Reading: The Bone Tree, by Greg Iles

the-bone-tree-cover
The Bone Tree, by Greg Iles
What is it about?
Former prosecutor Penn Cage and his fiancée, reporter and publisher Caitlin Masters, have barely escaped with their lives after being attacked by wealthy businessman Brody Royal and his Double Eagles, a KKK sect with ties to some of Mississippi’s most powerful men. But the real danger has only begun as FBI Special Agent John Kaiser warns Penn that Brody wasn’t the true leader of the Double Eagles. The puppeteer who actually controls the terrorist group is a man far more fearsome: the chief of the state police’s Criminal Investigations Bureau, Forrest Knox.

The only way Penn can save his father, Dr. Tom Cage—who is fleeing a murder charge as well as corrupt cops bent on killing him—is either to make a devil’s bargain with Knox or destroy him. While Penn desperately pursues both options, Caitlin uncovers the real story behind a series of unsolved civil rights murders that may hold the key to the Double Eagles’ downfall. The trail leads her deep into the past, into the black backwaters of the Mississippi River, to a secret killing ground used by slave owners and the Klan for over two hundred years . . . a place of terrifying evil known only as “the bone tree.”

My thoughts so far:
There’s nothing like getting behind when reading an epic series like the Natchez Burning trilogy–the books are long and I’ve been feeling a bit behind ever since I started (what am I saying? I have been a bit behind ever since I started!). So here I am, again only part way through the current read, only this time around it’s book two in the trilogy, The Bone Tree. Here are my thoughts so far:
  • There’s a certain privilege in being able to read books in a series back to back: there’s no wait time between the tomes and you slip easily from one book to the other. I loved that The Bone Tree, after a prologue which provided a catching up, started right where things ended in Natchez Burning. Going straight from one book to the other felt smooth, nothing disjointed there. The story continued, period.
  • As mentioned, there’s a nice prologue that does a good job of getting you caught up if you haven’t read the first book (and probably acts as a good reminder if you’d read the first book a while back), but seriously, if you haven’t read Natchez Burning yet, you really should start from there. And as a bonus, you’d have that luxury of slipping smoothly from book one straight into book two.
  • As with the first book, at times the tension and suspense in The Bone Tree gets almost too much for me. And, as with the first book, I find myself having to skip ahead to the end of a chapter so I can calm down a little and go back to reading the chapter the way it should be read.
  • There’s an added plot line in this book about the JFK assassination that I’m still not too sure about. On the one hand, I’m finding this plot line quite interesting. On the other hand, I’m still uncertain whether it’s a good fit with the main plot line surrounding the unsolved civil rights movement murders.
  • The writing in this second book is like the writing in the first book: the language is evocative and succeeds in pulling you into the hot languidness of the Deep South.
  • Like the first book, the violence is brutal, and all the more chilling because of its factual foundations. There is a seamless melding of fiction with history and despite the thrilleresque aspect of the plot, those facts, that history, is something you just don’t forget as you’re reading.
  • And the bad guy? He is so, so, so Evil.
  • I guess my main criticism so far is that sometimes some of the main characters do some pretty stupid things, things that make you want to take them by the shoulders and yell, “What on earth are you thinking? Stop it, and do the smart thing!”

Again, a huge thanks to TLC Book Tours, as I’ve been wanting to read this series for ages now, and the opportunity to participate in this readalong/book tour gave me the push I needed.

And now for the critical linking bit!

Purchase Links: HarperCollins | Amazon Barnes & Noble
 
Author Links: WebsiteTwitter, and Facebook

 

The Read List: Do Your Om Thing, by Rebecca Pacheco

Do Your Om Thing

Do Your Om Thingby Rebecca Pacheco:

YOGA, MEET LIFE.

Sometimes an hour-long yoga class is the only chance we get to connect meaningfully with our bodies and our minds during an otherwise hectic week. For a brief moment we’re able to let our worries melt away and feel relaxed, centered, and fully ourselves. Have you ever wondered how it would feel to bring that experience out of the yoga studio and into your everyday life?

