Book Review: Witches, Stitches and Bitches

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I’m going to take a break from going through the list of 50 Scariest Books of All Time, and bring to you another review, just in time for Halloween!

Witches, Stitches and Bitches
Edited by Shannon Page

WS&B

Evil Girlfriend Media has published the first of their three little word anthologies. As you can guess from the title, each story has to encompass witches, stitches, and well…yeah…bitches! There are 16 short stories in total – some set in our world, some set in fantasy lands, all including stitches in vastly imaginative ways ranging from stitched up doppelgängers to a skin stitched from dogs. And the bitches…well you won’t be disappointed by them.

I’m going to reflect here my review from Amazon. I am a woman, but I tend to hate when too much “girl power” is thrown around.  It’s not like I want the man to oppress me, but I tend to be turned off by too much women’s lib as well. That being said, I was a bit apprehensive I was sitting down to potentially read nothing but a bunch of girls rule boys drool stories.

That is absolutely NOT the case at all. These are all fun and vastly different treats. I love short stories and found them all evenly paced and developed. These short stories are written by men and women with different styles – you seriously cannot go wrong.

Check out the EGM site for more about this fun little publisher, plus links to where you can buy the book. There are two more similar anthologies coming out in the near future!

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50 Scariest Books of All Time: The Woman in Black

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If you’ve been following along, I am reading and reviewing my way down one website’s list of the 50 scariest books of all time. Today I bring you review #2.

The Woman in Black, by Susan Hill

WomaninBlack

You may remember the movie based on this from 2012, starring Harry Potter’s Daniel Radcliffe. The story is of Arthur Kipps, who getting late in life is beckoned by his step-children to recall a ghost story to them on Christmas eve. Angry and frustrated he storms from the house, upset that the ghosts of his past have been stirred again in his mind, clearly hoping to have forgotten some event that happened to him earlier in his life. Determined to set his ghost tale to paper in an attempt to forget – he gives us the tale of the woman in black.

Arthur’s story is a classic gothic-style ghost tale. He’s sent to a secluded home to wrap up the affairs of a recently deceased client of his. He gets many vague hints from the local townsfolk of a potential bad situation going on at the house, but he shrugs them off and doesn’t think twice about the place. He finds himself being haunted by a ghost – the woman in black – however. The bulk of his story is the strangeness he experiences over a few days at the old house.

I found myself a little underwhelmed by this book. Not so much really that I hated it, or regretted taking the time to read it. If I was lost on an island with only this to read, I wouldn’t be so furious as to not pick it back up and enjoy it again…I just felt that it could have been more than it was.

I think honestly it just left me more sad than it did scared or chilled. Yes, there is a ghost….and yes she’s got herself a pretty bad mean streak, but the events that unfold are more sad than anything at all.

I did see the movie when it came out, and reviewed it here. I did go to film school, but find myself more than I’d like to admit muttering that familiar term, “the book was better” we all hear our friends mutter when a movie based on a novel is made. I’m going to break tradition in this case and say that I found the movie better. The suspense and terror were more felt on-screen than on paper, for me at least. I actually found the movie really scary, and being the crazy horror nerd that I am I don’t find scary movies all that scary very often.

All that being said, I’d probably give the book 3.5 out of 5 stars. It’s under 200 pages so a really fast read, it’s not so terrible that it’s a waste of time to read, but maybe you should also go check the movie out as well.

