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REVIEW: EVIL EYE – FOUR NOVELLAS OF LOVE GONE WRONG BY JOYCE CAROL OATES

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Evil Eye: Four Novellas of Love Gone Wrong by Joyce Carol Oates

The Mysterious Press (hardback), 2013

216 Pages 

http://www.usfca.edu/jco

http://www.usfca.edu/jco/evileye

BLURB FROM THE COVER

Joyce Carol Oates has proven herself one of the world’s foremost chroniclers of the darkness that lurks within the human heart. In Evil Eye, Oates offers four chilling novellas of love so powerful that people might die—or kill—for it.

In the title story, we meet Mariana, the young fourth wife of a prominent intellectual. When her husband’s brazen first wife visits, Mariana learns a terrible secret that threatens her marriage and sanity. In “so Near Any Time Always,” shy teenager Lizbeth meets Desmond, a charming older boy who offers this introverted girl her first sparks of romance. Yet just as their relationship begins to blossom, Lizbeth realizes that a menacing soul lies beneath Desmond’s perfect façade. In “The Execution,” spoiled college student Bart Hansen has planned the perfect, brutal crime to get back at his parents for their years of condescension. What he didn’t plan on was the resilience of his mother’s love, even in the face of death. And in “The Flatbed,” childhood trauma has prevented Cecelia from enjoying the pleasures of physical intimacy with a man, but when the love of her life comes along, Cecelia must confront the demon who stole her innocence long ago.

Drenched with suspense and dread, and featuring the razor-sharp prose that has made Joyce Carol Oates a living legend, Evil Eye shows love as sporadically magical, mysterious, and murderous.

EXTRACT 

It had belonged to his first wife, he’d said.

First wife so casually uttered – she, who was the fourth wife, could have no basis for misinterpretation.

That is, no basis for hurt. For envy, jealousy. Even, the husband seemed to suggest, in the almost negligent way in which he spoke of the first wife to whom he’d been married, a lifetime ago, when we were other people –curiosity.

And so, she’d known not to ask about the wife.

EVIL EYE

REVIEW 

EVIL EYE: I didn’t think this was a very good tale. I liked some aspects of it. I like the way JCO examined the relationship between the husband and his first and most recent wife. I like the fact the husband was quite domineering and abusive. The rest of the novella was quite weak. I didn’t understand what big secret the new wife discovered that almost cost her sanity. JCO never makes this quite clear so I found the tale confusing overall. Did the new wife hallucinate that the first wife had an eye missing or was the eye really removed and who by? The husband? Someone else? Did the husband really kill his first child by intentionally rolling the baby on its front so it would suffocate? There is some good stuff here but it gets lost in the confusing mess.

SO NEAR ANY TIME ALWAYS: This was a very good story. Dark, creepy and unsettling. I liked the way JCO builds tension. Some elements remind me of her novel, Because It Is Bitter, And Because It Is My Heart.

THE EXECUTION: I really enjoyed this story that deals with patricide. The story gets pretty dark at times. I liked the fact it was told from the son’s point of view. I found it odd that the mother identified her son as her attacker and her husband’s killer then changed her mind completely. Did she really think it was a dream? Was she too afraid to face the truth about what happened? Did her son threaten her in some way?

THE FLATBED: I thought this story was really good. I thought that woman’s fear of sex and penetration because of repressed childhood memories of abuse was very realistic and well-written. The story took a much darker turn than expected at the end.

GENERAL IMPRESSION: I thought this was an overall good collection of four novellas. However, the weak title tale spoiled my overall enjoyment and let JCO down. This could have been a great collection if Evil Eye was not included. 

RATING

3 STAR RATING

 
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Posted by on September 23, 2014 in Fiction, Joyce Carol Oates, Novella

 

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REVIEW: LOSING YOU BY SUSAN LEWIS

15806773

Losing You by Susan Lewis

Arrow Books (paperback) 2012

644 pages 

http://www.susanlewis.com 

I borrowed this book from The Mitchell Library (http://www.glasgowlife.org.uk/libraries/the-mitchell-library/pages/home.aspx).  

BLURB FROM THE COVER

Lauren Scott is bright, talented and beautiful. At eighteen, she is the most precious gift in the world to her mother, and has a dazzling career ahead of her.

Oliver Lomax is a young man full of promise, despite the shadow his own, deeply troubled, mother casts over him.

Then one fateful night, Oliver makes a decision that tears their worlds apart.

