Monday, December 27, 2010

Jane Aiken Hodge: The Master of Penrose

I have run into another novel billed as "A Novel of Gothic Romance" and published in 1967 that is far from gothic romance. It has a nice, creepy cover in blues with an open, lighted window in the castle. The opening pages of the book sucked me in, and I read for about forty pages. Ultimately, though, this novel reads like a historical romance novel, maybe. There are some secrets, but they never get interesting or menacing, and I had figured some of them out quickly.

I put this novel down after fifty pages, figuring life is too short for non-gothic novels. ;)

I'll rate this an unfinished book. Pick it up if you like history of Canada and the U.S. during the early 19th century. Otherwise, I'm not sure it will be your bag with the dearth of suspense and slow developing romance.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Contemporary Gothic Romance Giveaway: Karen White's novels...

Whew! I got all the back logged contest books in the mail today, so several of you should have something to open right after Christmas!

This contest is going to be a 72+ hour one ending on 12/26 at 8am CST. It is for a Karen White novel. White is a novelist who has been writing in the past few years in the gothic romance style; her novels are impressive in terms of page count for the genre, and she would be a new author to try for those of you who have run out of gothic romances to read by your old favorites. I have a new, lovely paperback of hers (it's random) to give away to one blog poster. Just post a comment here if you've read her work (you might mention which one(s), and I can send you one you don't have possibly) or post a comment if you'd like to read her work. Good luck! :)

Monday, December 20, 2010

Holidaze Contest Winner...

Susied is the winner of this contest. Susie, please contact me via email or in a comment in the next 48 hours, and I'll get the pertinent details to send your books on-- in the near future. On that note...

I am sensing that my readers are as busy as I am right now. I do plan to have another contest or two before December ends, but my slow mailing of prizes will continue until then as well. I apologize for that.

I hope you are all having happy holidays. Has anyone had a moment to read anything good? :) I will be posting about a novel billed as gothic romance that I started on but didn't finish in the next day or so.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Random Holidaze Contest: Houses in Focus

I am running a bit behind on getting out the last two contest winners' novels. I will get them to you. It just might be slower than usual. :)

The new contest is 72 hours. The winner will receive two gothic novels with houses in the titles in some form: the name of a castle, the ancestral estate, or any abode.

Just make a comment about the importance of the gothic house or interior space in gothic novels (or why you don't think it's important!), and you'll be entered automatically. The contest will end on Dec. 18 at 11pm CST.


Monday, December 13, 2010

Monica Heath: Clerycastle

This novel, published in 1969, is one of Heath's earlier works. I have it in a Signet Double Gothic edition which is pretty neat. This novel is pretty different in quality and sophistication from Calderwood, a later novel I reviewed on this blog. It is obvious that Heath wrote many novels and got better at it over time.  I guess that is the case with most authors if they continue to learn their craft.

In the novel, Starla Shea has come to Ireland to research a biography about her uncle. She is quickly intercepted by the handsome but mysterious Lord McClery who implores her to go with him to Clerycastle and write the family's history. Though he is strangely obsessed with her and insists she is an O'Shea and his wolf ring scares her as do the legends of a woman  killed by a wolf, she goes with him after a scare in a graveyard. From there, mysteries unfold. Is there a wolf prowling the grounds of Clerycastle? Who is Starla's mother? Was she really an O'Shea? And are the intentions of Chavner and his younger twin, Conal McClery, honorable?

Characters: 3/5[ The characters are one dimensional, for the most part. Lord Chavner McClery seemed the most vibrant (and I love that name and Conal McClery as well).]

Plot: 3/5 [I knew pretty early on what was going to happen more or less. That is interesting because Calderwood was the opposite: the ending shocked me. I will say that Heath obviously has a thing for twins. :)]

Atmosphere/spooky elements: 3/5 [The wolf thing really worked in the early stages of the novel. Heath can also write a graveyard scene like no other author I know of. Mood and atmosphere were lacking, though, once Starla got to Clerycastle. The novel lacked description of the room she was in (I like to know where the heroine is sleeping!), and that bugged me immediately.]

Literary elements: 2/5 Nah. [This one is pretty fluffy all around.]

Romance: 3/5 [Yeah, I added an element for gothic romance novels; I thought this might be helpful for those of you who choose what to read based on the romance in the book (or more for the romance or equally for romance and gothic elements). This one has some spark in it but it's not that romantic, in my opinion.]

Rating: 2.5+ stars   **.5+

I recommend this one if you like double gothics or wolves. Otherwise, it's pretty weak, but I look forward to reading Return to Clerycastle next.

My daughter is holding the double gothic. Sorry for the blur; I continue to be cheap and not buy another camera phone. ;)

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Josephine Hart: Damage

I am not sure that this novel is a strict Gothic, but Josephine Hart's Damage published in 1991 is dark and tense. I do not recommend it for some of my readers due to sensitive scenes. If you want to know more about that before reading, feel free to email me or comment. The novel is a page turner, and I read it in two days. It is also short at about 195 pages.

I decided to make a list of Gothic elements in the book to see why I might like it and how I could fit it into the blog. I'll eschew a full review in lieu of my list. The novel feels like an urban gothic to me, but it does have country scenes.

secret room/key to it
twisted heroine with secrets and a shameful past
damaged heroine
creepy letter
secret notes
murder/suicide that no one speaks of (or few speak of)
creepy resemblence of a lover to the deceased
strange father/son relationship
family estate in the country (Hartley)
sexual perversion on the part of the heroine and villain

So, this novel does have many Gothic elements, and perhaps that's why I enjoyed it tremendously. I first ran across the story in movie form with Jeremy Irons and Juliette Binoche (two of my favorite actors). If you don't mind graphic details and very dark plots, and you like a book with a high writing style (literary), check the book and the movie out.

Rating: 4 stars  ****

Monday, December 6, 2010

It's Raining Men: Tribute Video... warning lots of hot gothic and period piece heroes...

Wow! This video is great and so appropriate for this blog. ;)

Some News to Share

I have some news to share that I'm pretty excited about. I have a gothic romance/romantic suspense novel coming out in April of 2011 in e-book and in September of 2011 in print from Siren Book-Strand.

I credit the Gothicked Blog and all of my readers' and reviewers' comments, reading suggestions, and more for helping me get started on the writing I've always wanted to do. Reading so many of these old favorites and new ones I hadn't read and interacting with all of you helped spur me on in writing. I kept thinking, I've read so many of these, what have I got to lose in trying one myself? The idea only bloomed after blogging here for a a month or so.

I hope you'll take a look at my author site and blog-- in its infancy. I have some information under most of the tabs, and I'll be updating it regularly and keeping my author information over there. Thanks again for reading and joining the conversation. I hope your holidays are very merry and peaceful so far...

My Author Blog

Christmas with the Classics: A Gothicked 48 hour contest

Clark B. won the last contest and will get the two gothics with color coded titles. Clark, please comment here or contact me via email, and I'll send your books along. :)

A new contest starts today and will run through December 8th at 1 a.m. CST. One winner will receive two gothic novels with settings before 1900. If you enjoy older classics or historical gothic romances, this contest is for you.

All you have to do to enter is write a comment on this blog post about why you're a fan of the classics. I can't wait to read your responses!

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Colorful Gothics Giveaway...

The first give away will be for two gothic romance novels that have colors in their titles. :) The Whitney novel, Vermillion, is an example of what I mean. The contest will run for 24 hours if you're interested. I will draw a name by 12pm CST tomorrow, 12/3 and contact the winner/post the winner on the blog. Just submit a comment to this blog post, telling me your favorite color to enter the give away!

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Ghostly Gothics Contest Winner/New Gothic Holidays Random Contests...

The winner of the last contest is Lynn Ward. Lynn, please contact me within 48 hours to claim your prize. :)

For the Christmas/Holiday season, we're going to do something a little different and I hope, fun! From now through Christmas Day, I'll be posting mini contests with a cut off to comment or enter in some fashion. To win, check the blog often (or your RSS feed/facebook, etc) to see what the current contest is. These posts will be random, and the contests might be quick-- say 24-72 hours. Good luck and thanks for reading!