In Do Your Om Thing, master yoga teacher and creator of the popular blog OmGal.com Rebecca Pacheco shows us how to do just that. The true practice of yoga, she says, goes deeper than achieving the perfect headstand—it is about bringing awareness and intention to every part of our lives. In her warm, personal, and often hilarious prose, Rebecca translates yogic philosophy for its twenty-first-century devotees, making ancient principles feel accessible, relatable, and genuinely rooted in the world in which we live today.

Quotable: 

What I have to say about meditation boils down to this: it never hurts. It always helps. It costs nothing, and it improves everything. There are so few things on earth of which this can be said.

My thoughts, in list format:

  • Do Your Om Thing wasn’t quite what I expected. I think I expected more of a memoir-like book, which this really isn’t. And really, now that I’ve reread the synopsis, I’m not sure why I drew that conclusion in the first place!
  • I’m new to yoga myself, and there is a ton of stuff in here that’s really interesting. And there are pictures! In black and white, but still quite helpful.
  • My favourite chapter? The Chakras: Feeling Light from the Inside Out. It feels comprehensive without being too overwhelming, and each chakra is accompanied by an “essentials” box that I’ll definitely be turning to over and over again.
  • I probably would have enjoyed a more me-to-you style, but there’s so much information in here and I think the author’s teacher to student style works well overall. There is a lot to take in, but I never found it dry or boring.
  • The book’s subtitle is “Bending Yoga Tradition to Fit Your Modern Life Style”, and scattered throughout are suggestions on how to do exactly that. In the chapter on yoga philosophy, for example, there are sections throughout on how to do your om thing, with practice tips and thoughtful questions to ask yourself.
  • This isn’t a book to read through just once. There’s a lot in here, and I think to truly get the benefit of the book you have to commit to really incorporating all these things into your life.

Overall, an interesting book for someone interested in going beyond attending a few yoga classes a week.

Thank you, once again, to the fabulous Trish and TLC Book Tours for giving me the opportunity to investigate this book!

Reading: Natchez Burning, by Greg Iles

natchez-burning

Natchez Burning, by Greg Iles

Raised in the southern splendor of Natchez, Mississippi, Penn Cage learned all he knows of duty from his father, Dr. Tom Cage. But now the beloved family doctor has been accused of murdering the African American nurse with whom he worked in the dark days of the 1960s. Once a crusading prosecutor, Penn is determined to save his father, but Tom, stubbornly invoking doctor-patient privilege, refuses even to speak in his own defense.

Penn’s quest for the truth sends him deep into his father’s past, where a sexually charged secret lies. More chilling, this long-buried sin is only one thread in a conspiracy of greed and murder involving the vicious Double Eagles, an offshoot of the KKK controlled by some of the most powerful men in the state. Aided by a dedicated reporter privy to Natchez’s oldest secrets and by his fiancée, Caitlin Masters, Penn uncovers a trail of corruption and brutality that places his family squarely in the Double Eagles’ crosshairs.

With every step costing blood and faith, Penn is forced to confront the most wrenching dilemma of his life: Does a man of honor choose his father or the truth?

I confess, I’m supposed to be finished Natchez Burning today, for a TLC Book Tour, but I’m only about halfway through. But that has nothing to do with the book, and everything to do with life getting in the way of reading, as it has a tendency to do occasionally. I’ve had a ton of exciting things happen in the past month, not least of which has been landing a freelance contract with Scholastic Books in the U.S.–yay! It’s been a fun ride so far, but in the meantime, I haven’t had much time left for reading.

Which does make me sad. But I WILL finish Natchez Burning, and not just because I’m scheduled to write about The Bone Tree, book two of the trilogy, next month. Natchez Burning is a great read, and it’s a book I need to finish. I want to find out what happens!

