Top Ten Tuesday: Monsters and Creators

For That Artsy Reader Girl’s Top Ten Tuesday:

October 25: Halloween Freebie

I recently read Dead Blondes and Bad Mothers, which dealt a lot with the ideas of monsters and their parents. The book was concerned with mothers as a feminist concept, but for the purpose of this list, I’m considering any creator of a monster as that monster’s “mother.”

Frankenstein by Mary Shelly – At this point it’s pretty common knowledge that a) “Frankenstein” is the name of the creator rather than the monster and that b) the creator may just be the real monster. All of that is true. But I think the central question here is whether Victor was more wrong for taking the powers of life and death into his own hands, or because he abandoned any responsibility for his creation immediately after her brought it to life?

The Stranger Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde by Robert Louis – This is an interesting case because the creator and the monster are the same person. Everything in Mr. Hyde was in Dr. Jekyll all along. The Hyde part of his personality was kept in check by the better parts of Jekyll’s nature. By trying to separate the two, he unintentionally took away that check and set Hyde free on the world.

We Need to Talk About Kevin by Lionel Schriver – What Kevin does is monstrous. There’s no question about that. In this case the question is where the blame for the monster’s action lies. Eva didn’t want to be a mother, and struggled to connect to her son. Did she sense some evil in him and shy away from him? Or did he go wrong because of his distant mother? And what role does his father play in his crimes? Even though the focus of this novel is on the mother/son dynamic, Kevin’s father is unable to see Kevin as anything other than perfect, regardless of what he does. How much is this to blame?

Great Expectations by Charles Dickens – We don’t usually think of this as a story of monsters, but go with me on this one: Miss Havisham is a Frankenstein figure. She wants revenge on men, so she “creates” Estella as a weapon against them. In doing so, she not only punishes Pip who had nothing to do with what her fiancé did years earlier, but she also hurts Estella who isn’t able have normal relationships.

The Golem and the Jinni by Helene Wracker – Chava is very much a created creature: born of clay and Kabbalistic magic. Ahmed is born of the desert, but is in some way created when he’s trapped in a copper flask by a wizard. That experience creates him. Yet in another way, their creators are really their experiences in life (or whatever the equivalent is for magical creatures). This is about what happens when they meet in New York at the turn of the twentieth century.

The Strange Case of the Alchemist’s Daughter by Theodora Goss – This is a mash-up where Mary Jekyll meets Hyde’s daughter, Diana, as well as Beatrice Rappaccini, Catherine Moreau and Justine Frankenstein. Together with Sherlock and Watson they take on a secret society. I read this years ago, before the rest of the series was available. Now that all three books are released, I need to give the first a reread before I read the others.

Rappaccini’s Daughter by Nathanial Hawthorne – Read this if you want to know more about Beatrice Rappaccini. This is actually a short story. It’s one of those things that’s a great story, but I find the prose rather cumbersome. It’s definitely worth a read though.

Dollanganger series by VC Andrews -This series is essentially about generation after generation of monsters creating more monsters. And while these books are not great literature by any stretch of the imagination, these inevitable, destructive family patterns are absolutely terrifying in their own way. Just a note, I can only attest to the first five books in the series that Andrews wrote herself (well, the fifth was finished by the ghost writer), the rest of the books were the work of ghost writer Andrew Neiderman.

Carrie by Stephen King – Once again the “monster’s” mother may be the real monster. Or a real monster anyway. We could also argue that Carrie’s “creators” may also be the peers who repeatedly humiliate Carrie eventually push her to a place where mass telekinetic murder seemed like a good option.

The Island of Doctor Moreau by HG Wells – Truthfully I don’t really have strong feelings about this book, but no list of monsters and creators would be complete without it!

In conclusion, monsters rarely act alone!

