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.
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