Sunday, February 27, 2011

Kate Morton: The Distant Hours

I've finished reading this massive tome of a novel-- Kate Morton's 'The Distant Hours,' published in November 2010. This novel has to be one of the most current ones I've reviewed on the blog. I would call it women's fiction/gothic romance.

Characterization-- 5/5: Morton shines here. Each of the Blythe sisters-- Juniper, Saffy, and Percy as well as the love interests and Edie have distinct personalities. The father and author, Raymond Blythe, is a powerful presence in the novel though we never meet him as readers or only in a brief few pages do we "hear" from him. Most of the characters are likeable despite some pretty interesting behavior and quirks. Morton makes them sympathetic.

Plot-- 4/5: This novel twists and turns. Mystery upon mystery rises up and unfolds in the last few chapters of the novel. The prologue is one of the best and scariest I've ever read in a novel. In fact, it was so good that the rest of the novel couldn't possibly compete with it, though it was a strong effort. I admire the intricacy of the plot, but this novel bogged down in the middle like many do. I think it could have been cut 75+ pages. Now, considering it's a 500+ page novel, Morton does a pretty nice job of holding my attention. The sections in the middle just felt very "women's fictionish" to me. And that's fine... just not my cup of tea often. I wanted more Gothic there and got more story of women's struggles. The plot is layered as is the castle, folding in on itself. It's quite a feat.

Atmosphere/spooky elements-- 5/5: I dare you to read the prologue without shivering and going Wow! Wow! Wow! Morton can write! She knocks it out of the park with her very spooky character and story there. It made me want a straight Gothic from her with less of the filler I thought intruded later in the novel. But that's probably just me. If I had to name best prologue ever, this would be it. I know I repeated myself. Believe me, it's that good! Also, there is a castle that provides much of the setting in the novel-- a mouldering castle called Middlehurst with strange passageways, a moat that plays a huge role, and closed rooms. Yes, there's some spooky chills in this one.

Romantic elements-- 4/5: The love stories were all unique and compelling. I will say that I teared up near the end of the novel due to what happened to the hero of the story and at all the misunderstandings. The novel deals in secrets and how one choice or action begets dozens more. My only complaint might be that there is one love story I felt was lacking in the novel. I won't say which one because I don't want to give anything away.

Literary elements-- 5/5: Yes, I envy this novel its literary voice from the prologue to the information about WWI and II and on and on.

Rating: 4.5+ stars

**I recommend this one.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Gothic Romance Give Away and Stuff...

Wow! The time really got past me this month. I haven't done a book give away in a while. So, I'm giving away a grab bag of three Victoria Holt and Phyllis A. Whitney novels to someone who replies to this post within 72 hours or by Monday, 2/28 at 11pm EST. Just make a comment about anything, really, related to gothic romance. I'll use the Random Number Generator to make the choice of a winner.

It's slow going with writing, work, editing, and midterms this week, but I hope to have a review up in a few days. Anyone reading anything good?

Also, the blog is still open to guest reviewers (you can review a gothic novel and promote your website, etc. if you'd like) and to authors in the genre. Just send me a message or comment here if you're interested.

Have a fabulous weekend!

Monday, February 14, 2011

Happy Valentine's Day, Readers! :)

I just wanted to post a quick Happy Valentine's Day to everyone. Along those lines, what are you reading lately and enjoying? Any gothic romances in the mix?

I'm reading The Distant Hours by Kate Morton. I'm generally a fan of prologues, and it has one of the most shiver inducing prologues I've ever read. I can't wait to review the novel. I'll leave you with a snippet:

"It is moonless.
It is moonless when the Mud Man comes. The night has slipped on a pair of fine, leather gloves, shaken a black sheet across the land: a ruse, a disguise, a sleeping spell, so that all beneath it slumbers sweet" (Morton 1).

Happy Valentine's Day!

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Movie Recommendations: Session 9 and Endless Night

I'm still reading two lengthy but enjoyable Gothics that I'll be reviewing in the next weeks. Today, I thought I'd recommend two movies I've watched recently from the Gothic genre.

The first is Session 9. It's set in an abandoned mental institution. Some workers led by a troubled man named Gordon have committed to cleaning it up in a week. Little do they know that the past isn't all past. This one is atmospheric and creepy as well as layered. I don't recommend watching it alone unless you're good with that sort of thing. It has some real thrills and chills and some violence as well. What I like about it is that it also explores themes of corporate America, small businesses, and the tensions that go with such enterprises. Also, the horror creeps up on one. The usual gimmicks are not part of this one.

The other gem I ran across is Endless Night, a movie from 1972 based upon an Agatha Christie novel. Hayley Mills stars, and she is gorgeous in the film. The camera work is lovely, and if you like architecture, this is a movie you will truly enjoy. It has gorgeous landscapes, a compelling romance, a creepy woman with "the sight," major lesbian subtexts, spooky goings on, a creepy cat statue, and other pluses. The ending is also worth the whole movie.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Give away: The Gargoyle by Andrew Davidson

I was reading The Gargoyle, and I quit it around 200 pages in. I have a nice, shiny paperback copy. The cover art is quite lovely.

I just couldn't do the other 300+. The premise is wonderful-- a burn victim finds his true love who tells him he is reincarnated and was burned in another life.

I just couldn't stick with the novel because it seemed to really ebb and flow too much among other things. I'm not going to write a full review since I don't think it counts as a gothic romance, truly. If you comment and want it, it's yours to the first poster.

The more I write and struggle with the craft myself, the more I'm convinced that a novel or novella or any work should hold your attention and make you want to complete it. If it doesn't, the novel needs more work, perhaps. It's okay to work for the pay off of the book a little as a reader, but the reader should not have to struggle on and on to make it through a work that is promised to be "great."  Reading is meant for an escape after all to most.

What do you think, dear readers? Do you like to struggle through novels, or do you prefer to relish every page and not want to put the book down?
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