House of Salt And Sorrows by Erin A. Craig

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In a manor by the sea, twelve sisters are cursed.

Annaleigh lives a sheltered life at Highmoor, a manor by the sea, with her sisters, their father, and stepmother. Once they were twelve, but loneliness fills the grand halls now that four of the girls’ lives have been cut short. Each death was more tragic than the last—the plague, a plummeting fall, a drowning, a slippery plunge—and there are whispers throughout the surrounding villages that the family is cursed by the gods.

Disturbed by a series of ghostly visions, Annaleigh becomes increasingly suspicious that the deaths were no accidents. Her sisters have been sneaking out every night to attend glittering balls, dancing until dawn in silk gowns and shimmering slippers, and Annaleigh isn’t sure whether to try to stop them or to join their forbidden trysts. Because who—or what—are they really dancing with?

When Annaleigh’s involvement with a mysterious stranger who has secrets of his own intensifies, it’s a race to unravel the darkness that has fallen over her family—before it claims her next.

This is an ARC my sister won at Book Con 2019. I borrowed it from her.

I didn’t know it was a re-telling of the Brother Grimm’s “The Twelves Dancing Princesses” (a.k.a. “The Worn-out Dancing Shoes and “The Shoes That Were Danced to Pieces.”) I never heard of that story. So I can’t compare the two.

I do know I liked this version very much. It had a great atmosphere. I love the sea theme. The cover artwork is just beautiful. I really liked the world building and they way their different devotions to different gods and goddesses were explained.

The supernatural murder mystery was intriguing and kept me wanting to turn the page. The pacing does slow down a bit in the middle, but I still wanted to know the outcome. I had several suspects on my list because a few people come across as untrustworthy and I would change my mind as to who really was the villain.

I enjoyed how the book built up to the ending. I was questioning what was real and what wasn’t as Annaleigh searches for the truth.

I am happy to say that the love triangle was very minimal. It focused more on the sisters, the mystery, and the enchantments.

Also, I am glad that this is a standalone, but if it were to become a series I would like to see a story from one of the other cities that follow a different god or goddess.

Besides the slow pace in the middle I do have one other reason for not giving it a perfect score, but it’s a spoiler. Basically I am a little confused.

SPOILER WARNING

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Interview with the Vampire by Anne Rice

This is the story of Louis, as told in his own words, of his journey through mortal and immortal life. Louis recounts how he became a vampire at the hands of the radiant and sinister Lestat and how he became indoctrinated, unwillingly, into the vampire way of life. His story ebbs and flows through the streets of New Orleans, defining crucial moments such as his discovery of the exquisite lost young child Claudia, wanting not to hurt but to comfort her with the last breaths of humanity he has inside. Yet, he makes Claudia a vampire, trapping her womanly passion, will, and intelligence inside the body of a small child. Louis and Claudia form a seemingly unbreakable alliance and even “settle down” for a while in the opulent French Quarter. Louis remembers Claudia’s struggle to understand herself and the hatred they both have for Lestat that sends them halfway across the world to seek others of their kind. Louis and Claudia are desperate to find somewhere they belong, to find others who understand, and someone who knows what and why they are.

Louis and Claudia travel Europe, eventually coming to Paris and the ragingly successful Theatre des Vampires–a theatre of vampires pretending to be mortals pretending to be vampires. Here they meet the magnetic and ethereal Armand, who brings them into a whole society of vampires. But Louis and Claudia find that finding others like themselves provides no easy answers and in fact presents dangers they scarcely imagined.

Originally begun as a short story, the book took off as Anne wrote it, spinning the tragic and triumphant life experiences of a soul. As well as the struggles of its characters, Interview captures the political and social changes of two continents. The novel also introduces Lestat, Anne’s most enduring character, a heady mixture of attraction and revulsion. The book, full of lush description, centers on the themes of immortality, change, loss, sexuality, and power.

 

I did not finish this. I stopped reading at page 288 (out of 340). I tried to push through to the end, but I just got so bored and uninspired. I already wasted too much time on it.

I got this 20th Anniversary Edition for free at Book Con in 2014 and I have been trying to dwindle my Book Con pile. This book put me behind schedule. I need to learn to just give up when I have stalled and have no desire to continue.

