{Book} The Other

picture of a book, The Other
My copy of The Other along with a nice bookmark from the library.

The Other by Thomas Tryon

Holland and Niles Perry are identical thirteen-year-old twins. They are close, close enough, almost, to read each other’s thoughts, but they couldn’t be more different. Holland is bold and mischievous, a bad influence, while Niles is kind and eager to please, the sort of boy who makes parents proud. The Perrys live in the bucolic New England town their family settled centuries ago, and as it happens, the extended clan has gathered at its ancestral farm this summer to mourn the death of the twins’ father in a most unfortunate accident. Mrs. Perry still hasn’t recovered from the shock of her husband’s gruesome end and stays sequestered in her room, leaving her sons to roam free. As the summer goes on, though, and Holland’s pranks become increasingly sinister, Niles finds he can no longer make excuses for his brother’s actions. (via Goodreads)

Why Did I Read This Book?
The Other is on a lot of classic horror best-of lists. It’s considered pretty scary and very influential in the genre of horror.

What Did I Think?
There is a problem sometimes with influential genre books…they’re *influential*. Meaning their tropes and twists get used in other stories (when they’re not being entirely ripped off). I can’t think of any story that specifically like The Other, but nothing about this novel’s twist surprised me. I figured it out really early on despite some obfuscation in the narrative. Or maybe it’s a matter of my “learning” horror in a post-M. Night Shyamalan world. I kind of meta-analyzed this book as I read it and that perhaps that robbed it of some enjoyment for me. I will admit, an event near the end of the book did surprise me.

Original Publishing info: Knopf, May 1971
My Copy: mass market paperback, Fawcett Crest, acquired via Book Mooch
Genre: horror, psychological thriller.

Readers Imbibing Peril | Something Wicked Fall

Review ~ The Count of Monte Cristo

Cover via Goodreads

The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas, Robin Buss (Translator)

A popular bestseller since its publication in 1844, The Count of Monte Cristo is one of the great page-turning thrillers of all time. Set against the tumultuous years of the post-Napoleonic era, Alexandre Dumas’s grand historical romance recounts the swashbuckling adventures of Edmond Dantès, a dashing young sailor falsely accused of treason. The story of his long imprisonment, dramatic escape, and carefully wrought revenge offers up a vision of France that has become immortal. As Robert Louis Stevenson declared, “I do not believe there is another volume extant where you can breathe the same unmingled atmosphere of romance.” (via Goodreads)

The Count of Monte Cristo was one of those books that, despite everyone else having read it and loved it in high school, I had never been required to read. Honestly, I’ve never been required to read any Dumas and picked up The Three Musketeers for fun in college. But everyone kept telling me that The Count of Monte Cristo was Dumas’ better book. And it is!

I also hadn’t ever watched an adaptation of the novel, so I didn’t know what to expect. I knew there was revenge, but I expected more of the “My name is Inigo Montoya; prepare to die!” swashbuckling-style of revenge. Instead, Edmond Dantès revenge is an intricate puzzle that envelopes generations. It’s melodramatic and delicious. I have no idea how you’d manage to do it well in a movie. While there is some musing on the righteousness and awfulness of revenge, much of this book is just so sensational, so “popular literature.” And occasionally, The Count of Monte Cristo feels a little padded out as Dumas (and his probably collaborator Auguste Maquet) wrote for serialization.

I read this as part of Nick’s Chapter-a-day Readalongs and that was a great way to experience the story. I had made reading The Count of Monte Cristo part of my morning ritual for over 100 days and I miss it! I sought out Robin Buss’ translation. I’d read the first chapter in the commonly available public domain translation and it was just a little too stilted. There are also many abridged editions out there—I own one of them and have it around here somewhere. I wonder what parts you’d leave out of this tale…

Original Publishing info: 1846
My Copy: Trade paperback, 2003 edition, purchased at Barnes & Noble
Genre: adventure

Review ~ The Zombie Ball

This book was provided to me by the author for review consideration.