Here, in list form, are my thoughts so far:

  • This is one intense read. From the very start, I could feel my heart beating faster, my entire body tensing up as I read.
  • It’s a good novel to read in these times. It’s given me much needed insight into the roots of the racial conflict we see today, and a better understanding of how it is, after all our years of progress, we still really aren’t very much further than we were in the 1960s when it comes to racial inequality.
  • It has been, at times, a gut-wrenchingly difficult read for me. Brutal violence washes through the pages, and when I sit back to take a breath, it brings me to tears to know that it’s a violence that’s not fantasy, not made up, but rather, solidly rooted in facts. Iles doesn’t hold anything back; there’s no sugar coating anything. To say it brings history alive is an understatement. I’ve also spent a lot of time while reading this book reflecting on man’s inhumanity to man.
  • Despite being a difficult read in that way, it’s also magnetic, pulling me through its pages.
  • And the suspense! It’s so suspenseful, for quite a few of its chapters, I’ve had to quickly flip to the end of the chapter to see how it ends, and then go back to the beginning of the chapter and find out how things got to that end. It’s a little bit of cheating, I know, but there’s no other way I can handle the suspense. Yes, it’s that good.

I have no doubt this will be a book that will stay with me for days when it’s done–weeks, probably. It has so many things going for it: it’s intense, it’s a thriller, it has such an epic sweep, it’s a multi-generational saga, it weaves history throughout its more contemporary timeline in an effortless way … I could go on and on. And that’s just based on what I’ve read so far!

The Read List: The Hating Game, by Sally Thorne

thehatinggame

The Hating Gameby Sally Thorne

What Is The Hating Game about?

Lucy and Joshua are executive assistants to co-CEOs of a new publishing company formed as the result of a corporate merger. And they hate each other. And I mean, really-really-really hate each other. Their hate has evolved into a game–the hating game–and Lucy is determined she will not lose. Then she learns they are both competing for a position that she really wants. And things get very tense between them. But what kind of tension is it? And does Lucy really hate Joshua?

Quotable

He should be miniaturized and sold in toy stores for violent little boys.

List #1: What I Liked 

  • I don’t really read a lot of romances these days, but for some reason when I read the synopsis for this one, I really wanted to read it.
  • I hate to say it, because I know how, when you’re tiny and short, “cute” can have quite the sting to it, but Lucy is just so cute. Cute, and quirky and downright funny.
  • I have never been one for big, muscular men, but Sally Thorne’s Joshua might have just changed my mind a little. Wowsa!
  • In other words, Joshua is really hot.
  • And as his character was revealed to me, I liked him even more.
  • Actually, I liked a lot of things about this book. Like the fact that both Lucy and Joshua are executive assistants. They start out on an equal level and that never changes throughout. I found that very refreshing. The year I was 13, I binged on Harlequin romances; I would go regularly to the used book store and buy armloads of the books. I read them everywhere, including in science class, propped within the protective cover of my science textbook. (My science teacher that year was very strange and didn’t notice a lot of things that went on in the classroom; she also believed in the full moon, and I’m not talking about the science behind the pull of the moon and tides, either.) Anyway, none of the main characters in those Harlequin romances were ever on an equal footing. Not a chance. So yes, this was very refreshing.
  • Also, there’s no big stupid miscommunication thing that breaks them apart and causes a lot of heartache even though it could have easily been solved by them actually, you know, communicating. (This is one of my pet peeves and the main thing that stops me from reading more romances.) Instead, Lucy and Joshua do communicate, so even when it starts looking like there’s going to be a big stupid miscommunication thing that will cause a lot of heartache, it doesn’t happen because they end up talking things through. You know, like the adults they are.
  • This is also quite a funny book. It made me smile. A lot.
  • Great ending. And a great lead-up to a great ending.