The thing is that it started off with promise, and with the exception that I hated that there were no chapter breaks, I thought it was interesting. I liked the twisted dynamic between Lestat, Louis, and Claudia. Claudia was the most interesting character. The mind of a woman trapped inside the body of a child and frustrated that she will forever look like a child and be vulnerable.

It wasn’t until Louis and Claudia got to Paris that I became so bored and really tried of Louis’s depressing contemplations.

Some parts are really poetic and I bookmarked them:

Page 13: “Evil is always possible. And goodness is eternally difficult.”

Page 161: “It seemed at moments, when I sat alone in the dark stateroom, that the sky had come down to meet the sea and that some great secret was to be revealed in that meeting, some great gulf miraculously closed forever.”

…but Louis’s musings became way too much. Like every sentence and sometimes they felt like run on sentences. So when I gave up I just looked up the ending on wikipedia. I barely remember the movie with Tom Cruise and Brad Pitt. I saw it once almost twenty years ago, and besides the movies always differ from the books.

So, yea, I am done with this book. I don’t have to finish every book.

2 out of 5 Bites.

Doctor Sleep by Stephen King, narrated by Will Patton.

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Stephen King returns to the characters and territory of one of his most popular novels ever, The Shining, in this instantly riveting novel about the now middle-aged Dan Torrance (the boy protagonist of The Shining) and the very special 12-year-old girl he must save from a tribe of murderous paranormals.

On highways across America, a tribe of people called The True Knot travel in search of sustenance. They look harmless – mostly old, lots of polyester, and married to their RVs. But as Dan Torrance knows, and spunky 12-year-old Abra Stone learns, The True Knot are quasi-immortal, living off the “steam” that children with the “shining” produce when they are slowly tortured to death.

Haunted by the inhabitants of the Overlook Hotel where he spent one horrific childhood year, Dan has been drifting for decades, desperate to shed his father’s legacy of despair, alcoholism, and violence. Finally, he settles in a New Hampshire town, an AA community that sustains him, and a job at a nursing home where his remnant “shining” power provides the crucial final comfort to the dying. Aided by a prescient cat, he becomes “Doctor Sleep.”

Then Dan meets the evanescent Abra Stone, and it is her spectacular gift, the brightest shining ever seen, that reignites Dan’s own demons and summons him to a battle for Abra’s soul and survival. This is an epic war between good and evil, a gory, glorious story that will thrill the millions of hyper-devoted fans of The Shining and wildly satisfy anyone new to the territory of this icon in the King canon.

I listened to the audiobook narrated by Will Patton. At first I really didn’t like his voice at all and missed Campbell Scott’s voice. But as I started getting into it I got used to his gruffness and thought it actually worked really well with some of the members of the True Knot and with Billy Freeman.

I thought Dan’s character as an adult was spot on for what would become of his life in the aftermath of the traumatic events of the Overlook Hotel. Also, the way he wrote his recovery from alcoholism was so well written and so believable that (besides King saying it himself in the Author’s Note) I looked it up and King knows from experience! I did not know that Stephen King was a recovering alcoholic.

WARNING: NOW THE REVIEW WILL HAVE SPOILERS BELOW.

THIS IS YOUR FINAL WARNING!

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The Shining by Stephen King, Narrated by Campbell Scott

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Listening Length: 15 hours and 56 minutes

Jack Torrance’s new job at the Overlook Hotel is the perfect chance for a fresh start. As the off-season caretaker at the atmospheric old hotel, he’ll have plenty of time to spend reconnecting with his family and working on his writing. But as the harsh winter weather sets in, the idyllic location feels ever more remote . . . and more sinister. And the only one to notice the strange and terrible forces gathering around the Overlook is Danny Torrance, a uniquely gifted five-year-old.

The Shining certainly lived up to the hype. I became afraid of the dark, and I even jumped in my seat on the bus when the passenger next to me adjusted his position in his seat.

This is the first King novel I have ever read/listen to. I have read/listened to a couple of novels by his son Joe Hill, and I can see their similarities with their prose. I liked the way King describes the settings and actions. I bookmarked a few favorite parts.

The pacing and character development was just right and so engaging. It is very hard to put it down. I jumped, gasped and groaned in reaction.

Campbell Scott’s narration was excellent. Without overly changing his voice too much he made it easy to distinguish the characters and when Jack is possessed at the end, the insanity in his voice is chilling.

Some Favorite Quotes:
Chapter 8: The mountains did not forgive many mistakes.