Cover via Goodreads

The Zombie Ball, An Eli Marks Mystery #6 by John Gaspard

A Blast From the Past

Eli’s asked to perform his magic act at a swanky charity gala, The Zombie Ball– a former zombie pub crawl which has grown into an annual high-class social event. What begins as a typical stage show for Eli turns deadly when two of the evening’s sponsors are found murdered under truly unusual circumstances. Compounding this drama is the presence of Eli’s ex-wife and her new husband, Homicide Detective Fred Hutton. Under pressure to solve the crime before the 800 guests depart, Eli and his detective nemesis go head-to-head to uncover the bizarre clues that will unravel this macabre mystery. (via Goodreads)

Why was I interested in this book?
I enjoy mysteries, but I haven’t gotten too involved in many mystery series. The Eli Marks books have been the exception. Eli is a working magician and his insight into crimes are often based on the principles of magic.

What Worked
One of the things that keeps me reading a book, and in this case a series, is having a character I like spending time with. Eli Marks is one of those characters. He’s smart and funny (because of course John Gaspard writes him that way) and it’s been entertaining seeing Eli get his life on track. Which means this was also a fun time-warp back to when Eli was freshly divorced and taking any gig that came his way.

What Didn’t Work (as well as usual)
This was a fairly short story, about half the length of previous Eli Marks mysteries. It has a quite a long set up; there isn’t a corpse on the scene until about the 60% mark. This is fine. The time is spent with Eli as he meets our cast of characters and settles in at the Zombie Ball venue. But is also make for a very quick resolution to the mystery.

Overall
If you’ve been following the adventures of Eli Marks, The Zombie Ball is a decent extension of the series. If you haven’t read any Eli Marks mysteries, start at The Ambitious Card. You won’t be sad you did.

Original Publishing info: Albert’s Bridge Books , 2019
My Copy: Kindle ARC
Genre: mystery

Review ~ Guilt is a Ghost

This book was provided to me by the author for review consideration.

Cover via Goodreads

Guilt is a Ghost by Tim Prasil

In 1899, a séance was held at the Morley Mansion in Boston, Massachusetts. The millionaire Roderick Morley was desperate to contact his murdered friend. He hoped to clear himself of suspicion by identifying the true killer. The séance went horribly wrong, though, and Morley left the room—to commit suicide. By 1903, the Morley Mansion was deemed haunted! The new owner hired Vera Van Slyke, an odd but brilliant ghost hunter. With her assistant, Lucille Parsell, Vera quickly realized that, to banish the ghost, the two would have to solve the murder. But a fugitive murderer wasn’t the only shadow cast over the Morley Mansion. A fake medium had performed at that séance, a shame-ridden woman who called herself: “Lucille Parsell.” And, sometimes, guilt is a ghost that can never be banished. (via Goodreads)

Why was I interested in this book?
I read Tim Prasil’s Help for the Haunted previously and enjoyed it. Help is a collection of connected mysteries. Set in the late 1800s and early 1900s, our detectives are ghost hunter Vera Van Slyke and reformed fraudulent medium Lucille Parsell. If you can’t see just how much this is a “book Katherine would read,” you haven’t been around my blog too long.

What Worked
As with Help for the Haunted, there are, in fact, ghosts in Guilt is a Ghost, and there are two things that I particularly like about how ghosts are treated in these stories.

First, ghosts are  naturalistic phenomena. There are rules and some scientific theories surrounding them that is in line with the era. One of those rules is that guilt rips holes in the existential fabric between the living and the souls of the dead. Ghost are the bleed-through. This places the cause of ghost more on the living, which is an intriguing idea.

Also, the solution to the mystery isn’t provided by the ghosts. Too often I’ve read supernatural mysteries in which a ghost is given omnipotence and can provide answers when the human protagonists hit a wall. That is such a cop-out, but not one engaged in here.

The mystery in Guilt is a Ghost is complex enough that it warranted a novel length story. There a few non-action scenes with characters discussing matters, but I like spending time with Vera and Lucille. Their conversations are never a hardship. Vera is a lunch-and-beer-loving character after my own heart.

What Didn’t Work
Minor quibble: Timeline-wise, the stories from Help for the Haunted fall in the midst of Guilt is a Ghost. Guilt starts out with the circumstances that lead Vera and Lucille to meet, but the majority of the story takes place after the events of Help.* The transition is a tiny bit clunky. Reading Help for the Haunted isn’t necessary before Guilt is a Ghost, but it isn’t a bad idea either.

