It’s Time For R.I.P. VIII

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I’m always in the mood for Carl’s R.I.P., but this year even more so than ususally. I have collected tons of “rippish” reads all through summer, even started a few already.

For those not familiar with the challenge or who have forgotten the “rules” these are the genres you can choose from:

Mystery.
Suspense.
Thriller.
Dark Fantasy.
Gothic.
Horror.
Supernatural.
Or anything sufficiently moody that shares a kinship with the above. That is what embodies the stories, written and visual, that we celebrate with the R.eaders I.mbibing P.eril event.

I intend to cover pretty much all of them and therefore sign up for

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There is also a readalong of The Historian which tempts me as well

Vintage Cluj Cemetery

Details can be found here

Here is a choice of books I want to read, have already read or am about to finish

Gaslamp Fantasy

Queen Vistoria’s Book of Spells

House Next Door

Anne River Siddons The House Next Door

Devil's Sanctuary

Marie Hermanson’s The Devil’s Sanctuary

Ghost of a Chance

Simon R. Green Ghost of a Chance

Red Tree

Caitlín R. Kiernan’s The Red Tree

Dead of Winter

Chris Pristley’s The Dead of Winter

The Keeper

Sarah Langan’s The Keeper

And these are the movies I might review. I’ve watched them all in the last two weeks or so.

The Conjuring (2013)

The Crazies (2010)

Jeepers Creepers I (2001) and Jeepers Creepers II (2003)

The Thing (1982)

If you’d like to sign up here’s the link

And here’s the link to the Review Site.

Will you join as well? What will you read?

Alice Hoffman: The Ice Queen (2005)

I don’t know many writers whose first sentences draw you into a novel like Alice Hoffman does

Be careful what you wish for. I know that for a fact. Wishes are brutal unforgiving things. They burn your tongue the moment they are spoken and you can never turn them back. They bruise and bake and come back to haunt you. I’ve made far too many wishes in my lifetime, the first when I was eight years old.

This is the lesson the narrator learns when she is still a little girl at the beginning of Alice Hoffman’s novel The Ice Queen. In a moment of intense anger she wishes her mother dead. A few hours later she and her brother are informed that their mother has died in a car accident. This freezes the narrator’s heart. Nobody will ever be allowed to approach her emotionally, she is shut down. She will live like a spectator, never get involved. When she is older she becomes a librarian, lives with her grandmother, has a lover, a policeman. Apart from being interested in all the possible ways someone can die, her life is uneventful. When her grandmother passes away, she decides to leave New Jersey and move to Florida where her brother lives.

She finds a job at the local library and resumes her uneventful life until she is struck by lightning. That changes everything. She joins a local support group and makes friends with a fellow lightning strike victim, Renny. When she hears of Seth, the man who is called Lazarus, because he returned from the dead, she starts to develop an obsession and finally follows him until he lets her into his house and his heart. The relationship they begin is one of intense passion and not very healthy. They are both initially trying to hide dark secrets from each other but ultimately their relationship will help them reveal and accept them.

The Ice Queen is a peculiar story. To some extent it is a re-imagination of  Andersen’s fairy tale The Ice Queen but many other tales have been incorporated and are mentioned throughout the book. Beauty and the Beast is as important as Amor & Psyche. And fairy tales are also present as topic. The narrator speaks about them, mentions them.

The main character isn’t very appealing, I can’t say I ever sympathized with her and her life much but I learned a world of things I didn’t know about lightning strike victims. How tragic it is, how much your life can be altered by it, the wounds, the scars. The worst that happens to the narrator is that she looses the ability to see the color red. This triggers the love story with Seth because she dresses and behaves differently just because all that was formerly red to her looks white. It’s amazing to imagine something like this and I found it fascinating to see the world described through the eyes of someone who sees white instead of all the shades of red. While it seems visual problems are common in lightning strike victims,  I’m not so sure something like this could happen but I was equally not sure that people could get so-called lightning figures that make them look as if whole trees had been burned into their skin. But then I looked it up and as amazing as it may seem, the phenomenon, which is called Lichtenberg figures, really exists (the link will guide you to some photos).