Chapter 33: (about the woman in 217) Like some malevolent clockwork toy she had been wound up and set in motion by Danny’s own mind… and his own.

Chapter 43: All the hotel’s era were together tonight now, all but the current one, the Torrance era.

5 out of 5 Roque Mallets.

I think most people have seen the movie by Kubrick, but that does not do the story justice. It missed the point and changed the essence of the characters. Danny is an intelligent boy and the movie dumbs him down, especially with his imaginary friend, Tony.

Jack Torrance being played by Jack Nicholson makes him seem like he was always a sinister, crazy man when he is more of a tragic character that gets manipulated by the Hotel.

The movie is great on it’s own and I will still watch it when I see it on TV. However, it is not a great adaptation of the book.

 

Small Spaces by Katherine Arden

Bestselling adult author of The Bear and the Nightingale makes her middle grade debut with a creepy, spellbinding ghost story destined to become a classic

After suffering a tragic loss, eleven-year-old Ollie only finds solace in books. So when she happens upon a crazed woman at the river threatening to throw a book into the water, Ollie doesn’t think–she just acts, stealing the book and running away. As she begins to read the slender volume, Ollie discovers a chilling story about a girl named Beth, the two brothers who both loved her, and a peculiar deal made with “the smiling man,” a sinister specter who grants your most tightly held wish, but only for the ultimate price.

Ollie is captivated by the tale until her school trip the next day to Smoke Hollow, a local farm with a haunting history all its own. There she stumbles upon the graves of the very people she’s been reading about. Could it be the story about the smiling man is true? Ollie doesn’t have too long to think about the answer to that. On the way home, the school bus breaks down, sending their teacher back to the farm for help. But the strange bus driver has some advice for the kids left behind in his care: “Best get moving. At nightfall they’ll come for the rest of you.” Nightfall is, indeed, fast descending when Ollie’s previously broken digital wristwatch, a keepsake reminder of better times, begins a startling countdown and delivers a terrifying message: RUN.

Only Ollie and two of her classmates heed the bus driver’s warning. As the trio head out into the woods–bordered by a field of scarecrows that seem to be watching them–the bus driver has just one final piece of advice for Ollie and her friends: “Avoid large places. Keep to small.”

And with that, a deliciously creepy and hair-raising adventure begins.

I bought this book at NYCC 2018 because I am a fan of Katherine Arden’s The Winternight Trilogy.

Although I am way older than the target audience of this story I found it suspenseful and creepy. A very good, and fast, Halloween read. I had to keep going to see how it would turn out.

I doesn’t go too in depth about the history, or the details about the curse, but it explained enough to set up the stakes if the main protagonists should fail.

I really liked the character development and relationships between the main characters: Olivia, Brian and Coco. I also liked that for a change instead of the trio being two boys and a girl, it was two girls and a boy. I never see that.

The end is left open for more adventures and I look forward to the next story.

4 out of 5 Scarecrows.

Book Review: NOS4A2 by Joe Hill, narrated by Kate Mulgrew

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Don’t slow down

Victoria McQueen has an uncanny knack for finding things: a misplaced bracelet, a missing photograph, answers to unanswerable questions. When she rides her bicycle over the rickety old covered bridge in the woods near her house, she always emerges in the places she needs to be. Vic doesn’t tell anyone about her unusual ability, because she knows no one will believe her. She has trouble understanding it herself.

Charles Talent Manx has a gift of his own. He likes to take children for rides in his 1938 Rolls-Royce Wraith with the vanity plate NOS4A2. In the Wraith, he and his innocent guests can slip out of the everyday world and onto hidden roads that lead to an astonishing playground of amusements he calls Christmasland. Mile by mile, the journey across the highway of Charlie’s twisted imagination transforms his precious passengers, leaving them as terrifying and unstoppable as their benefactor.

And then comes the day when Vic goes looking for trouble…and finds her way, inevitably, to Charlie.

That was a lifetime ago. Now, the only kid ever to escape Charlie’s unmitigated evil is all grown up and desperate to forget.

But Charlie Manx hasn’t stopped thinking about the exceptional Victoria McQueen. On the road again, he won’t slow down until he’s taken his revenge. He’s after something very special—something Vic can never replace.