List #2: What Was So-So

  • I didn’t like the way Lucy flinched when he reached up to touch her face after the elevator scene. Somehow, it didn’t feel right, that she thought he was going to be violent.
  • To be honest, I didn’t actually see WHY Lucy hated him so much, right from the start like that–it didn’t seem to fit her personality. But on the other hand, the story was so good and the relationship between them throughout was just so enjoyable, I didn’t care all that much about why, or that it felt odd that she did hate him like that.
  • This is probably just me, but I didn’t quite get the idea of the Or Something game. Exactly what did it mean? Not friends, since they weren’t friends, so it couldn’t be friends with benefits. Right? (Or maybe I’m wrong …) Anyway, I didn’t quite get the whole idea of Or Something. But see my point above (good, enjoyable story, so did I really care that I didn’t quite get this one thing? Nope.)

Final Thoughts

I still don’t know what it was about the synopsis that made me say yes to this book, but I’m very glad I did. If you like fun and quirky, a protagonist you feel you could be friends with and a hero-type who is hot and a bit quirky himself (oh, and did I mention muscles? I did mention muscles, right?), I think you’ll enjoy this read. Even if you don’t normally like romance, I say, go for it. I did, and I’m very glad I did.

And of course, a big thank you to TLC Book Tours for providing me with the opportunity to read The Hating Game.

The Read List: City of the Lost, by Kelley Armstrong

city of the lost

Casey Duncan is a homicide detective with a secret: when she was in college, she killed a man. She was never caught, but he was the grandson of a mobster and she knows that someday this crime will catch up to her. Casey’s best friend, Diana, is on the run from a violent, abusive ex-husband. When Diana’s husband finds her, and Casey herself is attacked shortly after, Casey knows it’s time for the two of them to disappear again.

Diana has heard of a town made for people like her, a town that takes in people on the run who want to shed their old lives. You must apply to live in Rockton and if you’re accepted, it means walking away entirely from your old life, and living off the grid in the wilds of Canada: no cell phones, no Internet, no mail, no computers, very little electricity, and no way of getting in or out without the town council’s approval. As a murderer, Casey isn’t a good candidate, but she has something they want: She’s a homicide detective, and Rockton has just had its first real murder. She and Diana are in. However, soon after arriving, Casey realizes that the identity of a murderer isn’t the only secret Rockton is hiding?in fact, she starts to wonder if she and Diana might be in even more danger in Rockton than they were in their old lives.

My thoughts on City of the Lost:

I adore Kelley Armstrong’s work. She’s an amazing writer and even more amazing in person. If you’ve been following her writing recently, you’ll have noticed she’s started doing a lot more non-urban fantasy books. The new books are more on the thriller or mystery side, and they are good!

  1. I actually came to Kelley’s works through her Nadia Stafford series, so in a way I got to know her through her non-fantasy works to begin with. (In case you’re not familiar with them, the Nadia Stafford series is about a female assassin–and they are very good reads.) So City of the Lost was right up my alley.
  2. Kelley has such a way with atmosphere, and she’s as brilliant as ever with building atmosphere here. Even though I knew this wasn’t an urban fantasy, I kept thinking something paranormal or supernatural would show up. But I wasn’t disappointed in my anticipation; the things that did happen, while not paranormal, were very creepy and eerie and in total sync with the atmosphere.
  3. Did I say creepy? I need to say it again. Creepy. Eerie. In a good way.
  4. I really liked Casey Duncan. Strong, independent, a self-thinker. Her flaws added strength to the story. Also, she’s half Asian, and it’s so nice to see an Asian protagonist in a book. And perhaps what I like most about her being half-Asian is that Kelley doesn’t make it into some big deal. It’s just who Casey is.
  5. There’s a romance. I’ve never been big on romances in my thrillers (I tend to prefer them in my romances, you know?), but this romance felt so natural and didn’t detract from the story events at all.
  6. Rockton–such an interesting concept for a town!
  7. Dalton, the sheriff, is an interesting character, and the more I read, the more interesting he got. Talk about a backstory!
  8. And as for the ending, I definitely didn’t see it coming.