50 Scariest Books of All Time (2 down, 48 to go)

  1. It – Stephen King
  2. Piercing – Ryu Murakami
  3. The Exorcist – William Peter Blatty
  4. Ghost Story – Peter Straub
  5. American Psycho – Bret Easton Ellis
  6. Hell House – Richard Matheson
  7. Dracula – Bram Stoker
  8. The Handmaid’s Tale – Margaret Atwood
  9. The Best of H.P. Lovecraft – H.P. Lovecraft
  10. The Turn of the Screw – Henry James
  11. House of Leaves – Mark Z. Danielewski
  12. The Haunting of Hill House – Shirley Jackson
  13. The Silence of the Lambs – Thomas Harris
  14. Rosemary’s Baby – Ira Levin
  15. The Amityville Horror – Jay Anson
  16. The Trial – Frankz Kafka
  17. Books of Blood – Clive Barker
  18. Blood Meridian – Cormac McCarthy
  19. Heart-Shaped Box – Joe Hill
  20. Carrion Comfort – Dan Simmons
  21. The Complete Tales and Poems – Edgar Allan Poe
  22. Dawn – Octavia Butler
  23. We Need to Talk About Kevin – Lionel Shriver
  24. The Girl Next Door – Jack Ketchum
  25. The Painted Bird – Jerzy Kosinski
  26. The Wasp Factory – Iain Banks
  27. The Cipher – Kathe Koja
  28. Lord of the Flies – William Golding
  29. The Ruins – Scott Smith
  30. Ghost Stories of an Antiquary – M. R. James
  31. Naomi’s Room – Jonathan Aycliffe
  32. The Ritual – Adam Nevill
  33. Johnny Got His Gun – Dalton Trumbo
  34. Incarnate – Ramsey Campbell
  35. The Woman in Black – Susan Hill
  36. The Great God Pan – Arthur Machen
  37. Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark – Alvin Schwartz
  38. The October Country – Ray Bradbury
  39. White is for Witching – Helen Oyeyemi
  40. Let the Right One In – John Ajvide Lindqvist
  41. I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream – Harlan Ellison
  42. The Collector – John Fowles
  43. The Store – Bently Little
  44. Penpal – Dathan Auerbach
  45. In Cold Blood – Truman Capote
  46. Swan Song – Robert R. McCammon
  47. The Wolfen – Whitley Strieber
  48. The Hot Zone – Richard Preston
  49. The Killer Inside Me – Jim Thompson
  50. 1984 – George Orwell

The Curse

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Do you think there can be such a thing as a cursed novel?

I’m a big fan of Stephen King. When I was a Sophomore in high school I carried the brick that is The Stand around with me everywhere to snickers of my classmates, “You’re reading that…for fun?!?!?!?” like that was such a foreign concept. Yes, it is possible to read books that Mrs. Bishop hasn’t assigned, imagine that.

My love of Mr. King’s works stem back from when I was but a wee-tyke, seeing my mom and grandparents read his books. I had a sick fascination with horror that began around the age of 6, so by the time The Stand mini-series came out on TV when I was in the 4th grade, I had already been loving Carrie, IT, Pet Semetary, etc for many years.

All of this has led my husband to ask me just why haven’t I read any of The Dark Tower books if I love Stephen King so much? Well, I just didn’t have a good answer for that. Nothing other than I just haven’t gotten around to it. When I was a kid my grandparents didn’t own any of those books, and they were generally my source for all things Stephen King. That’s all fine and dandy, but there comes a certain point in a person’s life when they are master of their own book collection. It wasn’t as if I was avoiding the journey of the tower, it has been on my “to-do” list for years.

So it happened a couple of months ago, my husband thrust into my hands The Gunslinger, the first novel of The Dark Tower series. Read it, he tells me. And read it I did. As I neared the end I told him he had better find his copy of the second novel (The Drawing of the Three) so I could go straight into it. And through the second novel I told him to hunt down the third – The Waste Lands.

Then, I finished The Waste Lands, and my husband warned me about going into the fourth – Wizard and Glass. See, Wizard and Glass is a cursed novel in my husband’s eyes. One that took him several attempts to finish. The first time he was making his way through the book his parents lost their home (this was when he was younger and lived with them). They lost most of their possessions in one fell swoop.

The second time he attempted the novel, his father passed away.

He has since finished the book, and I think he did so without any further incident. But he did warn me when I began reading it, and I didn’t listen. Sure enough, the curse of Wizard and Glass passed down to me.

Two weeks ago today (which now feels more like two months ago) we got a call from our landlord, and without getting into gory details (there are several shows on TV about the subject) we were basically told that in a week we may lose our apartment. We spent a week frantic, terrified, nervous, sad, angry, frightened, distraught, worried, unsure…etc etc etc. The week went by and last Tuesday came and went without incident. With the help of several friends and my mother, we managed to do what our landlord asked, which secured our spot in our apartment.

This past couple of weeks has been a complete whirlwind. After all the drama with our apartment, we were scheduled to leave town the next day for a vacation with a bunch of friends. Which after all the stress was definitely well needed.

At any rate, Wizard and Glass now sits by my bed, around 100 pages from the end. And I’m terrified to pick it back up and finish. Will I just be tempting the universe to do something else to destroy our lives?

My husband has offered to just tell me what happens. I’ve also thought about reading the Wikipedia entry on it. I know this sounds weird, I mean really how superstitious can you get? But honestly, that is three times the book has been read by the two of us that something downright life altering has happened!