Until then, Lauren and Oliver had never met, but now they become so closely bound together that their families are forced to confront truths they hoped they’d never have to face, secrets they’d never even imagined… 

EXTRACT 

‘Guess what? I have had the most brilliant idea!’

Lauren Scott’s exquisite amber eyes were sparkling with mischief as she breezed into the kitchen, where her mother was engrossed on the computer.

REVIEW

I enjoyed Losing You. Losing You does have some flaws but overall I enjoyed the novel. I’ve never read Susan Lewis before. Losing You is a proper tear-jerker and tugs at the old heart strings. I connected with Losing You on an emotional level and it’s hard not to enjoy something that touches you. Losing You is very well written and easy to follow. I found myself turning the pages fairly quickly. I got caught up in the world and characters Lewis created and wasn’t bored at any point. I liked how Lewis showed the affect the drink driving accident had on both Lauren, the victim and Oliver, the driver who hit her. They are both deeply affected and forever changed. Losing You could easily have been one sided with Lauren the perfect, wonderful angel on one side and Oliver, the drunk, reckless monster on the other. I like the contrasts in both families. I thought Sylvie, Oliver’s lush mother was very well written and realistic and I felt sorry for her. Lauren’s father was a horrible person especially when he says terrible things to Lauren when she’s recovering in a brain unit. Now to the stuff that didn’t work. Losing You does not really kick off until over 170 pages in. The novel starts painfully slowly and to be honest at least 150 pages could have been cut with no ill effect. Losing You should have started just before the accident as everything until this point was superfluous. I really didn’t like Lauren at first. We are told, over and over for hundreds of pages how wonderful she is; beautiful, talented, a wonderful daughter and designed for a dazzling career. Her portrayal in the first hundred or so pages made me feel quite nauseous. Nobody is that perfect and I found it unrealistic. I was relieved when her diary revealed that she was far from the angel everyone believed her to be. Her flaws were more realistic. I thought Lauren and Oliver’s relationship was sweet but had trouble believing they fell in love when she was in a coma and unable to speak, move or communicate. I thought that was far-fetched. Overall, Losing You is a decent novel and packs an emotional punch. 

RATING

3 STAR RATING

 
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Posted by on September 22, 2014 in Fiction, Novel, Susan Lewis

 

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REVIEW: SNOW WHITE, BLOOD RED EDITED BY ELLEN DATOW & TERRI WINDLING

snow_white_blood_red_3

Snow White, Blood Red Edited By Ellen Datlow & Terri Windling

Avon Books (Paperback), 1993

406 Pages 

Http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/snow_white,_blood_red_(book)

http://ellendatlow.com

Http://windling.typepad.com/blog

 

BLURB FROM THE COVER

 

Once upon a time, fairy tales were for children… But no longer. 

You hold in your hands a volume of wonders – magical tales of trolls and ogres, of bewitched princesses and kingdoms accursed, penned by some of the most acclaimed fantasists of our day. But these are not bedtime stories designed to usher an innocent child gently into a realm of dreams. These are stories that bite – lush and erotic; often dark and disturbing mystical journeys through a phantasmagoric landscape of distinctly adult sensibilities… where there is no such thing a ‘happy ever after’.

 

EXTRACT 

AT A TIME NOT SO LONG AGO, IN A LAND MUCH LIKE our own, there was a cottage at the edge of a dark, haunted forest.

LIKE A RED, RED ROSE BY SUSAN WADE

REVIEW 

I really enjoyed Snow White, Blood Red. I’m a huge fan of fairy tales. The darker and the more twisted the better as far as I’m concerned. I’ve read a few volumes in this series and tend to be impressed. Snow White, Blood Red met the high standard I’ve come to expect. This was a great collection of stories.

LIKE A RED, RED ROSE BY SUSAN WADE: I thought this story was great. Sad, haunting and beautiful.

THE MOON IS DROWNING WHILE I SLEEP BY CHARLES DE LINT: Another great story. Creepy and unsettling.

THE FROG PRINCE BY GAHAN WILSON: I thought this was a fun and original slant on the traditional fairytale.

STALKING BEANS BY NANCY KRESS: I loved this story. Another great twist on the popular tale.

SNOW-DROP BY TANITH LEE: I loved this story. I found it creepy and unsettling but I loved every word on every page.

LITTLE RED BY WENDY WHEELER: This was one of my favourite stories. Wheeler takes us out of the realm of fantasy into a real world of predatory men.