My verdict: a very good read indeed.

 

The Read List: The Mind-Gut Connection, by Emeran Mayer

mind gut connection

Combining cutting-edge neuroscience with the latest discoveries on the human microbiome, a practical guide in the tradition of The Second Brain, and The Good Gut that conclusively demonstrates the inextricable, biological link between mind and the digestive system.

We have all experienced the connection between our mind and our gut—the decision we made because it “felt right”; the butterflies in our stomach before a big meeting; the anxious stomach rumbling we get when we’re stressed out. While the dialogue between the gut and the brain has been recognized by ancient healing traditions, including Ayurvedic and Chinese medicine, Western medicine has by and large failed to appreciate the complexity of how the brain, gut, and more recently, the gut microbiota—the microorganisms that live inside our digestive tract—communicate with one another. In The Mind-Gut Connection, Dr. Emeran Mayer, professor of medicine and executive director of the UCLA Center for Neurobiology of Stress, offers a revolutionary and provocative look at this developing science, teaching us how to harness the power of the mind-gut connection to take charge of our health and listen to the innate wisdom of our bodies.

My Thoughts on The Mind-Gut Connection:

I know … two posts in one day. What is the world coming to?

(No need to answer. I kind of hate thinking about what the world is coming to these days.)

So I read The Mind-Gut Connection because Trish at TLC Book Tours sent me the description and it looked like something I’d be interested in. And while I’ve been wrong before (and oh, have I ever been wrong before!) I was right about this one.

If you’re interested in that colony of bacteria that resides in your gut and how it affects your life, The Mind-Gut Connection is the read for you.

What colony of bacteria, you ask?

If you put all your gut microbes together and shaped them into an organ, it would weigh between 2 and 6 pounds–on par with the brain, which weighs in at 2.6 pounds.

This “forgotten organ” is quite incredible, and The Mind-Gut Connection goes into detail about exactly why it’s so incredible.

In addition to references to lots of scientific studies that back up how these microbes in our gut affect our brain, this book also has a bit of a holistic feel to it. There’s an entire chapter on intuitive decision-making that makes you want to recognize the next time you’re relying on your intuitions so you can “go with your gut”. And I wished the author had talked a bit more about working with dreams (although that doesn’t have much to do with your gut microbes. But still: interesting!)

Science has shown that chronic stress has a very detrimental effect on the interaction between your gut bacteria and your brain, and I  found myself wishing science would also spend a bit more time on exploring the effect positive emotions have on this interaction as well. I mean, it would be good to have some solid, scientific evidence pointing to what happens when we experience positive emotions.

After reading all about how the microbiome in our gut affects our brain, I was very happy to read the final section on how to optimize your brain-gut health.  I was a little disappointed, though, to learn it’s very difficult to actually change your gut microbial diversity. But still, there’s more than enough reason to continue with the probiotics and fermented foods.

And I’m definitely leaning toward a Mediterranean diet now, big-time. Veggies, here I come!

The Read List: The Memory Painter, by Gwendolyn Womack

memorypainter

Bryan Pierce is an internationally famous artist, whose paintings have dazzled the world. But there’s a secret to Bryan’s success: Every canvas is inspired by an unusually vivid dream. Bryan believes these dreams are really recollections?possibly even flashback from another life?and he has always hoped that his art will lead him to an answer. And when he meets Linz Jacobs, a neurogenticist who recognizes a recurring childhood nightmare in one Bryan’s paintings, he is convinced she holds the key.

Their meeting triggers Bryan’s most powerful dream yet?visions of a team of scientists who, on the verge of discovering a cure for Alzheimer’s, died in a lab explosion decades ago. As his visions intensify, Bryan and Linz start to discern a pattern. But a deadly enemy watches their every move, and he will stop at nothing to ensure that the past stays buried.