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Top Ten Tuesday: School Freebie: Teacher Characters

For That Artsy Reader Girl’s Top Ten Tuesday:

August 30: School Freebie (In honor of school starting up soon, come up with a topic that somehow ties to school/education. The book could be set at school/college, characters could be teachers, books with school supplies on the cover, nonfiction titles, books that taught you something or how to do something, your favorite required reading in school, books you think should be required reading, your favorite banned books, etc.)

I decided to go with teacher characters here. I tried to stay away from children’s books (because there are a lot of teacher characters there!) but I had to include a couple.

Villette by Charlotte Bronte – Yes, I know Jane Eyre is a teacher too, but since this book focuses more on school life, I went with it. Though now it strikes me that The Professor was also a possibility…

11/22/63 by Stephen King – In this one the main character is a teacher and a time traveler. He has to stop Kennedy’s assassination, but he gets to the 60’s early so he spends two years teaching high school. To say that isn’t the most exciting part of the book is sort of an understatement.

Up the Down Staircase by Bel Kaufman – I have a feeling that trying to teach in a classroom that’s falling apart, while buried under paperwork, with no supplies, is, sadly, timeless. This book is funny just as often as it’s sad though.

Matilda by Roald Dahl – Obviously Miss Honey is an example of teaching at it’s best, and the Trunchbull is teaching at it’s worst. As a adult though I do wonder: Miss Honey is so sweet, how does she handle kids when they’re disrespectful? It seems like they’d walk all over her…

Anne of Green Gables by LM Montgomery – Miss Stacy breathes new life into school in Avonlea. She opens up the world for her students. Later in the series Anne becomes a teacher herself.

The Magic School Bus by Joanna Cole – Ms. Frizzle is, well, let’s call her a truly unique educator. Though, as an adult, I do have to wonder: who approves and funds those field trips!? What kind of an administrator does that school have?

The Magus by John Fowles – Nicholas Urfe is an Englishman who accepts a teaching position on a remote Greek island. He doesn’t spend much time teaching though. He spends far more time playing bizarre mind games with a local reclusive millionaire.

The Lake of Dead Languages by Carol Goodman – Twenty years ago, Jane Hudson left her girls private school after a tragedy involving her friend. So of course she accepts a teaching position at that school many years later. What could go wrong?

The Weird Sisters by Eleanor Brown – Three sisters raised by an English professor who speaks almost entirely in verse. Of course they’re weird!

The Summer Before the War by Helen Simonson – Beatrice Nash is the attractive new Latin teacher in Rye in 1914. She’s also a struggling writer and a forward thinker, which means she may bring some change to the small town..

Top Ten Tuesday: Fictional Writers

For That Artsy Reader Girl’s Top Ten Tuesday:

December 7: Freebie

Writers and readers alike love a writer character in fiction. Here are some of my favorites:

1. Emily Starr from the Emily series by LM Montgomery – Yes, I know Anne is a writer too. But I give Emily the edge here, because it’s more a part of her than it is of Anne.

2. Jo March from Little Women by Louisa May Alcott – You didn’t really think I could make a list of fictional writers and leave her off, did you? Later in the series her writing takes a backseat to other aspects of life, but we do learn in Jo’s Boys that she never really stopped.

3. Angelica “Angel” Deverell from Angel by Elizabeth Taylor – Angel is the daughter of an Edwardian shop owner, whose shlocky best sellers make her famous. She lives almost entirely in her own imagination, which might be her downfall.

4. Paul Sheldon from Misery by Stephen King – Paul Sheldon goes from writing for a living to writing for his life. I wish I could take credit for that blurb, but I read it somewhere else. Can’t remember where. But he’s a romance author who wants to go “literary.” But when he’s held hostage by an angry fan he takes refuge in the fictional worlds he creates. That ability always resonated with me.

5. Vida Winter from The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield– Reclusive author, Vida Winter, wrote a collection of stories famous for the mystery of the missing thirteenth tale. She always kept her life a secret. But as an old woman she hires a biographer to tell the story of her life. In that way, this is sort of about two writers: Vida and her biographer, Margaret.