I SHALL DO THEE MISCHIEF IN THE WOOD BY KATHE KOJA: I loved this story as well. I thought the title was great. A cautionary tale of being careful of what you wish for.

THE ROOT OF THE MATTER BY GREGORY FROST: This was a great story as well. I thought it was sad and really creepy. This one chilled me to the bone.

THE PRINCESS IN THE TOWER BY ELIZABETH A. LYNN: This was a great and original take on Rapunzel. I loved it.

PERSIMMON BY HARVEY JACOBS: I really enjoyed this story. I thought it was and interesting.

LITTLE POUCET BY STEVE RASNIC TEM: I thought this was a great story and it reminded me a lot of Thumbelina.

THE CHANGELINGS BY MELANIE TEM: This was one of the best and most unsettling stories in the collection.

THE SPRINGFIELD SWANS BY CAROLINE STEVERMER & RYAN EDMONDS: This was a great, original story. Very different.

TROLL BRIDGE BY NEIL GAIMAN: Another twist and very original tale. I loved it.

A SOUND LIKE ANGELS SINGING BY LEONARD RYSDYK: This was a great, creepy little story.

PUSS BY ESTHER M. FRIESNER: This story didn’t work for me and I thought it was quite weak.

THE GLASS CASKET BY JACK DANN: Another ‘so, so’ story.

KNIVES BY JANE YOLEN: I thought this poem was great.

THE SNOW QUEEN BY PATRICIA A. MCKILLIP: This was one of my favourite stories. The Snow Queen is my absolute favourite fairytale.

BREADCRUMBS AND STONES BY LISA GOLDSTEIN: Another original and great story. Very different.

RATING

4 STAR RATING

 

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REVIEW: THE ASSASSINS – A BOOK OF HOURS BY JOYCE CAROL OATES

ASSASSINS

The Assassins: A Book of Hours by Joyce Carol Oates

Fawcett Crest Books (paperback) 1975

544 pages

http://www.usfca.edu/jco  

BLURB FROM THE COVER

He was the bright star of a famous family, and a respected political leader – but suddenly he was dead, shot down by an assassin.

With Andrew Petrie’s murder, the lives of three persons were forever changed.

Yvonne – his wife. A strange, lovely woman with a hidden past. Her future careened wildly off course with the catastrophe.

Hugh – Andrew’s brother. An artist whose macabre, self-destructive drives bore a bizarre connection to Andrew’s murder.

Stephen – the youngest of the Petries. A religious mystic. His brother’s death brought him face to face with terrifying truths about himself. 

EXTRACT 

Part One: Hugh

I was born. It was born. So it began. It continues. It will outlive me. People whisper, stare, giggle. Their eternal privilege. My eternal curse. I am in a tiny place without walls. It is stifling here – but the walls are gone.

REVIEW 

I have mixed feelings about The Assassins: A Book of Hours. On the one hand I like it a lot but there are things that just left me cold. The Assassins: A Book of Hours is a difficult book to get on board with. The Assassins: A Book of Hours is a very bleak book, much bleaker that other JCO novels. Nothing good happens to anyone in this novel. The characters are all pretty awful even Andrew the man who was assassinated. Hugh is insane and his section of The Assassins: A Book of Hours was extremely hard to follow. Yvonne is quite an abrasive person and I found it hard to sympathise with her or care that she was also murdered in the woods (unless it was a dream or a hallucination and who cares). I didn’t much like Stephen either. JCO does not have anything good to say about anyone or anything in The Assassins: A Book of Hours. She managed to tear family, sex, politics, art and religion into shreds. Despite this I did like The Assassins: A Book of Hours a lot. I liked the multiple first person narrators though I found it odd that even though each character experienced the same events at times the stories never really jelled together. I like her use of stream of consciousness style even though I’m not a great fan of this type of narration. The Assassins: A Book of Hours is the first novel I’ve read (to my knowledge) that deals with the world of politics so I found this interesting. The Assassins: A Book of Hours is not a great novel but I think it’s a brave novel and worth a read.