While as a whole this is one of the rare Alice Hoffman novels that didn’t work for me so much, there were a lot of amazing elements, as usual. One of the main characters, Renny, believes that every person has a defining secret and that it makes him or her tick. It’s an interesting concept and the novel elaborates on it.

I also liked the aspect that the narrator is a librarian and that for her each library card represents a person’s secrets. She thinks the information on it is as personal as diary entries.

What people read revealed so much about them that she considered our card catalog a treasure house of privileged secrets; each card contained the map of an individual’s soul.

I have read quite a lot of Alice Hoffman’s novels and find her a fascinating writer. Unusual and captivating and highly quotable. This isn’t one of her best in my opinion but it’s not bad at all. I just didn’t care much for the narrator and the story is based more on themes than plot which makes it somewhat disparate.

Of all the Hoffman novels I read so far I liked Seventh Heaven, Turtle Moon and The River King best. Second Nature and Here on Earth follow closely but I cared less for Practical Magic and Illumination Night.

Which is your favourite book by Alice Hoffman?

The review is a contribution to Carl’s Once Upon a Time Challenge. I am glad I made it. I had a list with several books and wanted to read at least one. I’ve read one and half. While book two – Patricia Mc Killip’s Solstice Wood – is much better than The Ice Queen, I will not be able to finish it this month.

Once Upon A Time Challenge VI

I’m so glad that Carl’s Once Upon a Time Challenge has started. I have been looking forward to it since weeks. Every since I have finished Robin McKinley’s Chalice and was in the mood to read more fairy tale retellings and fantasy.

If you want to know the details of the challenge, do please visit Carl’s blog. You have different challenge levels and four genres to choose from: Fairy tales, Folklore, Mythology and Fantasy. The challenge runs from March 21st to June 19th. There will be two readalongs as well. The first one in April – Brandon Sanderson’s Mistborn, the second in May – Neil Gaiman’s Neverwhere. I would love to join for Mistborn.

I will be busy in the next few months and so I decided to do The Journey which is only one book.

One reason why challenges are so much fun is the fact that one can make a list. Although I have only committed to one book, I may read more. I want to focus on fairy tale retellings and fantasy this year and here a few of my possible choices.

Ash by Malinda Jo

The Rose and the Beast by Francesca Lia Block

Briar Rose by Jane Yolen

The True Story of Hansel and Gretel by Louise Murphy

Solstice Wood by Patricia McKillip

Spindle’s End by Robin McKinley

The Ice Queen by Alice Hoffmann

How about you? What are you going to read?

Aussie Author Challenge 2012 – Bolaño Group Read – Henry Green Week

I discovered the  Aussie Author Challenge 2012 hosted by  Booklover Book Reviews on Tony’s Reading List. I’m not sure how many Australian authors I’ve read in my life so far, but I’m pretty sure not all that many. While browsing my piles I discovered five novels. One of them also qualifies for the War Through the Generations Challenge. Lisa from ANZ Litlovers has kindly given input and my choices seem worthy. Should you want to join the challenge, her blog offers lists where you will find a lot of reading suggestions. I have signed up for the  “beginner” level or, as the challenge terms it, “tourist”.

These are the books I’d like to read

David Malouf’s Fly Away Peter

Tim Winton’s Dirt Music

 

Murray Bail’s Eucalyptus

Charlotte Wood’s Submerged Cathedral (OOP?)

Helen Garner’s Monkey Grip

January is a busy month but some of the events were too good. I had to join.

I signed up for the Bolaño The Savage Detectives group read hosted by Richard and Rise last year and now is the time to start reading as the novel is on the chunky side. If you’d like to read along you better get a copy soon or you will not make it through the 770 pages in time. I have a feeling I won’t but if I mange to read 2/3 I’m already pleased with myself.