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Jill Tattersall: The Shadows of Castle Fosse

This novel by Jill Tattersall, published in 1976 was one I had high hopes for, especially after reading two others by her that I loved and have reviewed on this blog. Also, the cover is pretty gothic. Check it out: there are two undead looking dudes on there and a scary skull with a castle in the background. In front of all that spooky stuff, a blond woman with her bust threatening to pop out is holding a candle, looking terrified.

Despite the promising cover, the novel leaves much to be desired. 25+ pages in, I was done. When Phoebe Kennington, the first woman in the Castle Fosse story, states that she would love to marry an old man like her grandfather, I howled. The first chapter was confusing anyway, and after that statement and others that came, I couldn't bear it. I didn't finish this novel by Tattersall. I recommend The Wild Hunt or Lady Ingram's Room any day over this one.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle: The Hound of the Baskervilles

This novel in a strict sense is a mystery, of course, but it is definitely gothic. Published first in 1901 in serial form, this novel has enjoyed a place of myth for its creepy setting and hell hound. I especially enjoyed the modern feel of the writing, and of course Sherlock Holmes is an intriguing, humorous character.

Sir Henry Baskerville is under threat as he takes over the ancestral home. A dark hound has killed his ancestors, and he is worried that the same fate awaits him. Is the source of Sir Charles Baskerville's previous murder supernatural or from the hand of man?

Characters: 5/5 [Sherlock Holmes is a lark, of course. He ranks, for me, with Aloysius X. Pendergast of the Lincoln/Child series. I think he comes second to Pendergast because Pendergast is Southern-- to my mind anyway. I can see clearly, though, how that hero came from Holmes' character. The other characters seem alive and real from Henry Baskerville to the Barrymores to Jack Stapleton, and others.]

Plot: 4/5 [The plot is engaging; there are slow points, but Doyle kept me guessing about whodunnit.]

Atmosphere/spooky elements: 4/5 [The story of the hound as well as the creepy moors and the Baskerville estate raised the hair on my spine more than once. I could just see the hound in the night.]

Literary elements: 5/5 [Yes, history, science, and other topics collide for a wonderfully modern feeling. I think, too, that knowing of Conan Doyle's interest in the occult makes the novel an even better read.]

Rating: 4+stars   ****+

** I recommend it!

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Douglas Clegg: Neverland

Neverland was first released twenty years ago. Clegg put out a new anniversary edition a few months ago, and I think this novel is one of his best. I read the older edition.

As a boy, Beau Jackson has spent time on Gull Island off of Georgia's coast with his parents, sisters, grandmother Weenie, cousin Sumter and aunt and uncle in the summers. This summer, though, will be different. Sumter Monroe has found new games to play at the old shack he calls Neverland, and the results will be bloody. Are the legends of dead and buried slaves true? And who is Lucy that Sumter calls his god? How will the families pay for the games of Neverland?

Characters:  5/5 [I really loved the earnest character of Beau and the complex character of Sumter. Nonie and Missy, Beau's sisters, are also well drawn. In fact, all the characters are round with their own desires and motives. They felt real to me, like people I have known in the South.]

Plot: 5/5 [Clegg keeps the tension building until the climax. I read this one in large chunks.]

Atmosphere/spooky elements: 4/5 [This one didn't make me look in closets or anything, but the crate and what might be in it as well as the dark visions the children have are hair raising. Clegg has a deft touch with childhood and its fantasies.]

Literary elements: 4/5 [This novel is layered and smart. I love the usage of the word Neverland to mean so many things. The novel makes interesting arguments about childhood and what it means as well as the role of family in one's upbringing. So, yes, this one is what you might call smart horror.]

Rating: 4+ stars   ****+

*If you like Southern Gothic Novels, this novel is a must read. If you like horror, you'll love this it, too. Finally, for fans of coming of age novels, this one fits the bill. I like its large appeal, and I love the narrator's voice.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Henry James: The Turn of the Screw

I finally read this delightful little Gothic Horror novella, The Turn of the Screw. My edition was only 87 pages, and with its Christmas ghost story setting, it's perfect for this time of year.

A governess takes a position at an English country estate to look after two seemingly angelic children: Miles and Flora. All is not what it seems, however, and soon the governess sees ghosts on the grounds. The governess is sure that the children are seeing the ghosts of their former governess, Miss Jessel and her lover, Peter Quint just as she is. Nevertheless, the children won't admit it. Are they liars or evil beings cloaked in innocence, or is it the governess herself who is mad?

Plot: 4/5 [The tension builds nicely, and James keeps the novel to a good length; he tells the story at a good pace. The ending provides a shocking twist.]

Characterization: 5/5 [Miles and Flora are enigmatic and fascinating characters as is the governess.]

Atmosphere/spooky elements: 4/5 [This one gave me a few chills with the wonderful description of the ghosts and of the children, too. The focus on the mind and perception also were creepy.]

Literary elements: 5/5 [What makes this novel a classic is its depiction of what reality is and what perception is. James is adept at psychological profiles of ambiguity and of leaving readers with a hall of mirrors. Sometimes this hall is one we know from our own lives regarding how we and others recognize and agree upon reality (or do not) .]

Rating: 4+ stars     ****+

I recommend this quick read for another holiday novel. The language is lovely, and I took my time with it. It is truly unique, unsettling, and thoroughly modern.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Contest Winner/New Ghostly Gothics Contest

Sorry this is a little late. The winner of the two random Gothic Novels is Kimberwolf. Please post here or email me within 48 hours to claim your prize! :)

The new contest will be for two "Ghostly Gothics." I'm just trying to do something different. That label of including ghosts could cover lots of potential novels. To enter to win, just post here by November 30th at 12am EST.

The odds are always good for these contests. If you entered by posting last time, you had a 20% chance of winning.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Barbara Michaels: Stitches in Time

As many of you know, Michaels (Barbara Mertz) is one of my favorite authors in the gothic romance genre. I hadn't read this novel, Stitches in Time, in 15 years-- since it came out and wanted to see what it was about and if I liked it as much this time around.

Rachel Grant is a graduate student slaving away to make ends meet in her friend Cheryl's antique fabrics shop. The only problem is that Rachel is in love with Cheryl's husband, a hunky cop named Tony. When a mysterious antique quilt shows up on the door step of the shop accompanied by a possibly dangerous murderer, things get interesting. Soon, Rachel finds the quilt interfering with her daily life in the form of memories of past lives and present treachery. This novel is one in the Georgetown set, and Pat and Ruth MacDougal, characters from Ammie, Come Home appear in this novel as well.

Characters 4/5 [Rachel falls a bit flat for me, but I like Adam as the hero-- a lot. He's different, not your average romantic lead male, and this is again one of the reasons I love Michaels' work. Adam is the type of guy you would find in a professoral/intellectual job in real life.

Plot 4/5: [I have read some of Michaels' real nail biters, and this isn't one of them. The novel has tons of fascinating stuff about quilting and myth as well as anthropology, but it drags a bit until a bit more than half way in.]

Atmosphere/spooky elements 3/5: [Honestly, not much. The quilt is a bit spooky, but a lot more could have been done here with the overshadowing, etc. It has its scary/creepy parts, but Michaels' has so many novels that really scare me.]

Literary elements 5/5: [As always, Michaels shines here with the information and analysis she manages to present about quilting, Wicca, possession, and female myth and history in this novel.]

Rating: 4 stars  ****

Fans of Michaels will enjoy this one as will anyone with an interest in antique clothing or quilting. Another interesting and perhaps attractive thing about this novel is its Christmas setting. It felt like I was reading it at nearly the right time of year. If you want a Christmas gothic romance read, check this one out. :)

I also like the cover of this novel with some of the quilt images and the photo of Michaels/Mertz wearing a filmy antique creation like one in the novel on the back cover. If you can find the hard back, it's worth tracking down to see front and back.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Crazy Typos in Gothic Novels

I am reading a novel right now-- one by one of my favorite authors. I'll be reviewing it later this week, I'm sure.

The thing that killed me is this: 60 pages in, there is a terrible typo. The heroine is called by the wrong last name twice in a few lines! She becomes a Foley when she had been a Grant on the jacket flap and in the novel. I laughed, but it was actually disappointing and distracting since this novel was published by a pretty decent publishing house.