RATING

3 STAR RATING

 
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Posted by on September 17, 2014 in Fiction, Joyce Carol Oates, Novel, Uncategorized

 

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REVIEW: THE DAMNED THING BY AMBROSE BIERCE

damned

THE DAMNED THING BY AMBROSE BIERCE

PROJECT GUTENBERG (E-BOOK), 2013

32 PAGES 

I downloaded this free e-book: HTTP://WWW.GUTENBERG.ORG/EBOOKS/23172

BLURB FROM THE COVER 

William Harker is the only witness to the death of his friend, Hugh Morgan. Morgan’s body suggests that he has died traumatically, but when Harker tries to explain what he saw of his friend’s last moments, the men in charge of determining Morgan’s cause of death find his testimony too bizarre to be true. 

EXTRACT 

By THE light of a tallow candle, which had been placed on one end of a rough table, a man was reading something written in a book. It was an old account book, greatly worn; and the writing was not, apparently, very legible, for the man sometimes held the page close to the flame of the candle to get a stronger light upon it. The shadow of the book would then throw into obscurity a half of the room, darkening a number of faces and figures; for besides the reader, eight other men were present. Seven of them sat against the rough log walls, silent and motionless, and, the room being small, not very far from the table. By extending an arm any one of them could have touched the eighth man, who lay on the table, face upward, partly covered by a sheet, his arms at his sides. He was dead. 

REVIEW 

This was my first time reading Ambrose Bierce. I really enjoyed The Damned Thing. I liked the story-within-a-story framework that Bierce uses. I was impressed by the way Bierce explores society’s perception of the supernatural. Harker’s tale about what really happened to his friend is frightening but the coroner and men investigating the cause of death refuse to believe a word of his testimony. It is clear Morgan died in violent, traumatic circumstances and the inquest would rather believe an animal killed him in a frenzied attack than put any stock in Harker’s bizarre tale. I thought the ending of The Damned Thing wasn’t as good as the beginning and middle and the story disappointingly fizzled out. 

RATING

3 STAR RATING

 

 
 

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REVIEW: THE DAMNED BY ALGERNON BLACKWOOD

damned

 THE DAMNED BY ALGERNON BLACKWOOD

PROJECT GUTENBERG (E-BOOK), 2004

81 PAGES 

I downloaded this free e-book: HTTP://WWW.GUTENBERG.ORG/EBOOKS/11074

BLURB FROM THE COVER 

And instinctively, once alone, I made for the places where she had painted her extraordinary pictures; I tried to see what she had seen. Perhaps, now that she had opened my mind to another view, I should be sensitive to some similar interpretation–and possibly by way of literary expression. If I were to write about the place, I asked myself, how should I treat it? I deliberately invited an interpretation in the way that came easiest to me–writing. 

EXTRACT 

“I’m over forty, Frances, and rather set in my ways,” I said good-naturedly, ready to yield if she insisted that our going together on the visit involved her happiness. “My work is rather heavy just now too, as you know. The question is, could I work there—with a lot of unassorted people in the house?” 

“Mabel doesn’t mention any other people, Bill,” was my sister’s rejoinder. “I gather she’s alone—as well as lonely.” 

By the way she looked sideways out of the window at nothing, it was obvious she was disappointed, but to my surprise she did not urge the point; and as I glanced at Mrs. Franklyn’s invitation lying upon her sloping lap, the neat, childish handwriting conjured up a mental picture of the banker’s widow, with her timid, insignificant personality, her pale grey eyes and her expression as of a backward child. I thought, too, of the roomy country mansion her late husband had altered to suit his particular needs, and of my visit to it a few years ago when its barren spaciousness suggested a wing of Kensington Museum fitted up temporarily as a place to eat and sleep in. Comparing it mentally with the poky Chelsea flat where I and my sister kept impecunious house, I realized other points as well. Unworthy details flashed across me to entice: the fine library, the organ, the quiet work-room I should have, perfect service, the delicious cup of early tea, and hot baths at any moment of the day—without a geyser! 

REVIEW 

This was my first time reading Algernon Blackwood. I really enjoyed The Damned. Blackwood offers a traditional ghost story. If you’re looking for blood and guts and monsters you won’t find any in this novella. The Damned is creepy and unsettling. The narrator repeats ‘nothing happens’ regularly and to an extent this is true. It’s the possibility of what could be lurking in the shadows that sends shivers down your spine. I’m not a huge fan of over-the-top horror with blood and guts and screaming demons all over the place. I find them crass at time. What I do love are stories that are unsettling, build suspense and ar so full of atmosphere they give you the chills. The Damned is one such tale. Blackwood is an expert at building suspense and tension and this momentum carried me all the way through The Damned as I wondered if the creepy house was haunted or the characters were unhinged in some way. The ending of The Damned was lacklustre though and a bit of a let-down after the great tension, creepiness and suspense built. 

