The Warning by Paul Paul, translated by Simon Bruni #WatchingWhatI’mReading

I DON’T WISH TO FRIGHTEN YOU….

Eight year old Leo, a uniquely “different” boy who has become the center of all bullying at his school, opens a note in his backpack addressed To The Nine Year Old Boy. Scared, shaking in terror, Leo gives the note to his parents who, by the way, should be nominated for the worst parents in all of literature. They assume that Leo has written the note for attention and add to his torment rather than comprehending the danger.

In the same, small Spanish town, a series of robbery/murders have been occurring for nearly a century. The note suggests that little Leo could possibly be the next to die.

The Warning

In the introduction, the author, Paul Pen, apologizes for this, his first book, explaining that while we in the US are just now reading The Warning, it was his first work and therefore flawed. (insert laughing here) If The Warning is his most flawed work then I cannot imagine how incredible his subsequent work has to be! The Warning is classical horror at its finest and by “horror” I am referring to the original genre that brought us Frankenstein, The Yellow Wallpaper, Shirley Jackson’s work and the first writings of Stephen King. It is the genre that will leave you with an uneasy feeling, have you looking over your shoulder for something which you cannot name. Paul Pen has given us a tale in which you hope for a happily after ending knowing that there cannot be one – can there?

Told in alternate timelines nearly a decade apart, The Warning is the story of  Aaron, Andrea and David who are attempting to cope with the senseless shooting of David. Aaron believes he has found a link from David’s shooting to three others in the past. He hopes to stop a fourth one in the future, even if he drives himself insane in the process. Alternately, there is Leo a child who is tormented by bullies and by his own mother relentlessly. Aaron concludes that it is Leo who will be killed. Now he has to convince others and attempt to stop a killing that will happen nine years in the future.

While the book started a tiiiinny bit slow for me, it quickly all came together and rapidly became a book that absolutely floored me, so much so that I read this one in one sitting. It truly is one of the best books of any genre that I have read in ages! Even if you don’t think that you like “horror,” this is a book that you will not want to miss. It isn’t zombie apocalypse horror, it is true, psychological drama at its best.

Paul Pen’s books have been made into Netflix movies, including The Warning, and he currently is working on a Netflix series. Currently you can see The Warning on Netflix – but not until you read the book.

#Netgalley @Netgalley #PaulPen and @AmazonCrossing

The Turning – a collection by Henry James

Bwahahaha – horror is back and it is back with a vengeance! Welcome to The Turning….
The Turning

Growing up in the 70s, I cut my teeth reading Stephen King’s original books, you know, their first publication back in the day and when I couldn’t get more of King, I turned to the classics like Shelley’s Frankenstein, a love story (!), Shirley Jackson and Henry James. My favorite of all was Henry James and his terrifying short stories. Every now and again someone makes a movie about the Turn of the Screw and 2020 is apparently the year for major film producers to go all out trying to outdo one another. The Turning is a compilation of James’ short stories as a movie tie-in for the first 2020 release, The Turning, directed by Stephen Spielberg. It is a great, and horrifying re-grouping of James’ most noteworthy scary tales. If you love classic horror then this should be a must read for you! I loved having them collected all together. Yes, it is written in his original stilted Victorian prose but, for me, that just makes it all the better.

As a side note, the director who brought us The Haunting of Hill House also is creating a sequel based on James’ short stories called “The Haunting of Bly Manor.” You will want to read The Turning to be fully prepared for this spine=tingling, nerve-rattling sequel when it airs in a few months!

My Favorite Books of this Decade…

I’ve loved reading all of the blogs that have listed the “best books of the decade.” Everyone is so different and unique and the included books say as much about the person as they do about the decade of reading and publishing. I’ve decided to go with my favorites that were actually published from 2010 to the present. I also debated the number I would include finally ended up at plus/minus THIRTY. Choosing a favorite book is much like choosing a favorite child, it cannot be done. These, from various genres, resonated with me for one reason or another. I’ve included links to Amazon for each if you’d like to read one or two of them. Also, because there are so many, I’m dividing them up into two posts. LOL. My attention span is small this time of year and I assume that’s the same for most of you as well.

2010-2019 Favorite Published Works:

1. Little Darlings by Melanie Golding. This was a somewhat controversial book with many readers either loving or hating it. I, however, cannot stop thinking about this little bit of horror. A tale of a woman who truly believes her newborn has been taken and switched with another baby, a changeling. She has proof but it all can be explained away with logical reasoning – or can it. When she ultimately tries to drown “the changeling,” she is institutionalized. It’s a profound story either full of horror and paranormal activity OR one of the best books I’ve read about postnatal depression.

2. Night Film by Marisha Pessel. Wow! Before Night Film I read very light reading such as women’s lit, mild crime-fi like Kathy Reichs. This book was my first foray into the darkness, the noir that lies in the world of fiction. After this there was no turning back. I was a noir reader forever.