Do any of you have favorite or remembered typos or obvious errors in the novels you love? Care to share?

Monday, November 1, 2010

Contest Winner/November Contest

The winner of the last contest is Pamela P. :) Pamela, I'll send your novels on if you comment here or contact me at my email address listed at the bottom of the blog within 48 hours. Thanks!

For the next contest, I'll be giving away two random, 4 star Gothicked reviewed, gothic romance novels. If you're interested in entering, all you have to do is post a comment here or on any blog post before November 16th at 12am EST.

The two novels linked here are just to give you an indication of the type of random gothic romance novel you might end up with if you win.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Susanna Kearsley: Mariana

Susanna Kearsley's novel Mariana-- a winner of the Catherine Cookson Fiction Prize in 1993-- is a novel I'd been waiting for and wanting to read for a while after a recommendation from blog reader Hannah. I was not disappointed, and this novel is one I'll be picking up again to read in the future. I only wish I had read this novel first of Kearsley's that I've read, but I'm glad that I got around to it, and I'll be seeking out her other novels.

Julia Beckett sees Greyweathers in Exbury as a child and is drawn to it. When she comes into a tidy sum from a dead relative and is looking to move out of the city to work on her illustrations, she buys the old estate in the English countryside. She meets a colorful cast of characters from the Lord of the local manor, Geoff DeMornay to Iain Sumner, a gardener and complex man as well as Vivian, a local bar owner. When Julia starts having strange experiences and losing time, she has to consider a crazy idea that her brother Tom poses: that she is the reincarnation of Mariana, a 17th century woman.

Characterization 5/5: The characters in this novel are vividly drawn and round. I loved them all other than the villains. Richard DeMornay stands as one of the best romantic protagonists I've seen in any novel, and the end of this novel was the most satisfying that I've read in a long time.

Plot 5/5: This novel is about 375 pages in length, and there is not a wasted word. So often I've read novels in this genre that go on and on with repetitions and details that don't add to the story (a few I've reviewed on this blog come to mind). The plot of Mariana is tight, and everything in the novel advances it further. Multiple storylines keep the tension going.

Atmospheric elements/spooky stuff 4/5: The time travel aspects, ghosts, and settings are quite spooky.

Literary elements 5/5: This novel is well researched and smart.

Rating: 4+ stars ****+

If you like ghosts, time travel, 17th century and British/Irish History, and great love stories, this novel is for you. I honestly stayed up until 2 a.m. reading last night because I just had to finish the novel. I haven't done that in a very long time. I think this novel can hold its own with a classic like Rebecca.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Just a reminder: last days before the Whitney Contest ends...

In a few more days, I'll be giving away two Phyllis A. Whitney novels to one lucky reader. I have a huge collection of them, so you might just get one you haven't read yet (I'll let you choose if you win from the ones I have if you'd like)! Just post on any blog entry by November 1st at 12 a.m. EST.

Happy Halloween, dear readers! :) 

Friday, October 22, 2010

James Herbert: The Magic Cottage

In Herbert's The Magic Cottage, Midge Gudgeon and her boyfriend Mike Stringer-- he is the narrator of this book-- are looking for a quaint cottage in the woods-- away from the hustle and bustle of London. Midge sees an ad in the paper for one such cottage and is immediately, inexplicably smitten with it. With peeling paint, dying flowers, lovely rooms, and a charming mien, they buy the cottage.

From the first, the cottage has oddities: no spider webs though it has been vacant for some time and cracks in walls that disappear, not to mention that living there leads to mindblowing sex and spooky hallucinations. Squirrels and birds and other creatures of the woods love Midge, and she becomes even more fey to Mike's observing eye than she already is as a cute, little pixie like gal.

Soon, though, there is trouble in paradise. The neighbors are part of a strange healing cult: Elder Mycroft and his gang are more than a little creepy. What is the power they have, and why do they want Gramarye cottage so badly?

Characterization 4/5: [I enjoyed the realistic narrative voice, and the characters were all well drawn. I also think the name Midge Gudgeon is great.]

Plot 4/5: [The plot moves at a nice pace-- not glacially but not like a stampede either. The horror and shivery stuff unfolds slowly but not too slowly, and there is a definite racheting up of suspense. I only had a problem near the end when things almost got laughable; however, there is a nice twist, too, at the end. I didn't care for the ending much, though I won't give it away. :) It's semi-happy, I'd say.]

Atmosphere/spooky elements: 4/5 [The bats alone and the scuttling in the attic gave me the creeps, not to mention the cult next door and the dead who gain voices in the novel.]

Literary 4/5 [This one isn't deep, but it's fun.]

Rating: ****  4 stars  

I recommend this one. It is different and creative. I haven't read another spooky novel quite like it. If you like cottages and the like, you will love it.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Midterms and Gothic Novel Reading

I know it's been a while since I've posted a review. I've been swamped with grading this week, and I hope to have one of 'The Magic Cottage' by James Herbert up very soon.

Anyone reading anything good and gothicky this week?

Friday, October 15, 2010

Winner of Contest/New Contest-- Phyllis A. Whitney Novels

I have drawn names for the two winners for the last contest, and Stacela and Sara are the winners of a Gothic Horror novel apiece. :) The odds were really great on that last one.

I'll be contacting you if I can, or if you see this post, you can email me with your address within 48 hours. I'll send out your books on Monday.

The new contest starts today. I'll be giving away two Phyllis A. Whitney novels to one lucky reader. I have a huge collection of them, so you might just get one you haven't read yet! Just post on any blog entry by November 1st at 12 a.m. EST.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Mary Stewart: Thornyhold

This novel is one of Stewart's later ones, published in 1988, and might be called a cottage novel or cozy, but I think with its focus on witches and a woman alone and in danger, it is close enough to a Gothic Novel to end up on the blog. :) I know a lot of my readers do or would like this novel, so I wanted to post a review. My copy is the Fawcett Crest edition, and it's really gorgeous, though the cottage looks huge. ;)

Geillis Ramsey has inherited her witch-like, mysterious older cousin and godmother Geillis Saxon's cottage in the woods. For her, penniless and bereft of father and mother at age 27, the new home is a gift. Having known little happiness in her life, Geillis is elated at her new surroundings.

From the start, Thornyhold is lovely but mysterious. Geillis has left all manner of herbs and other tools of a witch or at least an herbalist, and her cousin young Geillis soon has a dream about flying and being part of a coven. Indeed, the cottage has a long history of its mistresses being white witches. Are the dreams and inklings Geillis has of being a witch or of having power to heal real, and what danger lurks near Thornyhold? Can the housekeeper and neighbor Agnes Trapp and others be trusted? Will Geillis be able to realize the fulfillment of a budding love affair and be happy at last?

Plot: 4/5 [This novel is lovely-- pastoral and bucolic. It's not a fast moving thriller, but it is quite satisfying as it spins out in descriptions of a sad childhood and of daily life as a young woman finds her way.]

Characters: 5/5 [Both Geillises are delightful. I pictured someone like Natalie Portman (brains and a certain fey and tentative quality she has fit to me) as young Geillis, and Helena Bonham Carter with her hair colored red as older Geillis. I also like Geillis' love interest and man of many talents-- Christopher Dryden-- (what a magical name that evokes dryads and all manner of lovely things, don't you think?), and picture him as a younger Robert Redford. A passage that describes him as a "lodestone-- a bright particular star" and as a "homme fatal" is one of the best descriptions of a hero I have seen, and I have read a lot of novels (168-69).]

Atmosphere/spooky elements: 4/5 [The cozy atmosphere really works in this one, and there is a hint of danger as well. Some Gothic touches are the witchcraft elements, Hodge the black cat, dead pigeons in the house, a crystal ball, visions, Jessamy who is a little off, howling dogs in the night, and an enigmatic housekeeper.]

Literary elements: 5/5 [Yes, this is a smart and even dreamlike novel, well written and evocative of novels many of us probably love starring children and young women in bucolic places.]