My Thoughts on The Memory Painter:

  1. When I finished this, I basically said, “Wow.”
  2. It’s time travel. Or reincarnation. Or both. I vote for both, because it feels like time travel but I guess it’s really about reincarnation. (The subtitle is kind of a giveaway: “A novel of love and reincarnation”.)
  3. It had me riveted right from the very beginning. And once this book got its claws into me, it didn’t let go. Highly readable, but with great pacing. Little by little, things are revealed to us, but with perfect timing.
  4. It all made sense. Very credible. I could see this actually  happening (well, okay, maybe not really happening, but you know what I mean. Suspension of disbelief? Not difficult at all.)
  5. I won’t go all spoilerish, but I’ll say this: there was a point where I was like, “Hey, why does Bryan get all the juicy reincarnations?” And then the ending hit, and I was like, “Yay, Linz!”
  6. And that ending? Really good. Great twist.
  7. Did I just say twists? This book has such an interesting, complex plot. So really, lots of twists. Without making you lose that suspension of disbelief. Riveting is the word that comes to mind (yes, I know I’ve already used it. Because it fits.).
  8. I’m looking forward to the sequel. Because there’s definitely going to be a sequel. But–and I am very grateful for this–NOT because this ends on a cliffhanger. No cliffhanger, but lots of promise to come. I love books that end like this.
  9. If you like thrillers, if you like time travel, if you like a good read … grab a copy of The Memory Painter. You won’t regret it.

Thanks to TLC Book Tours for another great read.

 

Reading: After Alice, by Gregory Maguire

after alice

 

After Aliceby Gregory Maguire:

When Alice toppled down the rabbit-hole 150 years ago, she found a Wonderland as rife with inconsistent rules and abrasive egos as the world she left behind. But what of that world? How did 1860s Oxford react to Alice’s disappearance?

In this brilliant work of fiction, Gregory Maguire turns his dazzling imagination to the question of underworlds, undergrounds, underpinnings—and understandings old and new, offering an inventive spin on Carroll’s enduring tale. Ada, a friend of Alice’s mentioned briefly in Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, is off to visit her friend, but arrives a moment too late—and tumbles down the rabbit-hole herself.

Ada brings to Wonderland her own imperfect apprehension of cause and effect as she embarks on an odyssey to find Alice and see her safely home from this surreal world below the world. If Eurydice can ever be returned to the arms of Orpheus, or Lazarus can be raised from the tomb, perhaps Alice can be returned to life. Either way, everything that happens next is “After Alice.”

I’m in the middle of reading this one; it’s not an easy read, and to be honest, I’m not sure, now that I’ve put it down, if I’ll get back to picking it up again. The list review style is also great when I’m dealing with a book I’m not sure about, so here goes:

1. This book is most definitely not an easy read. It demands a lot of the reader, and I’m still unsure whether the payoff for all that effort is there. But it might be.

2. If you’re the type of reader who likes to know the meanings of words that are new to you, keep a dictionary on hand. You’re probably going to encounter at least one word you’ll need to look up in every paragraph.

3. I think, actually, that’s where the book started to lose me. The Words. Now, I love words, and I love word play–I mean, that’s what makes Alice in Wonderland the charmer that it is. But the thing is, in Alice in Wonderland it really is word play. In Alice, Lewis Carroll displays a genuine delight, a kind of delirious fun with words. But in After Alice, this sense of play isn’t there. Often you get the feeling the Words are The Point of the paragraph, the passage, the book. Not character, not story, not theme, but the Words.

4. Having said that, there are some delightful lines. Like:

From a distance he has the appearance of a walking cucumber that has gone deliquescent in the middle.

(And nope. I did not know what “diliquescent” meant. In case you’re wondering: “becoming liquid or having a tendency to become liquid.”)