3. The Good Detective  by John McMahon (see my review HERE)

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The Good Detective was a book I expected to NOT like. Instead, it has become the high bar against which all other Crime-Fi books that I read are judged. An extremely flawed detective, a great sidekick who is a strong woman of color, exposing the horrors of the southern US and crimes based on true stories. Put all of those together in an amazingly well written thriller and you have a winner.

4. The Fourth Monkey by J D Barker  – I was going to include a link to my review and realized it was published before I had my blog. Geesh, time really does pass quickly. To say that I loved The Fourth Monkey is a huge understatement. I told everyone I know about this book, bought it for friends and family and still think about it all of the time. Yes, there was a lot of gruesome material. No, I didn’t care for the sequels nearly as much as this one but this one was at the top of its game and one of the very best pieces of crime fiction I’ve ever read.

5. I read a lot more historical fiction over the past years, more than I have since my university days in fact. There are some terrific books in this genre and the authors go above and beyond when it comes to research, research and more research. I tend to fact check a lot of books as I read and I’m always stunned by how much I learn from historical fiction. To that end, I have a few favorites from this decade beginning with House of Gold by Natasha Solomons (MY REVIEW) This is a sweeping saga that follows the story an Austrian heiress leading up to and during WWII. She is an Austrian who marries an Englishman and ultimately has to choose between her new family and her old. Generally I don’t read books set during WWII because they are very one sided. History is told from the winner’s perspective but House of Gold includes minor story lines from all of the Gold family which is scattered throughout the various countries involved in the war from England to Germany to Austria and across Europe. Most importantly, not since books about the Vietnam War have I read such realistic, horrific descriptions of the war itself. There were places where brother literally was fighting against brother to the death. This is a book that I will not forget for a long time, if ever.

6. Sold on a Monday by Kristina McMorris. Oh My. This was one highly emotional read based on a photograph that the author discovered of children with a “for sale” on them. You know already that it’s going to be heart-wrenching. Set in the Great Depression, a reporter/photographer snaps a photo of these children and then sets out to find out who they were and what led to the circumstances of their being sold. I read the author’s notes on the selling of children and then did my own background research and was so dismayed to discover that this was not a unique occurrence. Single women, particularly, who could not afford to take care of their children often sold them to families who wanted work hands. These were kids, not teens or young adults, but kids. It’s a horrible time in our history and a story that I encourage you all to read so that, perhaps, we can learn from our past sins.

7. Coptown by Karin Slaughter, a stand alone historical fiction novel. Karin Slaughter is one of “must read” authors. I love both of the series that she wrote and is writing but, a huge but, of everything she has written Coptown is the book that has stayed with me, made me really think about our racial divide, especially in the south and, most importantly, how far women’s rights have come just since the 70s. Although I came of age in the 70s, it never occurred to me the rights that I take for granted like having a checking account in my own name. This book, while fiction, is one of the best portrayals of women, especially women of color, in an era that seems like it was only yesterday. In reviews I often write the sentence, “yeah, but have you read Coptown….” because it was one of those books that set the standard for historical fiction.

8. Fast Falls the Night by Julia Keller – This is the book I talk about the most to anyone who will listen. While I adore Julia Keller and her characters, part of the reason that I feel like they are “family,” is because of this book. Set in a period of 24 hours – exactly – this is the story of a struggling town in West Virginia that broke the record for most the overdose deaths of the opioid crisis we are facing today. Based on true facts, in this story we watched as characters we have come to know either die or watch their loved ones die in a harsh, realistic look at just how pervasive this epidemic truly is in the US. Doctors, politicians, addicts, politicians, church family, ALL are affected. We often live in a sheltered world assuming that this epidemic does not affect us. Fast Falls the Night changes this town forever and we get a glimpse of how it would affect each and everyone of us should it happen in our own towns – if it hasn’t already happened in yours.

9/10. Because I’m a historian, I like to read the occasional historical biography. Over this decade there two that really stood out for me: Hoover and Grant. Grant by Ron Chernow was an eye-opening read about one of the most misunderstood and chronically lied about men in US History. Cast as a loser, a drunk, a bad general, this biography sets the story straight. The research is impeccable and tells the story of a recovered alcoholic, a devout man who hated war, hated fighting and yet, along with Gen. Sherman, conducted a military campaign that is still taught at West Point. Generals world wide have come to the US to study the genius of these two men. The civil war is over and it’s time to recognize the brilliance of the men who bravely fought to keep the US Union together as one.

Likewise, Hoover has been blamed for “the Great Depression,” as if one man could be responsible for worldwide famine, poverty and circumstances beyond anyone’s control. The entire world was in a depression, one NOT caused by Herbert Hoover. More importantly, the work Hoover did after the war is phenomenal. The airlifts from Poland where the survivors literally were starving in the streets are a result of Herbert Hoover’s work. He was an amazing man who should be admired and not vilified. Herbert Hoover by Glen Jeansonne a must-read for anyone who enjoys American history.