Stars: 4+ stars   ****+

I recommend this one for all fans of Mary Stewart. If you're a fan of pastoral scenes, cottage cozies, masterful description and mild Gothic elements, you will also love this novel. I found it a nice break from the horror type or spookier novels I have been reading of late.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Review of Susanna Kearsley's 'The Shadowy Horses' linked on Kearsley's web site

One of my dear readers pointed out to me that Susanna Kearsley has added my review of her novel, The Shadowy Horses, on her website. I am not sure how long it will stay up there, but it's linked there now under the scrolling New Reviews section and here on the blog if you missed it before:

The Review

New Reviews on Kearsley's Site

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Movie Recommendation: The Wyvern Mystery

Based upon the 1869 novel by J. S. Le Fanu, who is most famous for his vampire Gothic novels, this film is a Gothic lover's dream. Set in the 19th century, with a mad woman, murder, a lecherous guardian, a secret heir, a heroine in distress, and a big mystery, this is a must see. The film is rife with ancestral edifices as well as lovely cemeteries, looming crosses, and other touches.

Naomi Watt is masterful in the role of Alice; I have liked her acting for some time. This movie only increased my admiration. If you have time this season, check this movie out for some thrills, chills and great atmosphere. The movie kept me in suspense until the last moment and made me wish there were more of its ilk out there.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

A poll for fans of Gothic Romance Novels

I made a poll on GoodReads that I would love for you to vote in before 10/15 as fans of Gothic Romance Novels. They have quick poll making, so that was an easy place to do it. If you aren't a GoodReads member, it's a great site! I have a big virtual bookshelf and am part of several groups.

The poll is at the bottom of the page.

The Poll...

Barbara Erskine: House of Echoes

I took my second stab at an Erskine novel with this one, published in 1997.

Adopted at a young age, now that she has a young child of her own, Joss has sought out her mother and father. Both are dead, but she learns she has inherited the old, ancestral home, Belheddon, in a tiny village in Essex. The inheritance comes at a perfect time since her husband Luke has just seen his business go down in flames. Almost from the first, though, Joss realizes something isn't right with the house: a cryptic note from her mother, warnings from those who live in the area, laughter of children who cannot be found, cold spots, mysterious roses that appear on her pillow, shadowy figures, and voices haunt Joss, Luke, and their son, Tom. What is wrong with the house, and what can be done about it? Will the family be able to exorcise the evil there, or will it engulf them?

Plot: 4/5 [This novel moved at a nice pace, and even more importantly, the dialogue was much better this time around. I think Erskine had some coaching or writing classes between this novel and Midnight is a Lonely Place. This one was published two years later; I admire the changes she managed to pull off. It is nice to see changes for the better in a writer; the dialogue between male and female characters is usually fine and when it's bad, it's only slightly intolerable. The novel really got suspenseful for me around 150 pages in; it was enjoyable to that point, but the intrigue heightened as it went on. I enjoyed reading this one in bits and savoring it.]

Characterization: 4/5 [The characters are nicely drawn, though I can't say I have ideas about who would play most of them.]

Atmosphere/spooky elements: 4/5 [This one is quite spooky and has plenty of thrills and chills. In fact, it kept me awake a little last night. I took off a star for just how haunted the house is. There is not much subtlety in the novel; these ghosts come at the reader fast, furious, and in great number-- especially in the beginning. The novel mellows and gets richer as it goes, if that makes sense. Also, the first reference to the Tin Man honestly made me giggle. Erskine writes unevenly (in my opinion), but if you want lots of ghostly activity, she's a sure bet.]

Literary elements: 4/5 [This one is pretty fluffy, but I admire any novelist who writes lengthy novels like this one and holds them together this well.]

Rating: 4 stars   ****

I recommend this one as a good Halloween season read. If you like haunted mansions, tearful love stories through generations or ghosts in general, this one is for you. The novel is long, too, so you have plenty of thrills to savor. I am not sure I'd read this one before bed, either, if you want to sleep well, and that's a pretty good recommendation for any Gothic Novel! 

Friday, October 8, 2010

Guest Blogger Kristi Lyn Glass and Gothic Journal/Gothic Romance Lending Library

**Lisa's note: I am honored to have this guest post from Kristi Lyn Glass. I hope you will check out the archived issues of Gothic Journal on sale at the website and sign up for the mailing list and newsletter. For hard to find Gothic Novels, look no further than the Gothic Romance Lending Library. And pass the word on to your friends who like these novels...

Gothic Romance Lending Library Lends Gothic Romances by Mail

Gothic romances in the tradition of Victoria Holt, Mary Stewart, and Phyllis Whitney are available for loan via the mail from the Gothic Romance Lending Library (GRLL). Gothic Journal founded this non-profit library in 1996 to collect as many of these titles as possible and make them available for reading by gothic romance fans.

There are currently 2,250 titles in the library plus 1,171 duplicates, for a total of 3,421 volumes. Most of the books have been donated by gothic romance fans to help keep these books in circulation. Book donations are tax deductible.
The library is particularly interested in receiving, and thus preserving, classic historical gothic romances. However, it will also gratefully accept donations of contemporary romantic suspense novels, romantic mysteries, supernatural romances (provided they contain a puzzle or mystery), and woman-in-jeopardy romances. In short, the library contains books that each contain these three ingredients: romance, life-threatening suspense, and a puzzle or mystery.
The library is housed in the home of volunteer librarians Rod and Pat Christian in Spokane, WA. Library users may order from two to eight books at one time and keep them for approximately one month. For more information and to view the GRLL catalog, see or contact Rod and Pat Christian, Gothic Romance Lending Library, E. 12225 25th, Spokane, WA 99206, (509) 926-8278,

This article was submitted by Kristi Lyn Glass, publisher of Gothic Journal. From 1991 through 1998, Gothic Journal was the only news and review magazine for readers, writers, and publishers of romantic suspense, romantic mystery, and gothic, supernatural, and woman-in-jeopardy romance novels. Although no longer available in print form, Gothic Journal continues to provide its back issues and reviews and lists of recommended titles in its genres via and its web store.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Peter Straub: Ghost Story

This Gothic Horror/Ghost Story Novel was published in 1979. Many readers consider Ghost Story their favorite of such novels. I finally got around to reading it.

The story opens up on Don Wanderley, a troubled man in his 30s, telling about the worst thing that ever happened to him. The story was fascinating in a put your fingers over your eyes kind of way from the first page. That fascination held for about thirty pages for me. After that, the plot was full of fits and starts and very few shivers.

Sears James, Frederick Hawthorn, Edward Wanderley, John Jaffrey and Lewis Benedikt are friends who have lived in Milburn for years. They weave a narrative with scary ghost stories alongside present and past events-- a tradition that began when their friend Edward Wanderley died a year from the start of the main narrative in Milburn. How did Wanderley die? Who is the new woman in town named Anna? What are the evil forces that are at work in Milburn that threaten to destroy these old men and the town?

The plot is multi-layered with no less than seven stories and points of view going on. This sort of plot can't be easy to do, and it falters soon for me. I read 150 pages of the novel and gave up as I didn't want to slog through over 300 more. I felt few thrills or chills, and I think Straub's spare writing style is part of the reason. I want to see, feel, hear an autumn day, and Straub gives few details. I would choose The Shining or Pet Sematary over this one as great Gothic Horror Novels any day.

You might give this one a try and love it as many do. I loved Julia by Straub, but I have never found another of his novels to equal that one.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Halloween Gothic Movie Recommendation: The Tomb of Ligeia

Starring Vincent Price and released in 1965, this creepy flick is worth your evening. If you have Netflix, you can stream it instantly. We have a wii, and that's how I watched it over a couple evenings when I had time.

The opening scene alone was enough to make me shiver; don't miss it. Is Ligeia really dead? Might she live again as her husband Verden Fell believes? What will become of Fell's new wife, Lady Rowena? Black cats, a ruined abbey, spooky old school ministers, smouldering sensuality, a creepy corpse, and other Gothic Elements feature in this movie based upon the story by Edgar Allen Poe. Black and white and color are also dazzling in this film. I recommend it for one of these chilly autumn evenings. Vincent Price is perfectly creepy in his role, and Elizabeth Shepherd somehow manages to exude both an ethereal quality and blatant sexuality.