I’m still undecided on what to do. What would you do? Just laugh at the universe and pick it back up to finish? Get the synopsis from someone who’s already read it, like my husband? Would listening to the audio version be just as terrifying as reading it myself? I just don’t know…and until I figure out what I’m brave enough to do, I think Wizard and Glass is just going to have to sit there and wait.

Now that I think about it, this whole thing sounds like one crazy Stephen King novel…

The Wootape Questions

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OK apparently I’m in an answering questions kind of mood lately. I dunno, what can I say, I’m boring and that gray matter between my ears isn’t coming up with anything topical or quirky to write about, so for now, questions it is!

My crazy husband recently posted 11 questions on his blog – The Wootape Letters, and what the heck, I figured since he answered my questions, I’ll answer his!

1. If you could kill any one famous person, who would it be, keep in mind that you have to eat them?

Wow what the hell? I’m going to pretend we are lost in a frozen tundra and they are half dead and begging me to finish them off, and if I don’t kill them they will die a slow painful death, and if I don’t eat them I won’t be able to survive long enough to make it to the orphanage in the middle of the frozen tundra to save the starving orphans … I’d kill and eat David Beckham. I don’t know why him really, I was trying to think of an athlete and he was the first that came to mind.

2. If you could alter any one work of fiction, what would it be, and how?

I’d change Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, I’d leave Dobby and Fred Weasley alive.

3. If you could marry or at least hook up with one fictionaal character, who would it be?

Oooohhh yeah Dean Winchester from Supernatural. Or Sam Winchester. Oh … my… gosh… don’t make me choose!

4. If you could have any mythical creature as a pet, what would it be?

Unicorn!

5. If you could fight any one celebrity, who would it be? (not to the death)

Sheamus! hehehehe

6. If you could produce a duet album from two musicians, living or dead, who would it be?

Bach and Matthew Bellamy (from Muse).

7. If you could have the powers of any one supeerhero (or villain), who would it be?

Professor X, it would be handy to know what people are thinking.

8. If you could own any weapon from fiction, what would you choose? (lightsaber, Excaliber, Green Lantern ring, etc)

Well, I’d like a wand  like in Harry Potter, but I’m just a muggle so it would be useless to me. Then maybe I thought I’d take the sword of Gryffindor, but I went through the sorting hat at the Pottermore site, and I was sorted into Hufflepuff so I’d never be able to have the sword of Gryffindor.

So I’ll take piranha gun, oh yeah!

9. You have one question to ask the universe and have answered, what do you ask?

What’s the point of it all? Why are we here, why do we have war and famine and disease, to what purpose does it all serve?

10.What’s in the cave? (hint…only what you take with you)

Well I had no idea what this question even meant, so my husband had to explain it was from a scene in Star Wars where Luke is faced with his deepest fears. So, what are my deepest fears? Luke’s fear was turning into his father. My husband says I have a bit of that in me. It’s not that he’s a bad man, or maybe he is, I don’t know. He has a lot of problems that I actively choose to avoid (drugs). I won’t smoke pot, I avoid things like pain killers prescribed by doctors … I have a fear of accidentally becoming addicted to things. You hear of people getting in car wrecks and then having to take pain killers and becoming addicted to them. I never want to do drugs or become addicted to them, they cause so much hurt and I just don’t understand drug addicts even though I grew up with them.

Shoooo that was heavy, I don’t much like talking about heavy things like that.

11.”Why, Mr. [READER]? Why, why, why? Why do you do it? Why, why get up? Why keep fighting? Do you believe you’re fighting for something, for more than your survival? Can you tell me what it is, do you even know? Is it freedom, or truth, perhaps peace, could it be for love? Illusions, Mr. [READER], vagaries of perception. Temporary constructs of a feeble human intellect trying desperately to justify an existence that is without any meaning or purpose! And all of them as artificial as the Matrix itself. Although only a human mind could invent something as insipid as love. You must be able to see it Mr. Anderson, you must know it by now. You can’t win, it’s pointless to keep fighting! Why, Mr. [READER], why? Why do you persist?”

Another one my husband had to explain, although I gathered it was from the movie the Matrix. Why do I persist? Because I have to. What other choice is there? Letting go, giving up? Not an option.

Ok my husband’s questions gave me brain damage. They were hard to answer! Anyone else want to give them a go?

Like Mother, Like Daughter

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Well, I did it. I managed to read 10 books this month! I had my doubts around mid-month, but somehow managed to make it.