In the FANTASY category, or perhaps they are more paranormal and magical realism, I honestly never know. For me, fiction is just fiction.

11. Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman – okay, seriously, I loved this book from start to finish but it really didn’t occur to me until nearly the end that this was fantasy and not reality. I think that should tell you something about me and my love of the fictional world. This is a beautiful book, a fairy tale of sorts, about survival, the magic all around us and of believing in the impossible. It is, by far, my favorite book by Gaiman

12. Where the Forest Meets the Sky by Glendy Vanderlah – This is, quite simply, one of the most beautiful books I’ve ever read. The story of a child who wanders into the lives of two people who need this child the most. They are broken, faced with debilitating illnesses and this child, who claims to be from another planet, brings these adults back to life, figuratively, as they care for him and try to unravel the child’s story. A stunningly written book that I’m so glad found its way into my world.

13.The Cottingley Secret by Hazel Gaynor – simply put, it is based on a true story, one that will have you believing in fairies by the end of the book. If you haven’t read The Cottingly Secret, which is part paranormal, part historical fiction, then I truly encourage you to do so. The magic is real. 51wvP7ALclL._SX330_BO1,204,203,200_Thirteen is my lucky number so I will stop here for this post. Stay tuned for PART 2 tomorrow…. In the meantime, tell me which ones you’ve read. Were any of these on your favorites list for the decade? What was your favorite book this decade OR this year? Can you name just one?

 

 

The Whisper Man #PublicationDay #AlexNorth

There is nothing that I love more than a true psychological thriller, one that gets into your head and won’t let go. That is exactly what I found in The Whisper Man by Alex North. 41nYBGAZjpL._SX329_BO1,204,203,200_

Let me first say that the cover art is one of my all time favorites. I had to read this book just for the cover alone and it definitely is representative of the horror within.

Tom and his son Jake have suffered the loss of their wife and mother. As a result, Jake – a very sensitive child – is having nightmares about the house in which she died. The pair move to a new village and into a home that others call “the scary house” but Jake insists is his very favorite. Tom decides the house has character, not terror, within its walls. He was wrong. In their small, sleepy village there once was a child killer, currently behind bars, Now another person is abducting children. Will Jake be the next victim of The Whisper Man?

This very easily could have been a run-of-the-mill child abduction book but it is so much more than that. The character development was superb throughout, even with minor characters who only appear infrequently such as Jake’s teacher. These characters draw you into their lives so that you become part of the story itself. And what a story it is! This is a very scary, creepy book. It is on the scale of Stephen King’s earlier works and reminded me why I originally read horror/thrillers. It turns out to be more psychological than horror but, wow, you do not know that until the very last chapter of the book. And yes, I am being deliberately evasive about the story line because part of the joy of reading this book was going into it blind and not knowing the real from the psychological terror. I want that for you as well.

This is a must-read book for anyone who loves horror, thrillers, psychological suspense or simply a really well told story! It is in my Top Ten favorites for this year and I highly recommend it.

It is publication day for The Whisper Man so run, don’t walk, to your nearest bookseller and get it today.  Thank you to #Netgalley, #CeledonBooks and @writer_north for my copy of this terrific book!

Theme Music by T. Marie Vandelly

She didn’t run from her dark past. She moved in with it…

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Theme Music was one of the most hauntingly bizarre tales that I’ve read in a very long time. There is a paranormal element to it that adds to the horror aspect of the story but the story line itself is macabre enough to frighten off those with weak constitutions. Never-the-less, I couldn’t put this book down!

Dixie was the sole survivor of a family massacre that occurred when she was two. The official story is that her father murdered the family with an axe before slitting his own throat, leaving only Dixie alive in her high chair. Dixie, who was raised by her aunt and uncle, has grown up with the stigma that surrounded her family as a result; so when the house – THE house – is put on the market, Dixie decides to buy it and move in. Not only that, but she gathers all of the old furniture and belongings that have been in storage and creates the house as near to the original as possible. Talk about a bit “off,” or perhaps just slightly obsessed. Of course, once inside the house, all hell breaks loose for Dixie. The problem for the reader is that we never are clear if Dixie is as crazy as her father allegedly was or if there is more to the story that Dixie – or us – even suspect.

Admittedly the story was brilliant until the midway point and then I found myself hurriedly reading through to the end to find out what was going on with the characters – all of them. I think there could have been a bit more editing, especially toward the end of the story. However, even with that in mind, Theme Music is a terrific book, frightening, suspenseful and definitely horrifying.

Thanks to #Edelweiss, the author and #PenguinPublishingGroup #Dutton for my copy of this book.