I'll be doing some other occasional brief, Gothic Film/Movie recommendations as I run across worthy films, but look no further if you want a good one for the season.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Your Favorite Gothics

I thought it might be fun to make a list of favorite Gothic Novels-- say our top 3, 5, 7, 8, or 10. I have chosen a Top 7 to leave room for others I haven't found yet. If you have three or five, that is great, too. A reader commented yesterday that another top list that was begun in the comments was helpful. So, here's my top 7 with a little blurb about why:

1. Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte-- This novel is the one that made me fall in love with Gothic Novels. The obsessive romance between Cathy and Heathcliff (where I first learned about solipsism) , the symbolism of two houses, and the setting on the moors makes this novel a timeless and daring classic. If you haven't read it, you are missing out. I also recommend the A&E version of this movie; I'm a big Ralph Fiennes/Juliet Binoche fan, and this movie captures the wildness and darkness of the novel.

2. Frankenstein by Mary Shelley: This novel has stood the test of time as a ghost story and a cautionary tale about science and progress. The setting of ice and cold as well as the macabre monster and mad scientist make this one a winner. I have taught it dozens of times and will never tire of it. In fact, it ranks above Stoker's Dracula for me. Robert DeNiro, Helena Bonham Carter, and Kenneth Branagh star in a masterful version of this one.

3. Rebecca by Daphne DuMaurier: This novel is a masterpiece with its characterization and Gothic Elements. DuMaurier remains unparalleled in creating an atmosphere of eeriness and of injecting twisted love and sexuality into a novel deftly. Also, I think the dead Rebecca is one of the most powerful and present deceased characters I've encountered in a novel.

4. The Man in the Moss by Phil Rickman: I had to include one of these novels in the list. It's part of the Merrily Watkins series by Phil Rickman; all these novels are oh so Gothic with old churches, ghosts galore, murder, peat bogs, demonic possession, and more.

5. Here I Stay by Barbara Michaels: I just reviewed this one, and I decided to include it in my top list. It is near the top of hers for me. Since she is my favorite modern author, it's a tough choice. For a genre subverting Gothic Romance Novel, look no further. I loved the characters so much by the end of this one that I cried the last time I read it.

6. Still Life with Crows by Preston and Child: I love this series with Special Agent Aloysius Pendergast. This novel was the first I read, and it is still my favorite. I love the Southern Pendergast (a man who was raised on a creepy ancestral estate in New Orleans that often makes appearances in the novels), and I love these novels. This one is a Southern Gothic with such an eerie atmosphere as well as caves, crows, murder, and a family secret. If you haven't read any in this series, run to the library. These novels are lengthy and ones I didn't want to end. I recommend any in the series, especially the early ones.

7. Dragonwyck by Anya Seton: Next to Heathcliff, perhaps Seton has created the best Byronic Hero I've ever seen. I found this novel recently, and it has ghosts, a wise old crone, obsessive love, murder, ancestral estate, vivid history and so much more. Seton writes like a dream to top it all off.

For me, these are must read Gothics. There are others that I could add to the list (Stephen King's The Shining or Anne Rivers Siddons' The House Next Door almost made it), but I don't feel as strongly about them. Which novels are on your list, and why do you recommend them?

Monday, October 4, 2010

Barbara Michaels: Here I Stay

This novel by Barbara Michaels is a later Gothic Romance, published in 1983.

I found this unique cover image on Goodreads, though I have not seen this cover before. I'd love to find a copy of this particular edition.

Andrea Torgesen has purchased an old mansion that she plans to fix up and run as an inn or boarding house.  Andrea has had a tough life, and her brother Jim is no exception. After having a terrible car accident and almost dying, Jim is coming to live with Andrea. She sees him as her responsibility, and she brooks no opposition from him about his recovery. Her slowly budding interest in Martin, a lovable liberal lodger, complicates matters.

When Jim starts seeing things, and eerie happenings occur, Andrea wonders what she is fighting against. Battling Jim's unhealthy obsession with the family grave plot on the property, Andrea finds herself in a struggle with life and death.

Characterization: 4/5 [Andrea is not particularly likable, but I think her character is realistic considering her tough life. Moreover, she does change and grow in the course of the novel, so she is truly a round character. I found myself moved by this novel, so I would say that I grew to love all the characters. I picture Andrea as Valerie Bertinelli (younger) and Jim as a young Tobey Maguire.]

Plot: 5/5 [This one kept me in suspense, and I love the twist at the end. Michaels is not afraid to take risks as an author and disrupt the expectations of readers or genre. If you like Gothic Novels that don't play by the rules, this one is for you.]

Atmosphere/spooky elements: 5/5 [I got chills regularly from this novel with its ghosts, old documents, family graveyard, spooky photo, and the characters' obsessions. I also like the aspect of history repeating.]

Literary elements: 4/5 [This one is pretty fluffy, but Michaels always includes some feminism and liberal politics. I personally like both.]

Rating: 4+ stars     ****+

I recommend this one. It is innovative and enjoyable, and I rank it in my top five of Michaels' novels. I want to add a note here, though: the ending is quite unsettling and might trigger some readers. I don't recommend it for all readers. If you want to know more, you can send me a message or post here, and I'll get back to it so as not to add a spoiler on the blog.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Aola Vandergriff: Sisters of Sorrow

This novel was published in 1973 by little known but recommended, Aola Vandergriff. Thanks for the recommendation, Hannah!

Check this lovely cover art out-- one blond sister and one brunette. The blond has red blood like a tear running down her cheek. The estate is in the lower left hand corner. I apologize for my blurry image there. I dropped my phone, and the camera cracked. Sigh. I think you can still get the general idea of how unique this cover art is.

Twin sisters Shannon and Shelly Shelby (Try saying that one quickly twelve times!) have inherited Sorrow, a plantation handed down to them after their grandfather's death. Shelly has gone ahead but sent no word to Shannon.

Shannon, with the keen knowing that twins have, fears something has happened to Shelly. She goes to Sorrow with trepidation to find her sister. Her arrival throws the house into turmoil, and she meets a troubling group of people attached to Sorrow. Belle, her distant relative and the (old south racist) house mistress of Sorrow, warns her to leave or there will be trouble; Lutie, Belle's simple daughter, is frightening in her mysterious intensity. Annie and Thomas, black servants, warn Shannon to leave before it's too late, too. Then there is Yance Carey, a local lawyer who is advocating for change around the estate and for nearby Tullytown. Whom can Shannon trust, and it is really the ghost of Jason that she hears at night, singing? And where is Shelly?

Characterization: 5/5 [Very nicely done. I pictured Shannon as one of the Olsen twins and Shelly as the prettier one. I can never remember which is which. One would have dyed blond hair to play Shelly, and the other's hair would be brown, for the role of Shannon. Belle I pictured as a composite of Southern women I've known personally. Yance might be portrayed by Casey Affleck; I don't know why, but the character description made me think of him.]

Plot: 4/5 [This novel is unique and suspenseful. Only one thing drove me nuts: exclamation marks are overused! It's very dramatic! Drama, of course, is part of the Gothic Novel, but most authors let the drama fall into the novel through good dialogue and description, rather than bludgeoning readers with it via exclamation marks. One page honestly had more than ten of the blasted things. Otherwise, the plot moves swiftly, and I had no idea where this one was going for a long time.]

Atmosphere/spooky elements: 5/5 [This novel has so many creepy elements: the singing ghost (if it is a ghost), lights in the swamp, the family burial plot, spooky servants, mentally challenged child, inventive murders, flashbacks, a secret diary, winding staircases, and on and on.]

Literary elements: 4/5 [This one feels a bit fluffy, but it's a great read.]

Rating: 4+ stars   ****+

Lovers of Gothic Romance and/or Southern Gothic Novels, you won't want to miss this one. It has been a wonderful introduction to Aola Vandergriff, and I plan to seek out more of her novels.

Sisters of Sorrow

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Phyllis A. Whitney: The Winter People

This novel is one of the early ones by Whitney; it was published in 1969. I have used the image of the book cover I have, and I found the image at The Official Phyllis A. Whitney website:

Dina Blake is a museum jack of all trades when she meets Glen Chandler, a sculptor. From the moment Glen sees her, he insists upon sculpting Dina in alabaster. Their relationship develops, and they marry in a whirlwind. Dina is spirited away to Northern New Jersey. On her way to the family estate, High Towers, she runs into her old love, Trent McIntyre; his reaction to her new marriage puzzles her. Soon, she realizes that Glen has not told her everything about his family-- namely about his dark twin Glynis.