As a life-and-death battle of wills builds—her magic pitted against his—Vic McQueen prepares to destroy Charlie once and for all…or die trying…

So I had this whole plan to fill my October reading/listening list with scary, gothic, horror-thriller stories for Halloween. I didn’t make it far and now the season is over. But I did choose well because what a crazy story! It is one of the best supernatural thrillers that I have read. I have read Hill’s other book Horns, and I think NOS4A2 might be more fraked up.

It was full of adventure and suspense. It got my heart racing and feeling really nervous for the fate of the characters I liked. I did feel like the ending did drag on a touch (which is why I deducted a point from my rating) because I was bit like, “oh, we’re not there yet?” However, the ending was very fitting and the opening for a sequel is there. Which scares me to no end. So mission accomplished.

It’s also a good mom story because it takes the saying “I will go to the ends of the earth to find you” to a whole new level. Hell hath no fury like a mother scorn.

Kate Mulgrew’s performance is phenomenal! The way she does Manx’s voice sends shivers down my spine. I think her voice has changed a bit since Star Trek: Voyager and the deep, raspiness was such an asset to her narration.

I loved the geeky references to Batman, Harry Potter, and others, as well as the nod to Horns when the Treehouse of the Mind is mentioned. All that geeky stuff made me gleeful.

While there is a lot of suspense, and some really disturbing, f-ed up situations, there was some humor too. It might have been Mulgrew’s delivery, but this one part in particular that made me laugh out loud was in Chapter 65 (page 377 in the paperback) when Charlie Manx says, “You will quit right this instant or I am leaving you by the side of the road. There is no reason for you to take out your failures on the handsome interior of my car.”

I ended up buying the paperback too because there are illustrations in it that are, of course, missing from the audiobook.

Lastly, there was a chapter at the end when Joe Hill talks about the story, his family and his inspirations and I liked when he said we all live in two worlds: The Real World and our own Thoughts. Ideas are thoughts made into realty through song (or any art form). I never thought about it that way before, but it’s true.

That is what music, books, movies, paintings, sculpture, etc. are. You think of it in your mind and it exists in your inscape… and then it becomes real and others can see, hear, and feel it too.

4 out of 5 Bikes.

Within These Walls by Ania Ahlborn

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From indie horror author and bestselling sensation Ania Ahlborn, this brand-new supernatural thriller questions: how far would you go for success, and what would you be capable of if the promise of forever was real?

With his marriage on the rocks and his life in shambles, washed up crime writer Lucas Graham is desperate for a comeback. So when he’s promised exclusive access to notorious cult leader and death row inmate Jeffrey Halcomb, the opportunity is too good to pass up. Lucas leaves New York for the scene of the crime—a split-level farmhouse on the gray-sanded beach of Washington State—a house whose foundation is steeped in the blood of Halcomb’s diviners; runaways who, thirty years prior, were drawn to his message of family, unity, and unconditional love. Lucas wants to tell the real story of Halcomb’s faithful departed, but when Halcomb goes back on his promise of granting Lucas exclusive information on the case, he’s left to put the story together on his own. Except he is not alone. For Jeffrey Halcomb promised his devout eternal life…and within these walls, they’re far from dead.

 

I picked this up last year at NYCC.

I enjoyed Within These Walls immensely. At 447 pages and taking me only 5 days to read, it’s a true page turner.

It stirs up all kinds of emotions. I was nervous, spooked, annoyed, angry, and saddened.

The f—ed up mentality, abuse, and manipulative behavior of the cult is really well developed; as was the loneliness, desperation, and vulnerabilty of the victims.

The story goes back to 1982/83 and forward to present day with some inclusions of articles, incident reports, and paranormal reports – which I really enjoyed. It connected everything really well.

This is one of those books that will keep me thinking for a few days. I have a book hangover. I even thought of a playlist that would go well with it:

-“Father Figure” by George Michael. The whole song is Jeff Halcomb.
-“Big God” by Florence + the Machine. “You need a big God. Big enough to hold your love.”  and “You always were my favorite ghost.”
-“”Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This)” by Eurythmics. The whole verse about wanting to use and abuse and be used and abused.

There are some issues though which made me decide to downgrade it by 1 point. While I really liked the way it ended because it remained true to the powerful and ominous direction it was headed all along (and I think leaves it open for a sequel) not everything is answered and they are pretty important plot holes.

4 out of 5 Ornate Crosses.

These are major spoilers so enter at your own risk!

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