RATING

4 STAR RATING

 

 
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Posted by on September 7, 2014 in Algernon Blackwood, E-book, Fiction, Novella

 

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REVIEW: THE COMPLETE OZ COLLECTION VOLUME 2 BY L. FRANK BAUM

OZ 2

OZ THE COMPLETE COLLECTION VOLUME 2

SIMON & SCHUSTER (PAPERBACK), 2013           

641 PAGES  

HTTP://EN.WIKIPEDIA.ORG/WIKI/DOROTHY_AND_THE_WIZARD_IN_OZ

HTTP://EN.WIKIPEDIA.ORG/WIKI/THE_ROAD_TO_OZ

HTTP://EN.WIKIPEDIA.ORG/WIKI/THE_EMERALD_CITY_OF_OZ 

BLURB FROM THE COVER 

In Dorothy and the Wizard in Oz, Dorothy and the Wizard visit the centre of the Earth, where people are vegetables, glass houses grow, and Oz characters reappear. Eventually they return to the Emerald City, but will they stay? 

In The Road to Oz, Dorothy sets out on another adventure with some new friends, such as the Shaggy Man, Button-Bright and Polychrome, and some old ones, including the Scarecrow and the Tin Woodman. But can they reach the Emerald City in time for Ozma’s birthday? 

In The Emerald City of Oz, Dorothy, Uncle Henry and Aunt Em are going to live in the Emerald City. They set out to explore the Land of Oz, with the help of Dorothy’s friends, but must rush home again when they discover that the Nome King is busy gathering an army for an invasion of Oz. Will they be able to stop the invasion? 

Together in one book, the fourth, fifth and sixth titles in L. Frank Baum’s classic fairy-tale series about the wonderful world of Oz. 

EXTRACT 

The train from ‘Frisco was very late. It should have arrived at Hugson’s Siding at midnight, but it was already five o’clock and the grey dawn was breaking in the east when the little train slowly rumbled up to the open shed that served for the station-house. As it came to a stop the conductor called out I a loud voice: 

‘Hugson’s Siding!’ 

DOROTHY AND THE WIZARD IN OZ 

REVIEW 

DOROTHY AND THE WIZARD IN OZ 

This was my first read through Dorothy and the Wizard in Oz. I enjoyed it but not as much as The Wonderful Wizard of Oz and Ozma of Oz. It was fun to read about the old humbug wizard again. I didn’t like Dorothy so much in this one and thought she was a bit of a brat. Dorothy and the Wizard in Oz had some good moments. I liked the creepy vegetable people and the carriage falling through the earth after the earthquake. I felt sorry for Dorothy’s cat, Eureka at the end put on trial for murdering Ozma’s piglet. I thought the trial was a bit cruel. Dorothy and the Wizard in Oz was a fun tale.  

THE ROAD TO OZ 

This was my first read through of The Road to Oz. I enjoy it but not as much as The Wonderful Wizard of Oz and Ozma of Oz. I liked to read about Toto again in his first adventure since The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. I like the unusual companions and adventures Dorothy, Toto, the Shaggy Man, Button-Bright and the rainbow’s daughter had on their way to Ozma’s birthday party. I especially liked the odd creatures in Foxville who turned Button-Bright’s head into a fox, the weird creatures who could throw their heads about and the donkeys who thought they were more intelligent than anyone and gave the Shaggy Man a donkey’s head. The Road to Oz was a fun tale. Dorothy is still a bit of a brat though. 

THE EMERALD CITY OF OZ

This was my first read through of The Emerald City of Oz. I had a lot of fun reading it. I liked the return of the Nome King from Ozma of Oz. I find the character too amusing to consider him a real threat or any kind of villain. I liked it when Dorothy, Uncle Henry and Aunt Em decided to move to Oz permanently. I really enjoyed reading about their journey through Oz and the weird and wonderful characters they met. I was a bit disappointed by how little there was of the Nome King’s alleged plans to conquer Oz. I expected this to be more of a prominent story. I liked the ending and thought it was funny how the Nome King and his army were defeated. I’ve started to dislike Dorothy though and find her brattish and irritating. 

RATING

4 STAR RATING

 
1 Comment

Posted by on September 6, 2014 in Fiction, L. Frank Baum, Novel

 

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