Little Darlings @MK_Golding

I believe in fairy tales
Hey diddle diddle
the cat and the filddle
and I believe in you….

39893197There are times when you read the synopsis for a book and you just know, just know, that it is going to be one of the best books you’ve read, knock your socks off, surprise you and stay with you long after the last page has ended. Little Darlings was exactly that book for me. It sounded like an adult noir fairy tale meets a Stephen King novel gone awry and I was right – it is all of that and so much more!

Lauren is has just given birth to twin boys whom she adores. It wasn’t an easy birth and she truly is terrified of raising the boys, having feelings of inadequacy and an inexplicable fear of “losing” the twins. These feelings are compounded when she sees what appears to be an old “crone” in her hospital room/ward who threatens to take away her boys and replace them with changelings. Lauren traps herself in the washroom and calls the police but before they arrive, the attendant on duty puts her back in bed and convinces everyone that it is just post-natal depression. Oh yes, the wonderful catch-all for everything that occurs after delivery. Once home, Laurens fears increase and soon she is unable to leave the house, has stopped bathing, does nothing except breastfeed the twins. Her husband, a narcissist useless boy-child, is no help at all and is, apparently having an affair or is he? Perhaps it’s all in everyone’s imagination. It becomes increasingly impossible to tell what is real or not, fantasy or fiction, fairy tale or reality. When the boys go missing for a short time, then found, Lauren is convinced the returned boys are the “changelings” and not her actual twins. Everyone, except the female cop who is investigating, thinks Lauren has gone mad and eventually she is placed in a sanatorium. Was that the goal that her husband had all along or is she really mad – or, maybe, the boys really are changelings.

Yes, Little Darlings is terrifying. It plays on every single, solitary fear that every mother ever has had: inadequacy, failure to care for their baby, post-natal depression, the “system” not believing you when you need them to, cheating spouses… you name it and this book covers it and amplifies it to the point that while I was reading I was doubting my own sanity! Yikes!

The things is, I love the old, really dark, horrifying fairy tales of the old world. They served a purpose and had meaning and were meant to educate people about the dark things lurking – in the forest, in the water, in the dark, wherever the danger was hiding. What was the danger that this Irish folk tale was warning Lauren of and was it valid? Hmmm…. you’ll have to pick up a copy of Little Darlings to see for yourself and, trust me, you will be so very glad that you did.

Watch out now, take care
Beware of the thoughts that linger
Winding up inside your head
The hopelessness around you
In the dead of night
Beware the darkness….
(George Harrison)

Thank you so incredibly much to Melanie Golding and @CrookedLaneBks for my copy of this new favorite book. I had the pleasure of reading it with #TheTravelingSisters book club but, you know me, I’m the red-headed step child who is always a day late and dollar short posting my reviews. Thank you!

 

 

 

The Stranger Diaries @EllyGriffiths

Elly Griffiths has woven together a tale of gothic suspense, psychological terror and marvelous detective work and thrown in a full measure of classical literature, all of which create a beautiful tapestry called The Stranger Diaries. Whew.

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If you think that opening line was a lot to absorb, just wait until you read the book. I’m still trying to untangle my mind from the who’s and who’s nots and what’s real and what’s not! For someone who had an imaginary playmate until she was 10 years old and still has a crush on Harry Bosch, whom I’ve been told is not a real person, trying to decipher a book within a book within a book written by fictional character written by an author with a nom de plume was a lot to comprehend. But, hand on heart, this book – The Stranger Diaries – was worth every single moment spent reading it. It is fantastic!

The book opens with a line from “The Stranger,” a gothic short story written by RM Hammond, whom our main character, Clare, is studying in hopes of writing a book about his life and works.

“If you’ll permit me,” said the Stranger, “I’d like to tell you a story.”

Clare is an English teacher at a school that is nestled in the old home where Hammond once lived. Her fellow teacher and best friend, Ella, is found stabbed to death with a note lying next to her body which reads, “Hell is Empty,” also a line from Hammond’s book. As The Stranger Diaries continues, the body count rises as does the spooky, creepy factor of the entire tale. Folded within the story itself is the re-telling of The Stranger and the more we as readers learn, the more similarity there is between current events and the haunting, gothic tale of the past. <shivers>

The Stranger Diaries reads, at once, both as a ghost story and a gothic suspense. The writing is marvelous, intelligent and might possibly have you scrambling to look up classical literature references along the way. (Note: Hammond is a fictional writer, much to my dismay.) I loved all of the characters, except the ex-husband and even he was the perfect ex. In all, this is a terrific mystery, ghost story, gothic tale that crosses multiple genres and can enjoyed by many. I highly recommend it.

Thank you to #Edelweiss, #HoughtonMiflinHarcout and #EllyGriffiths for my copy of The Stranger Diaries.