

Readers of this blog will know that I am very fond of John Ajvide Lindqvist having read and reviewed his Swedish vampire novel (Let the Right One In) followed by his Swedish zombie novel (Handling the Undead) both of which were about considerably more than the tags I’ve given them here. Both were about love and relationships and harbour is in many ways no different, though I haven’t yet been able to come up with a suitable Swedish tag for it.

There is a tiny wee story behind this, in that having persuaded my friend Silvery Dude to try Lindqvist  he has been racing ahead and actually read this some months before I did. he recommended that I save this until the autumn, which is why I took it with me to berlin on my recent trip. It felt right to be reading this story in a more European setting than good old Surrey, and his recommendation and my instinct were both correct.

So, Harbour tells the story of a community, Domaro, which makes its living from the sea and from the summer visitors who have built houses there. Our entry to the community is through Anders who has a foot in both camps. One winter day he and his wife take their little girl, Maja, out onto the thick ice to visit the local lighthouse. They only look away for a few minutes, but in that short time every parents nightmare occurs; Maja has disappeared. There are no holes in the ice, nowhere that she could have gone, and despite searching high and low with the help of their neighbours, Maja can’t be found.

Two years later, his marriage destroyed and dependent on alcohol, Anders returns to Domaro determined to find out what happened. At this point we are also introduced to Simon, a stage magician and the partner of Anders’ grandmother. As strange events begin to occur and the secrets of Domaro begin to be revealed, Simon comes to understand that despite the number of years he has spent there he is very much an outsider. Between them he and Anders begin to unpick, albeit accidentally at times, what has been lurking underneath daily life.

I really, really enjoyed this novel. As in his previous books, Lindqvist shows great skill in describing strong emotions such as love, grief, betrayal and anger. His characters are fully rounded (my favourite was Simon) and I really wanted to know how they would get through the events which unfolded. The introduction of the supernatural elements (I’m not sure how else to describe them) builds up slowly and by the time some of the more bizarre incidents take place I was really invested in the story. How the community came to collude in and rely on the secret at its heart was all too plausible. If weird.

I agree whole heartedly with the comment on the cover “a third consecutive masterpiece”; so much so that I have already got a hold of his fourth novel, Little Star.

Strongly recommended.

So Carl’s RIP challenge has come to an end for another year and I’m really pleased that I that I did finish the main challenge as well as dipping into movies and short stories and had a really enjoyable experience.

In terms of books I read the following:

I read and wrote about five of the stories from Lovecraft Unbound edited by the wonderful Ellen Datlow and will continue to read the collection

I only watched two of the films on my list but saw an additional one, Contagion, which I’ve decided to include as a worldwide epidemic says “peril” to me.

  • The Others
  • The Nightmare before Christmas

Still got many of the reviews to complete and publish which I’ll do during the course of this week, but pleased with what I achieved.

This was an interesting one. I must admit that I bought it largely for the cover, I am a sucker for pumpkin-headed things and am still disappointed that my copy of Simon R Green’s Shadow’s Fall has this cover rather than this one.

Anyway, that’s what attracted my attention, and then of course I read the blurb and liked the idea of an annual animated pumpkin thing rising from fields and running a gauntlet of young men, and one of the quotes on the back talked about blood and gore and candy, so it was a clear choice for RIP.

And then I started reading it and hit a bit of a snag at first because it was unpleasant and nasty and I couldn’t connect with any of the characters. But, just at the point I was seriously considering setting this aside something changed. I’m not sure exactly what or when – perhaps it was the background to the October Boy being explained made it more interesting – but I decided that I would persevere and I’m glad I did because although it continued being nasty and unpleasant it was also well-written and had a real narrative drive  and I did begin to like the “hero” a bit more and the character that I particularly loathed got his comeuppance in a suitable way.

So with retribution meted out it turned out to be a good read.

And as I said, very apt for RIP VI for which I think it’s my fifth read.

A slightly different genre for my next RIP VI read, The Rapture is a described as a psychological thriller; now I’ve never been entirely sure what that means, but I can certainly say that this was  thriller of the “will it all really happen the way she predicted kind”, with a world potentially on the brink of catastrophic disaster and only the delusions and/or predictions of a murderous teenager in an institution to warn us of what is to come.

What I don’t think it is is a “haunting story of human passion and burning faith” as it says on the back cover; it has elements of both of those things, yes, but this is more a 2012 ecological end-of-the-world-as-we-know-it story, albeit much less silly than that particular film (and you can find out what I thought about that here.) And my disgruntlement with the world of the blurb-writer goes on…..

So we have Bethany, incarcerated in a facility for the disturbed because of the brutal murder of her mother a few years before. We have Gabrielle, confined to a wheelchair after a car accident, trying to rebuild her career as a therapist. We have Fraser, a scientist who gets drawn into the story when he helps Gabrielle investigate the predictions Bethany has been making and which certainly seem to be coming true. But are they true or is everyone being drawn into Bethany’s delusions as has happened before?