6. Cassandra Mortmain from I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith – This book also features two writers. One is the narrator who tells the story, and hones her skill through her journal. The second is her father a famous writer of one novel, who now suffers from severe writers block.

7. Eva Luna from Eva Luna by Isabelle Allende – Eva Luna is a orphaned servant with a gift for storytelling. Her stories become her currency in the world. Some of them can be read in the companion book, The Stories of Eva Luna.

8. Possession by AS Byatt– Again we have more than one writer here, as two academics research two Victorian poets. The novel is made of a variety of different written forms including poetry, letters, and journal entries.

9. Edith Pope in Hotel Du Lac by Anita Brookner – Edith is a romance author whose life takes on too much drama. She stays at a hotel to get away from everything for a while. While she’s there, she writes letters to her lover describing her companions at the hotel.

10) Briony Tallis from Atonement by Ian McEwan – This starts with a thirteen year old Briony Tallis writing a play. It ends with an elderly Briony writing a novel. To say more would involve spoilers!

Top Ten Tuesday: Authors to Follow on Social Media

For That Artsy Reader Girl’s Top Ten Tuesday:

This week’s topic was:

November 23: Characters I’d Love An Update On (Where are they now that the book is over?)

But I feel like I’ve done several lists like that before (here, here), so I decided to go in my own direction. These are authors who I think are great “follows” on social media.

Carol Beth Anderson– Anderson is a fantasy author who posts microfiction quite a bit on her twitter. She’s great for sharing author resources and writing advice.

[blog][twitter][instagram]

Katherine Langrish– Langrish is a fantasy and nonfiction author who tweets lots of interesting articles and links to her blogs about fairy tales and folklore. [twitter][blog]

Thomas Kane- Kane is another fantasy author who has been incredibly supportive of the #WritingCommunity on twitter. I first encountered him on a writing forum and he’s been an amazing resource in terms of writing and publishing. [twitter][blog]

Anne Lamott– Anne Lamott is a novelist and writing guru who shares writing and life advice on twitter. She’s not shy about sharing her opinions, but I feel like she’s usually coming from a good place. [twitter][facebook]

Terri Windling- Windling is a fantasy author, as well as an editor, artist folklorist and fairy tale historian. I love her blog, which is an amazing source of information. On twitter she shares interesting tidbits from her life in an English village, where she lives with her husband and dog. [twitter][blog]

Kate Forsyth– Forsyth is an author of fantasy and historical fiction. Her blog, What Katie Read, shares the books she’s been reading, and her Writing Journal features tips, announcements and musings on writing and life.

[twitter][reading blog] [writing journal] [instagram]

Alexandra Silber– Silber is an actor/singer/blogger/author of historical fiction and memoir. She shares her thoughts and opinions on her blog and social media accounts. She tends to be very candid and vulnerable in a way that I admire but could never emulate! [twitter][blog][instagram]

Catherynne M. Valente– Valente’s work is mostly fantasy though the subgenres vary pretty widely. She tweets about just about everything, from random, thoughts to interesting anecdotes, to what she’s watching, reading, and thinking. [twitter][instagram]

Stephen King- Love his work or hate it (I tend to be sort of 50/50) I do like to see his opinions, and jokes and thoughts on twitter. I think he seems to love stories so passionately – his own and other people’s – he genuinely seems to enjoy discussing them and sharing them with others. [twitter]

Katherine Harbour– Harbour is a YA fantasy author, who actually isn’t on social media very much, but I’m including her on this list, because it’s a highlight for me when she is! She shares her favorite reads and thoughts about writing and stories on her blog, which I have permanently bookmarked! [twitter][blog]

Neil Gaiman– Gaiman is a fantasy author whose work ranges from short fiction to epic novels for audiences ranging from children to adults and everyone in between. Truthfully, I don’t always love his literary work, but I do sometimes. And I do enjoy following him on social media where he shares what he’s up to, and info about various adaptations of his work for film/tv/theatre/whatever. [blog] [twitter]