Danger and intrigue stalk Dina through the halls of High Towers. What kind of game are Glen and Glynis playing? Is Aunt Nomi friend or foe, and who can save Dina from the evil that lurks at High Towers?

Characterization: 5/5 [I loved this novel immediately, and the nicely drawn characters were a key to that reaction. I could picture Dina Blake with her Scandinavian looks. I could see Britt Eklund (in her younger years) playing her role, and Ralph Fiennes as her husband (a younger Ralph Fiennes); he has the hair color for the part! Trent McIntyre might be played by Clive Owen.]

Plot: 4/5 [The plot caught me up quickly; I really like the pace of the novel. I took one star off simply for how Dina runs into Trent McIntyre again; it seems so far fetched, but then I was thinking about how I ran into someone from my past once in the strangest place at a pivotal time. I guess it could happen.]

Atmosphere/spooky elements: 4/5 [The whole focus on cold, ice, white, and snow is chilling. I love the enclosed atmosphere Whitney creates; it is quite claustrophobic. The estate itself is creepy as is the obsession of Glen Chandler with Dina's image for his sculpture. Finally, Glynis is as menacing a twin and painter as you will find in literature.]

Literary elements: 5/5 [Yes, the novel is smart. Whitney uses symbolism and tone to create a true atmosphere. In other words, the novel is well written.]

Rating: 4+ stars   ****+

Don't skip this one. It is a true Gothic Romance, and the tone and atmosphere are masterful.

The Winter People

Friday, October 1, 2010

Revised Winner of Last Contest :)

Clark B./Sandy is the winner of Dragonwyck and the random Gothic Novel. The first drawn winner graciously announced that he would probably not read the books anyway, so I drew again.

Clark B./Sandy, I'm unable to email you that I know of, so please contact me by commenting or emailing me within 48 hours to claim your prize. Otherwise, I'll draw again! I really do need to give some of these Gothic Novels away to good homes (because my box is filling up!). :)

And just a note: if you are on blogger and you have a profile, be sure to activate it if you would like to be more easily contacted.

-- Lisa

New Halloween Contest

Since it's the season for haunted houses, goblins, ghouls, and such, the next contest will be a drawing for a Gothic Horror Novel-- in the vein of Rosemary's Baby, The House Next Door, Ghost Story, etc.

I'll draw two names for this one, and as usual, the novels I give away might be quite Gothicked. :) Just post a blog comment by October 15th at 12am, and you'll be entered into the drawing.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Joe R. Lansdale: The Two-Bear Mambo

This novel is the next one after Mucho Mojo in the Hap and Leonard series, and yes, the title refers to what you think it does. Think bears and Discovery Channel or Animal Planet. This one was published in 1995. And again, I love the cover. A little tombstone is just visible beside the tree.

Hap and Leonard are having fun setting fire to the neighborhood crack house on Christmas Eve when they find out that Hap's ex-lover, lawyer and wannabe reporter the lovely African American Florida Grange, is missing. Her boyfriend and their acquaintance, Hanson, begs them to do him a favor in return for not putting them in jail. He wants them to go to the still racist, backwoods circa 1960 town of Grovetown in East Texas to look for her.

They do, and it all goes from there to a town with deep, dark secrets that are better unknown. Backwoods politics, mean men in gray suits, and fights break out as they search for Florida.

Plot: 4/5 [The plot moves swiftly and with the usual humor. In fact, I was reading passages of this to my husband and good friend, and they thought they were hilarious, too.]

Characterization: 4/5 [Hap and Leonard are as likable and "real" as ever, and the minor characters are drawn well. No other author has pegged the Southern character sketch like Lansdale. He can breathe life into a character in three sentences and make readers remember that character for the whole novel. If you like your characters unique, he's your author.]

Atmosphere/spooky elements: 4/5 [Just the thought of the mission that Hap and Leonard are given made my skin crawl, for starters. Lansdale also does a lovely job of describing the landscape that looks like a "war zone" due to all the paper mill ravaging of old oaks or the skeletal pines (like bones) that remain to be seen on a drive through Texas (44). The Southern Gothic elements-- graves, bones, decaying remains, floods and acts of nature, scary rednecks-- are strong in this one, but so is the raunchy humor.]

Literary elements: 4/5 [Yes, Lansdale writes like a dream, and he has a keen eye for what ails society, the ills of political correctness and for seeing human nature rightly.]

Rating: 4 stars    ****

I recommend this one. If you like Hap and Leonard, you will want to read them all anyway. If you need a laugh, too, and you are Southern and have a sense of humor, I guarantee you that any of these novels will make you guffaw. They will also make you think about the questions of life and death.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Marilyn Ross: Desperate Heiress (my copy is free to a good home!)

I wanted to log this one even though I got about ten pages in and put it aside, then snapped a picture of the girl and the showboat on the cover. I will try another Marilyn Ross (Dan Ross) novel. This one was sitting on the shelf at Goodwill, and I liked the big showboat on the front cover. I thought it was at least creative. Plus, the novel seems tough to find based upon my search for images.

The story was pretty awful from the premise and get go-- Hester is an heiress to a haunted showboat. Moreover, sentences on the first page like "It was the fascination of terror!" didn't help me love the novel (Ross 5).  I know this is a Gothic Romance novel we're talking about, but I still like these novels to be well written and to have some basis in possible reality-- to get me into the story and help me believe it could happen. This one was so crazy from the outset that I could not willingly suspend my disbelief (ala Coleridge's suggestion).

Another telling sign for me is that when I went to write this gem up, it was not listed at all on Goodreads.

I recommend a pass on this one. I'll try another Marilyn Ross, though, as I give all authors at least two shots (sometimes more).

If you want this Paperback Library edition from 1970, complete with tattered spine at the top in fair-bad condition with price marked on the back, I'll send it to you. The first responder gets it; just post here if you want it. Ok, don't strain a finger trying to post first.

Desperate Heiress

Joan Aiken: The Silence of Herondale

This novel, The Silence of Herondale, was published in 1973. I love that title. I have the Pocket Books edition and could not manage a great cover image, but it's standard blue and white background, mist, house rising up and young woman in blue running. What is neat is the wonderful facial detail on the young lady in this novel cover; she looks terrified. I have linked to the ACE Gothic cover below on the Amazon site; that is the original cover, published in 1964.

Deborah Lindsay, the heroine, is a college aged, Canadian young woman whose parents and family are all dead. She has moved to London to become an actress. After failed attempts, she is nearly starving, so she applies to be a governess/tutor for a young girl.

She gets the job and finds out her charge is a famous young playwright, Carreen Gilmartin.

Deborah follows Carreen to Herondale on the moors, and mysterious events occur when Jeremy Gilmartin, Carreen's long lost cousin also appears. The silent, sleepy town stands as a backdrop to the drama going on in the house. Both Carreen and Jeremy are named in their possibly murdered uncle's will. Is a murderer stalking the house because of the inheritance, or is the Slipper Killer on the loose on the moors?

Plot: 4/5 [This one grabbed me on page one and kept the pace quite well for most of the novel.]

Characterization: 4/5 [I could really picture Deborah as perhaps a young Sandra Bullock. The other characters were also nicely drawn.]

Atmosphere/spooky elements: 3/5 [These took a bit to pile on, but they came around page 40 and on-- spooky farm house on the creepy moors (which are described well), train rides, snowing in, murderous accidents. I just didn't find the novel terribly atmospheric or really creepy.]

Literary elements: 3/5 [This one is a bit fluffy, but it is well written.]

Romance? Yes, but it begins pretty late in the novel-- three-quarters of the way in almost.

Rating: 3+ stars    ***+

I have yet to be wowed by the Aiken titles I have read (the Gothic Romances, I mean. I like her Jane Austen add ons). This one is good, but it's not great.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Margaret Erskine: Don't Look Behind You

This Ace Gothic was published in 1952; it is a Septimus Finch Gothic Mystery. I didn't realize it was part of a mystery series until I sat down to read it. The cover is a nice contrast of hues, though the woman's face is a bit strangely shadowed.