* Actually, I was reminded that the chronology of stories isn’t quite that clean cut. In fact, one of my favorites from Help occurs right after Guilt! But don’t let this scare you. If you need it, Tim Prasil has a “cheat sheet” for you.

Overall
Ghosts, female detectives, early 20th century. The only thing I’m sad about is that I don’t have more Vera Van Slyke mysteries for the coming autumn reading season!

Original Publishing info: Brom Bones Books, 2019
My Copy: trade paperback
Genre: mystery

Review ~ The Violent Century

This book was provided to me by Tachyon Publications via NetGalley for review consideration.

The Violent Century cover

The Violent Century by Lavie Tidhar

A bold experiment has mutated a small fraction of humanity. Nations race to harness the gifted, putting them to increasingly dark ends. At the dawn of global war, flashy American superheroes square off against sinister Germans and dissolute Russians. Increasingly depraved scientists conduct despicable research in the name of victory

British agents Fogg and Oblivion, recalled to the Retirement Bureau, have kept a treacherous secret for over forty years. But all heroes must choose when to join the fray, and to whom their allegiance is owed—even for just one perfect summer’s day. (via Goodreads)

Why was I interested in this book?
I’ve been a fan of Lavie Tidhar’s writings, especially his Century Station stories. The Violent Century is not one of those…

What Worked
There is a small, poignant human story at the heart of this tale of superheroes and superhero-sized espionage. Unfortunately…

What Didn’t Work
The story was buried under a layer of style and structure that kept the characters at a distance.

Instead of quotation marks, dialog is sometimes set off with em dashes and is sometimes subsumed into the surrounding paragraph. The result made all the characters seem flat, like I was overhearing this story through a bad telephone connection or watching it through a screen door. I was too removed to care about the characters.

The narrative is jumbled through places and times. This could work, giving it a woven together feel, but sometimes the time digressions didn’t lead very far. Chapters felt like prologues and vignettes; it was only in the longer chapters that I ever got into a good rhythm with Fogg and Oblivion.

Overall
I don’t mind doing a little work when I read, especially when the subject matter is something that has been done, like superheroes. But reading The Violent Century was arduous. I kept hoping Tidhar would let the readers into the story, but that never happened.

Original Publishing info: Tachyon Publications, July 23, 2019
My Copy: Kindle and ePub ARCs, NetGalley
Genre: science fiction

Review ~ Fevre Dream

Cover via Goodreads

Fevre Dream by George R. R. Martin

When struggling riverboat captain Abner Marsh receives an offer of partnership from a wealthy aristocrat, he suspects something’s amiss. But when he meets the hauntingly pale, steely-eyed Joshua York, he is certain. For York doesn’t care that the icy winter of 1857 has wiped out all but one of Marsh’s dilapidated fleet. Nor does he care that he won’t earn back his investment in a decade. York has his own reasons for wanting to traverse the powerful Mississippi. And they are to be none of Marsh’s concern—no matter how bizarre, arbitrary, or capricious his actions may prove.

Marsh meant to turn down York’s offer. It was too full of secrets that spelled danger. But the promise of both gold and a grand new boat that could make history crushed his resolve—coupled with the terrible force of York’s mesmerizing gaze. Not until the maiden voyage of his new sidewheeler Fevre Dream would Marsh realize he had joined a mission both more sinister, and perhaps more noble, than his most fantastic nightmare…and mankind’s most impossible dream.

Here is the spellbinding tale of a vampire’s quest to unite his race with humanity, of a garrulous riverman’s dream of immortality, and of the undying legends of the steamboat era and a majestic, ancient river. (via Goodreads)

Why was I interested in this book?
I had heard several times that George R. R. Martin’s vampire novel was quite good. The back cover blurb of my edition is a quote by Harlan Ellison.

In 1990 or so, Anne Rice’s Interview with the Vampire showed up on my mom’s bookshelf via the Science Fiction Book of the Month Club. I have a feeling that it was a “forgot to turn it down” book because my mom didn’t (until then) read horror. We both read it and we both went a bit nuts for it and vampires. We read all of Anne Rice’s books, Fred Saberhagen’s Dracula books (and of course Dracula), just about everything Chelsea Quinn Yarbro wrote, Barbara Hambly’s Those Who Hunt the Night, John Steakley’s Vampire$, and so many others. But George R. R. Martin’s Fevre Dream was no where to be found at our mall’s Walden Books or our public library.