The week of January 23 sees another event coming that  I absolutely had to join. Stu from Winstonsdad’s Blog is hosting a Henry Green week. Henry Green was once thought to be one of the greatest stylists of British literature but is now almost forgotten. I have never read Henry Green and think Stu’s idea is really wonderful. Penguin has issued a tome containing three of his famous novels Loving, Living and Party Going. I’m going to read Loving.

Do you have any Aussie author suggestions?

Will you join the Bolaño group  read or Henry Green Week?

War Through the Generations 2012 Reading Challenge – The Great War

This is the fourth year in a row that Anna and Serena host the War Through the Generations Challenge. Since this year is dedicated to WWI I chose to join them. I have quite a few books on my piles that I would like to read. I’m not sure how many I will read but I aim for 5.

Here are the rules

Books can take place before, during, or after the war, so long as the conflicts that led to the war or the war itself are important to the story. Books from other challenges count so long as they meet the above criteria.

Dip: Read 1-3 books in any genre with WWI as a primary or secondary theme.

Wade: Read 4-10 books in any genre with WWI as a primary or secondary theme.

Swim: Read 11 or more books in any genre with WWI as a primary or secondary theme.

5 books means I sign up for Wade. I may or may not read more but I’m pretty sure I’ll stay on this level.

Three of the books chosen are the first three titles of my Literature and War Readalong 2012. If you want to read along, please see the page for details.

Zennor In Darkness by Helen Dunmore

A Long Long Way by Sebastian Barry

To the Slaughterhouse by Jean Giono

The other books that I will read for the challenge only are

Private Peaceful by Michael Morpurgo. It’s a children’s book and I’m very interested to see how someone writes about war for children.

Fly Away Peter by David Malouf. This is a suggestion from Kevin (The War Movie Buff). It’s a very short novel by an Australian author which seems interesting. I’ve watched a lot of Australian WWI movies, it’s about time to read an Australian WWI book.

Here are a few additional suggestions as my favourite war novels are all WWI novels:

Remarque’s All Quiet on the Western Fornt. Probably the most famous one.

Pat Barker’s Regeneration TrilogyRegeneration –  The Eye in the DoorThe Ghost Road.

Jane Urquhart’s The Stone Carvers

Sebastian Faulk’s Birdsong 

Jennifer Johnston’s How Many Miles to Babylon? (here is my review).

If you would like to sign up, more details on the challenge can be found here.

R. I. P. VI

Autumn is slowly approaching and Carl’s eagerly awaited R.I.P. VI has finally started. Of course I’m joining. Here is what Carl wrote in his post.

Every September 1st through October 31st for the last 5 years I have hosted the R.eaders I.mbibing P.eril Challenge, affectionately known as the R.I.P. Challenge. I began this reader event, I blinked, and now I am hosting this for the 6th time. Wow, that is so hard to believe.

The purpose of the R.I.P. Challenge is to enjoy books that could be classified as:

Mystery
Suspense
Thriller
Dark Fantasy
Gothic
Horror
Supernatural

The emphasis is never on the word challenge, instead it is about coming together as a community and embracing the autumnal mood, whether the weather is cooperative where you live or not.

I am going to aim high this year and want to read 4 books, watch a movie and join the group read for Deborah Lawrenson’s The Lantern.

I am not sure what I am going to read but here are a few ideas:

Daphne Du Maurier’s The House on the Strand

Alice Thomas Ellis The Inn at the Edge of the World

John Harwood’s The Ghost Writer

Jennifer Archer’s Through Her Eyes

Victoria Schwab’s The Near Witch

Stephen King’s Full Dark, No Stars

Neil Gaiman’s Coraline

I wanted to re-watch Interview with the Vampire and the one or the other Vincent Price movie like Dragonwyck or House on Haunted Hill.

As written before, I will join the group read for Deborah Lawrenson’s The Lantern but there are two other possibilities if you’d like to participate.