5. Despite what you might be thinking, only about half of the book is about Ada’s adventures in Wonderland. The other part is about Alice’s sister, Lydia, in the real(er) world of Victorian England. And at times, with all this back and forth, it felt like After Alice wasn’t sure what it truly wanted to be: the story of Ada’s journey into a surreal world, or a philosophical exploration of the mores of Victorian England.

6. I preferred the Wonderland chapters.

7. Some of the dialogue in Wonderland is wonderfully quirky and reminiscent of Carroll’s dialogue.

8. So you don’t have to stop and Google it, if you’re reading the book: in the language of lowers, yellow flowers stand for jealousy and infidelity. (See Chapter 11, and Ada’s reflections on the mysterious nature of the literature of roses.)

9. I’m not quite ready to DNF this one, but it might join the books in my stacks labelled “To Be Finished Later”.

Thanks to TLC Book Tours for my review copy of this book.

The Read List: Disappearance at Devil’s Rock, by Paul Tremblay

disappearance at devils rock

Disappearance at Devil’s Rock, by Paul Tremblay:

Late one summer night, Elizabeth Sanderson receives the devastating news that every mother fears: her thirteen-year-old son, Tommy, has vanished without a trace in the woods of a local park.

The search isn’t yielding any answers, and Elizabeth and her young daughter, Kate, struggle to comprehend Tommy’s disappearance. Feeling helpless and alone, their sorrow is compounded by anger and frustration: the local and state police have uncovered no leads. Josh and Luis, the friends who were the last to see Tommy before he vanished, may not be telling the whole truth about that night in Borderland State Park, when they were supposedly hanging out a landmark the local teens have renamed Devil’s Rock.

Living in an all-too-real nightmare, riddled with worry, pain, and guilt, Elizabeth is wholly unprepared for the strange series of events that follow. She believes a ghostly shadow of Tommy materializes in her bedroom, while Kate and other local residents claim to see a shadow peering through their windows in the dead of night. Then, random pages torn from Tommy’s journal begin to mysteriously appear—entries that reveal an introverted teenager obsessed with the phantasmagoric; the loss of his father, killed in a drunk-driving accident a decade earlier; a folktale involving the devil and the woods of Borderland; and a horrific incident that Tommy believed connects them.

As the search grows more desperate, and the implications of what happened become more haunting and sinister, no one is prepared for the shocking truth about that night and Tommy’s disappearance at Devil’s Rock.

I have a hard time writing about books I really enjoyed, because I usually find myself reduced to wanting to say stuff like, “Read this already, okay?” and “Oh, wow” and “This was good. Really good. I mean it. This was good.”

Which is not particularly helpful. And, since I really enjoyed Disappearance at Devil’s Rock and find myself wanting to say, Just pick this one up and read it! I’ve been trying hard to figure out exactly what I should write (other than “You really should read this”).

So to make it easier on both me and you, I thought I’d do this in a list. That way, I can be incoherent and ramble on a bit, which is probably a lot more helpful than waving the book in the air and saying to everyone and anyone near enough to hear, “You need to read this!” (which is what I actually did say when I finished reading it).

  1. Disappearance at Devil’s Rock is billed as a horror, and yes, it is an eerie read, with lots of atmosphere and I think you’ll like it if you like horror … BUT this isn’t really a horror novel. At its heart, it’s about love and it’s about loss.
  2. So if you were thinking, this read isn’t for me, because I don’t like horror novels, I think you should still give this a try.
  3. It made me cry. I read this nearly a month ago, and even now, thinking back to that last scene, I can still remember why it made me cry.
  4. I read this in one long gulp. I literally couldn’t put it down, so it ended up being one of those books where you read the last words with a deep sigh and then realize, oh, crap, it’s 3 in the morning. I’m getting kind of old for this kind of thing, but at the same time, I’m very happy when I stumble across a book that keeps me reading deep into the night.
  5. Even though I couldn’t put the book down, this wasn’t a purely plot-driven novel, the kind that keeps you madly flipping the pages quickly, sort-of-kind-of taking in the words because really, you’re just hell-bent on getting to the end and finding out WHAT HAPPENED. Sure, there was plot, a good one at that, but  for me, it was the characters that really made this book work.
  6. I liked the way the narrative went back and forth between the present and the past. It worked well. And I was never confused about when in time I was. Always a really good thing.
  7. I think it could have used a better title. Disappearance at Devil’s Rock doesn’t really work for me. Actually, it makes me think of the Hardy Boys, so maybe it would work for me if I’m feeling like reading the Hardy Boys. Which I used to do all the time, back when I was 13. But not so much now. (Don’t ask me what would be a good title, though, because I’m not good at stuff like that.)
  8. I really enjoyed this book.