I read 45 pages and put it down; a murder occurs, but there is nothing Gothic about any of it for that span of writing. The writing is quite good technically; the story just didn't work for me.

I have to say that I do like the name Septimus Finch-- lovely. I didn't care for the main character Freddie Dawes or his lackluster love interest Meg, and not enough happened in the early pages to make it worth reading-- just a possible murder.

My advice is to skip this one; I won't do a full review since I didn't read it all. I might try another one in this Finch series, but I'll choose wisely if possible. From what I can tell Erskine mainly wrote novels for this series.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Phyllis A. Whitney: The Ebony Swan

This novel is one of Whitney's later ones, published in 1992. Fun fact: the author died at the age of 104! She also thanks Dr. Robert Atkins-- I assume THE Robert Atkins in her introduction to this book. He must deserve some credit for her ripe old age.

This novel centers around Alex Montero, a seventy something grandmother/former ballet dancer. Her granddaughter, Susan Prentice, has come back to her family home in Virginia after twenty-five years away. She has not spoken to her grandmother, Alex Montero, since she went away at age six. Mystery surrounds her mother's death which led to Susan's being spirited away in silence from the family she loved.

The past is not dead, and someone does not want Susan and Alex to know what really happened to Delores, Susan's mother. Whom can Susan and Alex trust?

To be honest, I read all the way to page 150 and quit. The novel just seemed silly to me, and it was dragging terribly. Other than Alex, most of the characters were flat and uninteresting.

Perhaps the tipping point was when Whitney threw pages of health information in the middle of the novel-- all about supplements like fish oil and hawthorn root, etc. I really believe in fish oil, but that was a bit over the top! It was laughable and dampened the budding romance while being overtly preachy and bizarre. I should cut the author some slack; after all, she was around 90 when she wrote this novel, and she did live a long life, but it's still not what I want out of a Gothic Romance Novel. I know she has so many other great novels that I didn't want to waste anymore time on this one.

Rating: 2 stars    **

I don't recommend this one unless you are a hardcore love everything Whitney has ever written fan. 

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Contest Reminder-- Sept. 30th

I know I have some new readers/commenters, so I wanted to remind you that the Autumn Contest will end October 1st at 12 am. The details of the contest are here:

If you want to win some Gothic Novels, just post a comment by the deadline, and your name will be entered in the drawing. Your chances are pretty good since I probably have a dozen entrants at most at this point.

Happy Sunday. :)

Richard Setlowe: The Haunting of Suzanna Blackwell

I found this image of the cover of the edition I read on Richard Setlowe's website:

There is a ghostly lover there in the image with the swooning woman.

I'm going off the beaten path to review this gem of a Gothic Ghost Story/Gothic Romance novel. I stumbled upon this in the paperback section of the library last fall, and I was not disappointed. Published in 1984, this novel is an example of a modern work in the genre done well.

When Suzanna Blackwell's mother dies, she goes to be with her father, a ranking Naval officer, for his retirement ceremony on Mare Island. She begins to be haunted by a spirit soon after in her father's house-- a spirit who was obviously a soldier in life and had some connection with her mother. Some interesting things occur between her and the spirit, but real life is still going on.

Suzanna meets Michael, a photographer/reporter and ex-Vietnam vet with some major war trauma. Together, they must solve the mystery of the ghost who haunts Suzanna before they are both destroyed.

Characterization: 5/5 [The characters are real, and they have real problems. I pictured Ralph Fiennes (when younger) as Michael since he does tortured soul well and Suzanna portrayed by a young Grace Kelly. Suzanna's father and other characters were well drawn as was the ghost; I imagined her father as Charlton Heston.]

Plot: 5/5 [This novel is suspenseful and gripping; I propelled through it quickly. Setlowe's history as a Naval officer (not to mention a reporter) and his insights about that life and life aboard ships is what makes this novel so real and engrossing. He also shows sympathy for veterans and all points of view on the military; I found that to be refreshing.]

Atmosphere/spooky elements: 5/5 [There are so many-- ghostly sex, ghosts in photographs, mysterious deaths, haunted ships, spooky owls and so much more. The ships truly act as characters in this novel, and Setlowe manages to weave past and present together seamlessly. I remember becoming interested in haunted Naval ships, and we even took a tour of a ship a a few months ago. I was and still am fascinated by ghost stories associated with ships.]

Literary elements: 4/5 [This one is pure entertainment with a good bit of history and other things thrown in.]

Romance? Yes, and it is messy and complicated-- much like romance can be in real life.

Rating: 4+ stars   ****+

** This one is not to be missed. It might be a good Halloween read pick if you are into Naval history or old decommissioned ships, especially. I didn't think I was into either, and I loved this novel.

Haunting of Suzanna Blackwell

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Jill Tattersall: Lady Ingram's Room

 From Sebastian Quinn's wonderful flickr page

I love the cover of this one, published in 1972; it is spooky and creative with the cobwebs and brightly colored dresses.

In the novel, Arabel Murray is an orphan with only Bridie, the housekeeper, for a friend. She must move out of the vicarage she was in with her mother, sister and grandfather (all of whom are now dead) and live with an uncle who is known to be tyrannical. In so doing, she leaves her childhood love, Giles, and her loved home.

The novel follows a few threads in a Dickensian style; for example, ne'er do wells Jason and Zelda make an appearance in chapter two and play a role in the novel.

Arabel is a likable heroine-- sprightly and spunky; she also has a stammer which is an interesting and unusual touch that makes her seem real. On her way to her uncle's house, her plans change, and she and Solomon, her cat, end up going to Ingledale Manor to be a governess temporarily for Sir Luke.  Mysterious things happen, and Arabel finds herself trying to solve the secret of Lady Ingram's room and of her death.

Characterization: 4/5 [The characters are clearly drawn. I picture Arabel portrayed by a young Diane Keaton, and Sir Luke as Javier Bardem. Scott Scott-Ingram (What a name!), another potential love interest, I pictured as Adrian Brody. Both the hero and heroine are likable, and I was quite taken with the hero which is always a good sign for a Gothic Novel in my book.]

Plot: 4/5 [The start is a bit slow, but I like the interesting narrative style and points of view in the novel.]

Atmosphere/spooky elements: 4/5 [Arabel herself looks like a witch with her black cat. Superstition is referred to in the novel, and the description of the windows at Ingledale Manor actually gave me the creeps. The secret room is inventive and different in its treatment in the novel, and that element along with tunnels and a ghoulish tapestry add to the spooky thrills.]

Literary elements: 4/5 [This one is written in a sophisticated way in terms of multiple narrators/points of view and stands out for that, much like the other The Wild Hunt that I reviewed a week or so ago, though Hunt is more sophisticated overall. I think that might be because of the two years between these novels; it is nice to see that this author honed her craft as she went. Another thing I like about her writing is that the dialogue is also believable.]

Rating: 4 stars ****

I recommend this one for its inventiveness and lovable heroine as well as the secret room aspect. I like it when authors in the genre do something new or inventive.

Lady Ingram's Room

Friday, September 24, 2010

Victoria Holt: The Spring of the Tiger

This novel was published in 1979; the above cover is the one I have in the hardback edition. I know I have read it before, but I can remember very little of Holt's novels since it has been about seventeen or eighteen years since I read most of them. I liked them very much then, but I'm not sure about now as I plan to reread some or most of them-- this being the first in that attempt.

This one concerns Sarah Ashington, the daughter of an actress, who has never known her father. After a scandal concerning her mother's lover, Sarah and her mother retire to Ashington Grange to live with two old aunts, Martha and Mabel. Sarah makes a friend in her mysterious governess, Celia, who leaves suddenly one day. Sarah's mother dies, and her father comes to visit. His companion, Clinton Shaw, becomes an object of fascination for Sarah almost immediately. Her trouble begins there. The setting moves from Ashington Grange to Ceylon; menacing events unfold and Toby, Sarah's beloved friend and old tutor, reappears in Sarah's life.