Top Ten Tuesday: Books Set in Hotels

For That Artsy Reader Girl’s Top Ten Tuesday:

This was this week’s prompt:

June 29: Most Anticipated Releases of the Second Half of 2021

But rather than make yet another TBR, I got to thinking: since people are starting to travel again, what are some good books set in hotels, inns, bed and breakfasts, and other travel lodgings? And if you still can’t travel IRL, you can do it vicariously with these books. Hotels are great settings because you get all kinds of people, each with their own stories, all in the same place at the same time. I tried to keep it pretty varied.

The Shining by Stephen King– This is a hotel you probably won’t want to stay in! When Jack Torrence gets a job as the caretaker at Overlook Hotel, the recovering alcoholic sees it as a fresh start for himself, his wife, and their son. But the idyllic location is remote and cut off from the rest of the world, particularly during the harsh winter. And the Overlook is home to something dark, something that threatens both Jack’s mind and his family’s safety.

A Room with A View by EM Forester– While traveling in Italy with her aunt, Charlotte, Lucy Honeychurch meets George and his father, who kindly offer to switch hotel rooms with Lucy and Charlotte, as their room has a view. Charlotte refuses this offer out of snobbery. But Lucy finds herself drawn to George. She’s headstrong and bright, and pushing against the ties of her upper class British upbringing, but she can’t quite bring herself to sever those ties. When the characters return to England, where Lucy and George’s paths soon cross again.

The Hotel New Hampshire by John Irving- In the mid 1950’s, Win decides to buy and convert and old school into a hotel. His family comes along for the ride and the challenges of helping to run, and live in a hotel bring out different aspects of his children’s personalities. When an old friend offers Win the chance to operate an Austrian hotel, he sells his first hotel, and moves the family to Austria. Several years later the family moves to NYC. Along their travels they encounter a number of eccentric characters and situations, but they’re probably the most eccentric of all in their own unique ways.

Jamaica Inn by Daphne DuMaurier– After losing her parents, Mary Yellan moves to north Cornwall, to live with her aunt Prudence and Prudence’s husband, Joss Merlyn, who operates the titular inn. Soon Mary comes to suspect that something criminal is happening at the inn. She finds herself drawn into dangerous situations, and falls in love with a man she doesn’t trust, before she discovers a secret even darker than she’d anticipated.

Eloise by Kay Thompson– Eloise is a precocious child, living in the Plaza Hotel. “Getting bored is not allowed” so Eloise fills her days with various (self assigned) jobs and adventures. It’s a great look at the world of a child who turns a luxury hotel upside down. When I was a little kid I wanted to be Eloise!

Hotel Du Lac by Anita Brookner – This one about Edith Hope who writes romance novels under a different name. But when she realizes her life is looking like the plot of one of her novels (and not in a good way!) she escapes to the quiet luxury of the titular Swiss hotel. But the hotel’s other guests all seem to come with their own drama.

The Sun Down Motel by Simone St. James This is a pretty decent ghost story/mystery. In 1982 upstate NY, Viv takes a job as a clerk at the titular motel. But something creepy is happening there. In 2017, Carly has heard all about her aunt Viv, who disappeared from the Sun Down Motel before she was born. Unable to let the story go, she moves to Fell, NY and gets a job at the motel. She learns that a lot of things there are still the same, including the things that may have cost Viv her life. The story is told in alternating chapters between the two time periods, but it all comes together at the end.

The Chelsea Girls by Fiona Davis In 1945 actresses Hazel and Maxine meet on a USO tour of Italy. Five years later, they reunite. Hazel is working as a playwright now and Maxine is cast in the lead role of her play. Both are living in the Chelsea Hotel, which a number of artists of various kinds call home. But as Senator Joseph McCarthy’s Red Scare gains momentum, both Hazel and Maxine and the other artistic residents of the Chelsea find themselves under suspicion. Lies, espionage, betrayal and more abound.