If you want to join or know more about the details of the event here’s the link to Carl’s post.

Patricia A. McKillip: Winter Rose (1996)

They said later that he rode into the village on a horse the colour of buttermilk. But I saw him first – as a fall of light. And then as something shaping out of the light. So it seemed. There was a blur of gold: his hair. And then I blinked and saw his face more clearly.’ From that moment, Rois is obsessed with Corbett Lynn. His pale green eyes fill her thoughts and her dreams are consumed by tales of his family’s dark past. Of son’s murdering fathers, of homes fallen to ruin, and of a curse that, as winter draws in, is crawling from the frozen forest to engulf them all.

Ever since I read Patricia A. McKillip’s The Forgotten Beast of Eld, I wanted to read another of her books. She is one of those writers who quietly write one novel after the other and every new book is greeted with a lot of enthusiasm by her fans. Despite her many fans McKillip isn’t a fantasy writer with a huge commercial success, for the simple reason  – I’m guessing – that she doesn’t write trilogies and series. All of her novels are standalones or diptychs, with the exception of The Riddle Master Trilogy. Most of her books are out of print but you can easily get cheap used copies. McKillip’s books are lovely and enchanting and distinctly influenced by fairy tales.

Winter Rose is a retelling of the Scottish tale of Tam Lin. It is a peculiar book and maybe not a typical McKillip because readers either love or hate it. I liked it a lot but can see why others might not have been equally charmed.

While Winter Rose starts like a normal fantasy novel, as soon as reality starts to shift, the writing reads like a fever dream. It is never really clear whether Rois, the main character, is dreaming, has entered another reality or a sort of parallel world. If you want to enjoy this book you have to just let go and follow the flow and not try too much to understand it rationally. It is a bit like reading poetry. Try to picture the images she creates of a world in which the forest can claim people, in which winter swallows everything, in which thorns and ivy weave a web so dense that there is no escaping them. The images are lush and hypnotic, the language is flowery.

Winter Rose isn’t a love story in a conventional sense although Rois falls in love with Corbet the moment she lays eyes on him or rather the moment he materializes before her eyes. Corbet has never been seen in the village in which Rois, her father, her sister Laurel and Laurel’s fiancé Perrin live. It is said that Corbet’s father killed his own father and was cursed. Lynn Hall, the family home, has been standing empty since then and the forest has claimed it back. It is nothing more than an overgrown ruin.

Corbet starts to renovate the house and, accepting Rois’ fathers kind dinner invitations, spends many evenings in their house, talking and laughing with them. Both girls are equally fascinated by Corbet’s mysterious story and want to know everything about him. As much as Rois is infatuated, she is no fool and senses that there is something between Corbet and her sister.

The storytelling is very hypnotic and evokes different layers of reality that are interwoven. When Rois starts to spy on Corbet and follows him into the woods, the realities start to shift for good. There is a strange presence in this other world. Something is waiting in the wood. Is it the Spirit of the Forest, a Guardian, a Faerie? Whatever it is, it is a disquieting being and seems to lure people. Is this the place where Corbet’s father is?

Another mystery that Rois tries to solve is what happened to their mother who died when Rois was just a baby. It is told that Winter took her, she wasn’t ill, she just stopped living. And why has Rois “wood eyes” and sees more than other people?

One day Corbet disappears and Rois goes after him. She crosses the threshold between this world and the other one, and discovers a lot of things that no one else knows.

There really is a lot to like in this novel. The language is poetical and rich in images and Rois is a lovely girl. She is wild and free-spirited and loves to roam the forest. She knows all the medicinal herbs and plants and makes teas and potions for the people of the village.

Despite all the positive aspects, this isn’t a book for everyone. There is simply not enough in terms of story, as said, it is much more like a fever dream.

I’m still in the mood to read another of Patricia A. McKillips novels.  Does anyone have suggestions? I got The Forests of Serre here. Which is your favourite McKillip book?

Winter Rose was my second book for the Once Upon A Time V Challenge.