Characterization: 4/5 [Some of the characters seem a bit flat. I had a little trouble picturing Sarah Ashington for a while, but with her brown hair and indeterminate eye color, I thought of Jennifer Garner for her role in any possible movie. Toby I picture as a guy I once liked in my neighborhood growing up-- brown hair, blue eyes. :) I think Clinton Shaw could be played by a younger Brad Pitt.]

Plot: 3/5 [This one gets off to a slow start for me. I honestly feel the novel could be at least 75 pages shorter. I finally got into the novel around page 85, but it ebbed and flowed for me. I simply was never really captivated by it or by Holt's writing style. Also, there is a twist or two in the novel, but I had figured out the villain early in or suspected the villain. I wonder how my re-readings of the other Holt works are going to go.]

Atmosphere/spooky elements: 3/5 [There is very little of this type of thing until a good ways in when a threatening woman shows up on the doorstep outside, and Sarah sees her. Then, ghosts at Ashington Grange become an issue along with the ever present Ashington Pearls which are said to have some sort of power and have been passed down through generations. Overall, this one takes a while to get to the spooky/menacing stuff, and when the scary stuff did happen, it sort of fell flat for me. The novel feels more melodramatic than Gothic.]

Literary: 3/5 [Poets are mentioned and quoted and the title of the book is a variation of a line from a poem; I always like that. For some reason, though, this novel feels very fluffy to me.]

Romance: Yes... and rape and other stuff. I liked one male love interest in the novel and not the other. I don't want to add a spoiler here.

Rating: 3+ stars    ***+

I am torn with this one, and that 3+ rating feels high to me, honestly. I am sure many of you would like the novel, so I recommend it on that basis. With that said, it is definitely not one of my favorites of the genre, and I'm trepidatious about my next foray with Holt.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Dorothy Daniels: Mystic Manor

I am not going to do a long review of this novel, Mystic Manor by Dorothy Daniels, published in 1975. Sorry I couldn't find a nice image of it; the one I found was super small. The edition I have is the same one that is linked below in the Amazon link-- lots of turquoise and black with what actually looks like a church behind the blond heroine.

Anyway, this novel was pretty terrible, from page 2. The main character went into this long narrative to another character, detailing all that had happened to her, starting in the early pages. The only problem is that the other character would have known all of it already. Then, the male character tells Melinda, the heroine, all about her eye color and every feature on her face. At that point, I laughed, read a few more ridiculous pages and quit around page 21.

I guess I need to start a "stinkers" category. This one would definitely go in there. One of the passages that convinced me of this is found on page 10:

"Melinda, you're actually a beautiful girl. There's gold in your hair and interesting flecks of darker blue in your regularly blue eyes. You have the round face of youth, a a very pretty nose and a smooth chin line. I would say you'd be a fine subject."

Now that is some unrealistic dialogue. I do not recommend this novel. I'll give Daniels another try some time as I saw that others have rated her decently or well on Goodreads.

Monica Heath: Calderwood

I started this one yesterday morning, and it was pretty suspenseful. I ended up finishing it between waiting in the car line for my daughter and having some spare reading time tonight. This is my first Gothic Romance by Monica Heath; it was published in 1975 (the Signet edition I'm reading from). The original cover is all green mossy background with a dark haired girl with a blue dress on in front of the house.

Camilla Carlyle's father has died, leaving her on her own. She finds a letter from Aunt Marilyn at Calderwood, the old ancestral home of her mother. Camilla remembers leaving there in haste after her mother's death when she was six, but the rest of her history is foggy. She wonders why her father grew to dislike her mother so as the years passed.

Camilla decides to go home to Calderwood to find out what she can about her mother and her own history. Her arrival at the estate or near it is rife with bad turns, and a ghost appears as a face and a voice in her ear over the bayou. Whom can Camilla trust? Her Aunt Marilyn or Deedee, her spiteful cousin? Can she even trust Kris Kincade-- a man working on the neighboring Dazincourt Hall-- and to whom she is attracted? What about Jules, the man others say is her true father?

Characterization: 4/5 [I could easily picture Camilla being played by a young Liz Taylor (while her mother is played by an older Liz Taylor for the flashbacks and supernatural bits). I think Alan Tudyk would make a good Kris; I have liked him ever since he starred in Firefly. Jules Dazincourt put me in mind of Vincent Price with his "dark" looks. The characters were drawn well. The one issue I had was with the words "dark" and "darkly" used in redundant phrases three times in two pages when it wasn't necessary and many other times thereafter: "darkly hideous," and "darkly malicious" (20), "darkly skeptical," "dark-clad," "dark stare," "dark brows," (39) and so on. I decided to catalog them all for a giggle after finding so many on page 39 alone, so I did for about ten more pages. I mean, black, shadowed, onyx, obsidian and all manner of words could be used as synonyms, right? These repetitions would make for a killer drinking game. The words were repeated so often as to be distracting, obviously.]

Plot: 4/5 [The plot sucked me right in; there is plenty of action and some twists and inventive happenings in the genre as well. The end was a shocker, and that is always a pleasant surprise.]

Atmosphere/spooky elements: 5/5 [A ghost appears early, and the Louisiana setting is creepy in its own right. Heath really gets it right (at least from the time I've spent in that area near New Orleans or driving through the LaFourche Parish area in the bayous). I also like the way Heath uses two ancestral homes in the novel; that device is reminiscent of Wuthering Heights to a mild degree. The ancestral mansion also has a "death couch" that is shiver worthy and the first mention of such in a Gothic Novel I've read. In fact, this novel is chock full of Gothic Elements of all kinds. The setting of the spring house on the property as an area where mischief occurs is creative, and this novel landed a few new elements of Gothic Novels on the Epic List. Most have been done before, so that makes this novel special. If you like moldy graves, crypts, bayous, evil rings, death masks, creepy dolls, and so on, this is your book. It is probably the most Gothic of the Gothic Novels I have reviewed thus far on the blog.]

Literary? 4/5 [Yes, Keats' Lamia is quoted and references to other literature and works are sprinkled throughout the novel.]

Romance? Yes... and I didn't know who Camilla was going to end up with until right at the end. That's always the sign of a good Gothic Romance.

Rating: 4 + stars ****+

I recommend this one; it is inventive and suspenseful and most definitely Gothic. I highly enjoyed it! I'll be hunting out more by Monica Heath; I have a double gothic by her as well-- the Clerycastle ones.

Calderwood (Ulverscroft Large Print)

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Laird Koenig: The Little Girl Who Lives Down the Lane

I just ran into this novel in my local library. Apparently, though, it received some fame from a movie based on it in which Jodie Foster plays the little girl (1976). The book was published in 1974 (and I think the year before in German), and it is definitely of the Gothic Horror and Gothic Romance genres.

In this novel, the little girl, Rynn, is home all alone. What happened to her mother and father? Rynn must fend for herself as a thirteen year old (if she really is thirteen) and keep nosy people-- like Mrs. Hallet and her son Frank-- out of the house and away from the basement. She does this in ingenious and frightening ways.

Characterization: 4/5 [The little girl is well described. I could definitely see her portrayed by Jodie Foster-- who can be so serious. Mario, her boyfriend, is also a round character. I am going to have to check the movie out when I can.]

Plot: 5/5 [The plot is thick with suspense and an almost surreal quality. It keeps moving, dragging you relentlessly along, and there is a nice twist at the end.]

Atmosphere/spooky elements: 5/5 [The novel opens on Halloween night; ironically, the girl is unaware of this, though she is creepy herself. Her Halloween visitor is a pedophile (not something I will soon forget). She is all alone. To add to that, there is a mouse she keeps as a pet as well as chanting along with a record in a foreign language. Murder and mayhem occurs. I also have to warn that if you are fond of pet mice or rats, you won't like one part of the story. With all the creepy happenings in here, I think this novel will be with me for a while.]

Literary: 5/5 [If you like Emily Dickinson, you will enjoy this novel. The girl's father is a famous poet, and she often talks about his poetry and others' poetry or recites passages aloud. Koenig also has something to say about adults and children in society and what their roles are, and perhaps, should be.]

Romance? Yes, there is a sweet love story in here, and then there is the creepy stuff.

Rating: 4+ stars   ****+

I highly recommend this one-- maybe even for one of your Halloween reads this year. It is creative and at the very least, unsettling.

The Little Girl Who Lives Down the Lane


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