(* I feel the need to preface this with the fact that this is getting ready to be a really long Gilmore Girl rant so um… if that sounds boring to you I’m not going to be offended if you want to just wait til next time… *)

It’s no secret, I’m obsessed with the Gilmore Girls. I’ve watched every season somewhere between 5 and 7 times, some episodes more if I catch them on TV. When an episode begins, I immediately know what the whole episode is about from memory. I can recite the lines, and will at every given moment relate real life events to something that happened on the Gilmore Girls. So I was pleasantly surprised when I found Like Mother, Like Daughter, a novelisation of 5 episodes from season 1 of the show from the first person point of view of Rory Gilmore (the daughter).

First, here is the synopsis from the back of the book:

Okay, let’s face it. My mom and I are never going to have a “normal” mother-daughter relationship because my mom isn’t just my mother, she’s my best friend. She would do anything for me, including asking her parents for the tuition money to send me to Chilton, this prestigious prep school that just accepted me. That was probably one of the toughest things she’s ever done, although agreeing to weekly dinners in exchange for the loan probably runs a close second. My mom’s just miserable at the mere thought of this. But the way I look at it? – I’d just say life is going to get a lot more interesting.

– Catherine Clarke – Like Mother, Like Daughter

Ok,  seriously I’m a mega insane fan of the show, I need to go to Gilmore Girls anonymous for crying out loud… and even my eyes begin to gloss over at that synopsis. Maybe it’s because I’m not a young pre-teen/teen which surely this book is aimed at? I’m not sure, I mean, if I’m not elbow deep in a good Stephen King or a good Chuck Palahniuk novel, I’m usually devouring the latest YA novel I’ve unearthed at the book store (yeah my tastes are insanely varied…) So I like to think I can deal with reading a story aimed at a younger audience, but this book just had me literally exclaiming “You have got to be kidding me!?!?!!!” to my husband about every 5 seconds.

The first thing that bothered me about this novel is that as it’s first person narration from Rory’s point of view, you get all this Rory internal monologue that isn’t present in the show. The dialogue of the novel is directly word for word from the episodes, so that is the only redeeming factor. But the things that Rory thought, just didn’t sound like Rory to me. I suppose maybe non-fans of the show wouldn’t mind or notice, but at the same time I don’t see a non-fan of the show even trying to read this book.

Anyway, here are a few sections that had me sighing loudly:

First, Rory and Dean’s first meeting –

I gazed up the legs. They were connected to a very good-looking boy’s face. He was tall, at least six feet, and had brown hair that flopped nicely. He was wearing a leather jacket and was really, really handsome.

Oh Dean, if you didn't have such nice floppy hair you'd be a dog!

So his hair flops nicely, he’s very good-looking and really, really handsome…isn’t there a better way to convey “hey, this guy isn’t hard on the eyes!”? In the show, what we get is Rory on the ground, slowly panning up from his legs to his face, and then stammering like an idiot. Is this just the reverse effect of “the book’s better”? This time it’s the show that’s better….

Ok moving on…here is a section where Lorelai, the mother, has just informed Rory that they are going to the grandparent’s house for dinner on Friday:

“We are?” I asked, surprised. My grandparents. Emily and Richard Gilmore. Even though they only live half an hour away in Hartford, we don’t see them often. I was surprised by my mom’s statement.

“Mm hmm,” Mom said.

“But it’s September,” I said.

“So?” she asked.

“So what holiday’s in September?” I asked. We usually only went to Grandma and Grandpa’s for holidays. Major holidays.

First, this bothered me because she felt the need to convey she was surprised by her mom twice in about 3 seconds. Second, her asking her mom what holiday in September to me conveys they only visit on holidays, no need to then go ahead and restate that.

Am I just  nit-picking here? I honestly don’t like being harsh, and I especially don’t like being harsh to something Gilmore related, but this writing just seems bad! Again, the dialogue is good, and reading the script would probably be amazing, but this novelization just isn’t working for me.

Finally one last section that bothered me – Rory describing her grandmother Emily:

My grandmother looked perfect. She’s always wearing an actual outfit, like a suit, and her hair is done, and she has on pumps with heels, and pantyhose.

I’m sorry but Emily Gilmore surely commands a better description than that! “An actual outfit, like a suit”….really?