There is evangelical religion in the form of Bethany’s father; what role did that play in how she is now? There are Gabrielle’s trust issues as she struggles to come to terms with her situation. There is romance and distrust and skullduggery, but most of all there is freak weather, earthquakes, floods, hurricanes and at this point I want to start quoting Bill Murray from Ghostbusters when he’s trying to convince the mayor to let them sort out the Big Bad.

And that would be really unfair.

Because although this novel strays into soap-opera-ish melodrama on more than one occasion it does have serious stuff to say about how we manage our planet and the dangers of some forms of extreme religion when faced with real and practical problems. And the author doesn’t dwell on the disasters more than is necessary to give us a sense of scale and to give our heroes a real dilemma to deal with – if you think you know something terrible is going to happen but your source is frankly unbelievable and talking about it could ruin your career do you still have a moral obligation to take action?

I enjoyed this in a potboilery way, it moved along at a fair clip and I was interested in what would happen to the characters and how the scenario would play out. I’m still not sure whether I really liked any of the characters, but let’s face it, we weren’t really seeing them at their best.

This was my fourth read for the RIP VI challenge, and there is more than enough peril in this book for most readers.

I think it’s fair to say that The Dead of Winter is one of the very best ghost stories that I have ever read, and I say that as someone who thoroughly enjoyed and was totally creeped out by Dark Matter earlier this year. And it’s not just that I am a huge Chris Priestley fan, having read his three books of Terrible Tales (see here, here and here), though of course I am. I just loved this well-written, perfect, little tale.

This is the tale of Michael Vyner,  looking back as an adult at the Christmas he spent with his guardian in his isolated East Anglian house, Hawton Mere, and the terrible events that unfolded there. Michael is not there out of choice; his mother has just died, and Sir Stephen is someone he wants nothing to do with – he is bitter that his father was killed saving Sir Stephen while they served together in the army and Michael believes that the wrong man died. But he is a young boy with no other family and reluctantly accedes to his mother’s dying wish that he allow Sir Stephen to give him a new start in life. But Hawton Mere hides a dreadful secret…..

And that’s all I’m going to say because anything more would just spoil it.

This is just smashing, I read it virtually in one sitting and it was totally satisfying as a ghostly tale, very traditional and I mean that in a good way. It’s set in the Victorian period and has everything you might expect – friendly servants, an aloof but actually rather nice lawyer, the strange guardian and his devoted sister, and mysterious goings on some of which are pretty scary. I keep on wanting to compare it to both MR James and The Woman in Black, all for the very best reasons, but that’s a bit lazy of me.

All I will say that if you enjoy ghost stories you will love this.

It is my third read for RIP VI challenge. The shortest so far but already shaping up to be my favourite.

There are twenty stories in Lovecraft Unbound, which I’ve chosen as my read for RIP VI’s Peril of the Short Story, and I’m doing them in batches of five. Here are my thoughts on the first tranche:

  • The Crevasse – a classic Lovecraft creepy, claustrophobic tale of unnamed things in the Antarctic – really liked this one;
  • The Office of Doom – what do you think might be the consequences if you got a copy of the Necronomicon through an ILL? – a gross oversimplification of a great story
  • Sincerely Petrified – can a made-up legend take on a life of its own? – interesting premise let down  by really very unsympathetic characters
  • The Din of Celestial Birds – don’t go into the hovel, no seriously, don’t – doh, too late – couldn’t really get into this one at all
  • The Tenderness of Jackals – dark urban fantasy, but didn’t feel that Lovecraftian to me….

So a mixed bunch as you might expect, will be interesting to see what the next five are like!

I really have to get better at making a note of where I find out about the books that I read, because I am pretty sure that I picked The Possessions of Doctor Forrest up because it was mentioned in someone else’s blog – possibly to do with the Edinburgh book festival? Sadly I am too lazy to go and look so we shall just have to leave this as one of those little mysteries that life throws at us and I must remember to have my notebook near me when blog reading.

I do remember that wherever I found it about it my interest was captured by the description of this as a Gothic novel; in fact, the quote from David Peace on the front cover states quite categorically that this book

drags the gothic novel kicking and screaming into this new century

So I don’t think it’s giving too much away to say that this novel owes a lot to stories such as Jekyll & Hyde and Faust, but brings quite a bit of its own style to the genre. And I’m right about what I’ve said about not giving too much away because oh look, there on the back cover blurb it talks about disappearances, diabolical bargains and transformations.

There are three medical men of Scottish background by birth or upbringing who have been friends since school. Hartford s a psychiatrist, Lochran a paediatric surgeon and Forrest, a cosmetic surgeon. They are all more or less discontented with their lot despite being on the surface wealthy and successful in their chosen fields. But Forrest is the most discontented of all, and when he disappears he sets off a chain of bizarre, puzzling and unpleasant events.

I have been  mulling my feelings about this novel over for a good couple of weeks since I finished reading it. I liked the structure of the book which has the story told through the diaries of Hartford and Lochran; we see the events unfolding from their individual viewpoints and are party to what they do not share with each other. Their two separate accounts are interspersed with the odd contribution from a few minor characters, giving us more of an idea of what’s going on than they could possibly have themselves.