So a huge thanks to TLC Book Tours for sending me a review copy. And of course a huge thanks to Paul Tremblay for penning this one. And did I mention, you should read this already, okay?

 

The Read List: Hex, by Thomas Olde Heuvelt

hex

Hex, by Thomas Olde Heuvelt:

Whoever is born here, is doomed to stay ’til death. Whoever settles, never leaves.

Welcome to Black Spring, the seemingly picturesque Hudson Valley town haunted by the Black Rock Witch, a seventeenth century woman whose eyes and mouth are sewn shut. Muzzled, she walks the streets and enters homes at will. She stands next to children’s bed for nights on end. Everybody knows that her eyes may never be opened or the consequences will be too terrible to bear.

The elders of Black Spring have virtually quarantined the town by using high-tech surveillance to prevent their curse from spreading. Frustrated with being kept in lockdown, the town’s teenagers decide to break their strict regulations and go viral with the haunting. But, in so doing, they send the town spiraling into dark, medieval practices of the distant past.

One of the most impressive things about Hex is that the original version was written in Dutch, and for the North American/UK release of the novel, author Thomas Olde Heuvelt decided to revise the novel and Americanize it—and while I haven’t read the Dutch version (I don’t, unfortunately, have any familiarity with the language), I can say that this version of Hex worked for me.

In this interview from Rue Morgue, the author had this to say about both versions of Hex:

The original Dutch edition was set in an existing small town in The Netherlands. It’s the town of Beek, in the east of the country, in the hills near the German border. My grandmother used to live there, and I always thought: if there’s any place in a country so densely populated and neatly cultivated as The Netherlands where something like this could happen, it’s here. Even more so: Beek has a history of witchcraft persecutions and hangings that goes back to the middle ages and is still visible today. The woods around the town are gloomy. There are witch-references in the naming of places and streams. They even have an annual ritual at Carnival, where they hang a big straw witch doll from the town hall, and after the festivities, they burn it. (And believe it or not: I did *not* know that when I wrote the wicker burning scene in HEX, which was a perfect and very creepy coincidence). The English edition, however, is set in Black Spring, New York. You could say it’s a remake from the Dutch original, and Black Spring is based on the town of Beek (the early settlers called it “New Beeck” for obvious reasons). For me as a writer, it was a fantastic challenge to see if I could pull it off to make the book work in a totally new, culturally different environment. Plus, it was an excuse to revisit the town, the characters and the storylines that I loved so much, and spend some more time with them without having to fall in the trap of a sequel. The Dutch ‘soul’ of the book I kept very much alive during the process.

I enjoyed Hex. While this is a horror, there were also several humorous passages that made me laugh, and the horror deepened in intensity in a way that really worked for me. Aside from one scene of extreme violence (which I flipped over, as I don’t like reading stuff like that—lucky for me I wasn’t listening to the audio version—and which was necessary for the narrative rather than gratuitous) the violence was more muted than anything, which is another thing I appreciate in a horror novel. It seems to me it takes far more skill to build that horror feeling in a novel without using a lot of graphic violence, and that’s something the author does well.

The Dutch version has a different ending, and I’m rather curious about the difference, although I did enjoy the ending of the version I read: it was rather bittersweet, which is unexpected in a horror novel.