Emily Gimore played by Kelly Bishop

 

 

I’m going to be honest, I’m really conflicted by this whole thing. I love the Gilmore Girls show so much, that disliking anything to do with them is hurting me physically and mentally. I don’t even want to leave the house or speak to friends after having such a mental conflict. The book did get a little better, after all the new character’s descriptions were out of the way. It sort of just went along to mostly being dialogue, and since the dialogue was word for word from the show I really enjoyed that part. I do have more of these books, and I’m not sure if I will try to read them or not. Hopefully she won’t have to describe her grandmother anymore, so it might be halfway decent.

Phew Ok, sorry about that guys, major Gilmore rant is officially over.

 

Seriously…I’m Kidding

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Sunday I finished reading Seriously…I’m Kidding by my BFF Ellen DeGeneres. That leaves me today and tomorrow to read one more book in order to have read 10 books this month! *Runs off to find a Dick and Jane book* Phew, I’m back.  I got this guys, I got this.

I love Ellen, so much. I watch her show like it’s a religion. I own box sets of her sitcoms, I own her books, and every day when I step out of my shower I wipe my feet on her face! (Well, my shower mat is Nemo and Dory from Finding Nemo). She’s so funny! I love reading her books too, because it sounds like what the inside of my head sounds like.

Here’s the description from Amazon.com:

I’ve experienced a lot the last few years and I have a lot to share. So I hope that you’ll take a moment to sit back, relax and enjoy the words I’ve put together for you in this book. I think you’ll find I’ve left no stone unturned, no door unopened, no window unbroken, no rug unvacuumed, no ivories untickled. What I’m saying is, let us begin, shall we?
– Ellen DeGeneres
Mostly, it’s like 241 pages of delicious creamy monologue from her show. Well, maybe creamy isn’t the right word, that makes it sound kind of gross. Anyway, you get the point.
Here are a couple of my favorite excerpts:
Way, way back in the day, like in the 1990’s, if you wanted to tell everyone that you ate waffles for breakfast, you couldn’t just go on the Internet and tweet it out. There was only one way to do it. You had to go outside and scream at the top of your lungs, “I ate waffles for breakfast!” That’s why so many people ended up in institutions. They seemed crazy, but when you think about it, they were just ahead of their time.
And:
There’s a very easy way to save water. Take group showers. It’s fun. It’s friendly. At first, my house-keepers were resistant to this idea. But luckily my landscaper talked them into it.
– Ellen DeGeneres
Oh that Ellen, she does go on, and on, and on… she’s so funny! I mean, it’s no wonder she’s my BFF for life! If only we could meet, so I could let her know about us being BFF. I’m sure she’d see it too, that we were separated at birth or something. Nevermind she’s older than my mom, that doesn’t matter. Pfft. Logistics and stuff, I ain’t about being logical!
…Maybe I shouldn’t have tried writing when I’m sick and surely under the influence of NyQuil. That stuff will whack a girl up – yo. Oh yeah I was talking about Ellen. This book is full of useful stuff, like how to save water, short short stories, haiku, practically anything you’d want to read while imagining Ellen’s voice the whole time. And if you get tired of reading, you can just turn to the front cover and get lost in her Cover Girl blue eyes. Such….pretty………eyes.
Ok I’m going to bed. Read Ellen’s book!

We Have Always Lived In The Castle

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I’m 8 books down for the month, having finished Shirley Jackson’s We Have Always Lived In The Castle around 6 this morning. I’ve had this book on my “to do” list for a few years now.

Here is the synopsis from Barnes and Noble

Taking readers deep into a labyrinth of dark neurosis, We Have Always Lived in the Castle is a deliciously unsettling novel about a perverse, isolated, and possibly murderous family and the struggle that ensues when a cousin arrives at their estate.
And the synopsis from Amazon
Alone since four members of the family died of arsenic poisoning, Merricat, Constance and Julian Blackwood spend their days in happy isolation until cousin Charles appears.
I think the first thing I said when I finished the book was, “wow, that was weird”. Which is a good thing, to me! I love weird. I’ve heard this book described as a horror (as Shirley Jackson wrote some horror novels), but I don’t really know if that is a true representation of this novel. Sure, it has some horrific people, and our protagonist Merricat is disturbed and performs magic rituals to keep their house safe. But it’s not really horror in the sense that Stephen King’s IT, is horror. It’s more psychological than that, and delves into the horrors that human nature can produce out of fear and spite. I wasn’t really sure what I was getting myself into when I started reading this book, but I really enjoyed it!