What Worked
Martin does a good job putting a spin on vampire mythology and presenting a vampire who is trying to have a choice in his destiny without being utterly emo about it. Abner Marsh is our outsider-looking-in on this culture/species. He’s crusty and jaded and doesn’t ask too many questions, at least at first. It is his inevitable curiosity that causes him to ultimately care about Julian as well as Fevre Dream.

I really enjoyed the setting. Setting is one of those factors that can make or break a book for me. Reading this in 2019 means I’m experiencing it in the shadow of Interview of the Vampire with its wisteria-clad New Orleans. Fevre Dream is set somewhat in New Orleans, but more up and down the Mississippi River and especially on the riverboat itself. There is also a lot of talk about food. Abner March likes to eat. I can relate and I not-surprisingly appreciated all the food details.

I read part of this book in mass market paperback, but listened to most of it in audio book form. It was read Ron Donachie, who I wasn’t very familiar with, but has been in everything. He does a great job.

What Didn’t Work
There were a couple of really talky parts. I don’t believe that showing is always better than telling, but oof. Past the mid-point of the novel there is section where a good deal of time goes by. Between what Abner did during this time period and his subsequent catch-up with Joshua, there is a very large passage of summing up. I get that it’s necessary, but it’s kind of dry.

While I didn’t have a problem with this, readers might want to be aware that race is a bit of an issue and these are the 1850s. The N-word is used quite liberally, as certain characters would use it. Also, if you have any qualms about child-endangerment, one of the most graphic scenes includes a baby. I don’t dink Martin for this, but I understand that it’s a delicate point for many readers.

Overall
It had been a while since I’d read any vampire fiction. I’m glad Fevre Dream lived up to its reputation, and I should probably loan my mom the book.

Original Publishing info: Poseidon Press, 1982
My Copy: Mass market paperback (Pocket Books 1983), Book Mooch & Audio (Penguin Random House Audio 2012), Greater Phoenix Digital Library
Genre: horror

Mini Reviews, Vol. 16 ~ Audio Edition

Trust Me, I'm Lying cover Trust Me, I’m Lying: Confessions of a Media Manipulator by Ryan Holiday

DNF. I listened to maybe an hour and a half of Trust Me, I’m Lying. The first 60 minutes were interesting and a little sickening as Holiday describes how he (and others) create buzz, hype, and news stories out of virtually nothing. But then, the stories/explanations of how and why got repetitive. The audio book was recorded by Holiday. While the quality wasn’t bad, there was a lack of pauses at what would be section/chapter headings in a book; it all ran together.

Accidental Thief cover Accidental Thief by C.J. Davis & Jamie Davis

DNF too. I wanted to check out the phenomenon of LitRPG, which if you are like me old and out of touch aren’t familiar is a narrative with heavy RPG conventions including things like character stats. First, maybe this works better in non-audio format. Listening to the main character check his stats over and over again (“Name: Hal Dix. Class: Rogue. Level: 2. Attributes. Brawn: 8. Wisdom: 8. Luck: 18+5. Speed: 10+1. Looks: 18. Health 16/16. Skills… “) was not scintillating. Second, the tropes that are used are especially and purposefully (?) not unique. The protagonist is a boring guy stuck in a office job (with nice wife and young child) who is sucked into a mysterious game where he framed for a murder and ends up fighting spiders in the sewer with a mysterious stranger who is obviously a girl. Apparently, the challenges will become increasingly more difficult. But I’d rather spend my time playing an RPG rather than reading/listening to one.

Tesla cover Tesla: Man Out of Time by Margaret Cheney

Not a DNF! I read about half of this book and listened to about half of it. I had previously read W. Bernard Carlson’s Tesla: Inventor of the Electrical Age which emphasized where Tesla’s innovations fit within the technologies of the time. Cheney’s  book takes a much more personal look at Tesla, without being overly sensational or speculative. There is still science, but also things like letter excerpts from friends and colleagues that give a more human aspect to Tesla.


All the Details: 2019 Nonfiction Reading Challenge