And then of course we have the “confession” of Forrest himself.

I can’t say that I loved this book; I enjoyed the puzzle, I wanted to know what happened at the end, I enjoyed much of the writing but I didn’t feel involved. This is almost entirely because I didn’t much like any of the characters; even when awful things were happening to and around them I felt very detached, not really caring about them, just wanting to know what the secret was.

So, interesting and well written but rather cold for a book which deals with strong passions. Glad I gave it a go, not sure that I would read it again. But a good fit for RIP VI, for which this was my second read.

DumaKeyStephenKing49027_fI may have said this more than once before but it is a statement that bears repeating: I really, really love Stephen King. Ever since I picked up a paper back of Carrie when I was (I think) 14 I have been hooked, and although there may be big gaps between reading his stuff I almost always buy his new thing as soon as it comes out. His work is so deceptively easy to read that I find it really comforting and turn to it in times of illness and stress, which may seem weird given the subject matter but I’m not going to try to explain the unexplainable.

And this year has been a bit of a King year; when I had a really horrible not-quite-flu-but-might-as-well-have-been cold, I consoled myself with Full Dark, No Stars and Just After Sunset, and last weekend when I needed a real break from all the stuff that was going on around me I picked up Duma Key and promptly fell in love. Spent Sunday afternoon finishing it when I really should have been doing other stuff but felt no regrets; this may possibly be one of my favourites.

And its odd really that I became so attached to the protagonist, Edgar Freemantle, because he’s lots of things I’m not: male (obviously), successful in business, a parent, but still I came to be very fond of him as he struggled with his recovery from the terrible accident that kick starts this novel. He loses an arm, his wife, his old life and possibly his sanity (for a bit at least). But he gains a new home in what sounds like a beautiful part of the world, makes some new friends who will become very dear to him and rediscovers a talent for painting.

Though of course that’s where the trouble starts.

His art is a means for something to fight its way through, something of great power that has been dormant for a while. And it becomes clear that Edgar and his new friends may have been called to the island, either because of a long-standing connection (the wonderful old lady Elizabeth Eastlake) or events that have made them vulnerable and sensitive (Wireman and Edgar himself).

And there are shocks aplenty as the awfulness is identified and confronted, and the people around Edgar pay a heavy price as always happens before there is a resolution and Edgar finds peace of sorts.

It was a lovely creepy book with remarkable characters, a believable father-daughter relationship and a cracking good story. Very, very enjoyable.

And my first read for the RIP VI challenge. A successful start.

It’s that wonderful time of the year when Carl hosts his RIP challenge and I am determined this year not only to take part but to actually finish the challenge and I have selected an interesting (well I think so) bunch of books from the stacks to help me do so.

I’m actually going to take part in three of the challenges – books, short stories and films, between 1 September and 31 October. Exciting stuff.

So, when it comes to books I’m going to take part in Peril the First and will be reading four books (at least) from the following list. I’ve already started the Stephen King and am already enjoying it in that “why haven’t I read this already” way that I always get when I pick up a King book that’s been sitting on the tbr pile. Anyhow the list goes something like this:

  • The Fall by Guillermo del Toro and Chuck Hogan – a recent purchase, mentioned here;
  • The Possessions of Doctor Forrest by Richard T Kelly – another recent buy, mentioned here;
  • The Small Hand by Susan Hill – a ghost story
  • Dark Harvest by Norman Partridge – winner of the Bram Stoker award and a fantastic cover (fiery pumpkin-headed things can’t be missed) (I think Susan may also be reading this one);
  • Harbour by John Ajvide Lindqvist – had this for ages and Silvery Dude tells me it’s excellent
  • The Dead of Winter by Chris Priestley – a boy, a mysterious guardian and a haunted house with a terrible secret;
  • The Rapture by Liz Jensen – “electrifying psychological thriller” apparently
  • Duma Key by Stephen King – as mentioned above

Not a bad list, I think

For the short story challenge I’m going to concentrate on Lovecraft Unbound; edited by the wonderful Ellen Datlow this is exactly what it says on the tin, a collection of short stories inspired by the works of one of my all-time favourites HP Lovecraft. A lot of the authors are unknown to me, which is no bad thing, but it does include stories by Michael Chabon and Joyce Carol Oates.

And finally a movie challenge. I am going to watch as many of the following as I can (given that I’m actually going to be in Germany for a chunk of October but we’ll see what can be done:

Right, well that lot should keep me busy. What’s on your list??

Bride of the Book God

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Scottish, in my fifties, love books but not always able to find the time to read them as much as I would like. I’m based in London and happily married to the Book God.

I also blog at Bride of the Screen God (all about movies and TV) and The Dowager Bride, if you are interested in ramblings about stuff of little consequence

If you would like to get in touch you can contact me at brideofthebookgod (at) btinternet (dot) com.

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January 2022