The Unpredictable Consequences of Love by Jill Mansell Sophie wants to put her messy past behind her in St. Carys. When Josh arrives in the idyllic seaside town to run his family’s hotel, he’s taken aback by Sophie’s lack of interest in him (women are usually very interested in him). But there are other dramas happening. Josh is tricked into hiring Sophie’s friend, Tula who seems to have a crush on him that’s unrequited. Meanwhile, someone else has a thing for Tula. And things get more complicated from there… This is frothy fun set in a seaside hotel.

The Paragon Hotel by Lyndsay Faye – Alice “Nobody” James is a gun moll who arrives in Portland, Oregon in 1921 escaping a violent past. Her newly acquired travelling companion, Max, brings her to the Paragon Hotel to be treated for a bullet wound. The segregated city’s only all black hotel may be an unlikely hiding place, but it has the advantage of a doctor who doesn’t ask too many questions. As she recovers, Nobody is drawn into the lives of the hotel’s residents, especially Blossom, a secretive chanteuse, and Davy a lovable mixed race orphan who is cared for by the hotel’s staff. When Davy disappears, the racial tensions in the city reach a boiling point, and Nobody may be the only person who can safely make inquiries.

Top Ten Tuesday: Books With Colorful Settings

For That Artsy Reader Girl’s Top Ten Tuesday:

April 13: Book Titles That Sound Like They Could Be Crayola Crayon Colors (Take a moment and Google some of the crazy Crayola crayon colors that exist. Can you think of any book titles that sound like they could also be a crayon color? It might be fun to include a description of the kind of color you’re picturing.)

OK, so follow my logic on this one! I didn’t want to do the topic for this week, so I chose to do settings that I consider “colorful” (yes it’s a bit of a leap, but who cares?) For some reason some settings just resonate with you as a reader. If a book is set in a carnival, circus or amusement park it automatically gets my attention. They have a bright, technicolor surface, but that can hide darkness underneath. From the death defying acrobats to the wild animals to the games of chance, it seems like circuses, carnivals, amusement parks, side shows and fairs have hundreds of stories beneath the tent. Here are some:

  1. The Night Circus by Erin Morganstern– At Le Cirque des Rêves, a competition is underway between two magicians. Celia and Marco have both trained since childhood for this purpose, though they don’t know it. So when they fall in love, it doesn’t bode well that only one can be left alive at the end of this competition.

2. The Circus of the Earth and the Air by Brooke Stevens– At the circus, Iris, a volunteer from the audience is steps into a magician’s box, and the box is set on fire. After the show her husband, Alex, goes backstage to find her (assuming it was a stunt!) But she never reappears. The circus itself vanishes overnight. Alex sets out to find out the truth about what happened to his wife.

3. The Book of Speculation by Erica Swyler– Simon is a librarian, living alone in his family home on Long Island. When a book dealer sends him a mysterious volume that may have some connection to his family, Simon gets caught up in the tale it tells, of a misfit living and working with a traveling circus. But he soon comes to realize that the book may reveal a curse on his family. If Simon is right, it may be the only thing that can save his sister.

4. Joyland by Stephen King– This book is more in the crime genre (with some supernatural crossover) than the horror with which King is usually associated. Devon Jones starts working at an amusement park in a small town in North Carolina in the summer of 1973. The first half of the book has a nostalgic feel as Devon comes to know the workers at the park. He befriends a dying boy (who has a secret), and falls for the boy’s beautiful mother. The second half gets more into a murder mystery.

5. The Museum of Extraordinary Things by Alice Hoffman- The Museum of Extraordinary Things is not a museum at all. It’s a Coney Island freak show in 1911. Coralie Sardie is the owner’s daughter. She’s an excellent swimmer who appears as a mermaid in the show. When she encounters photographer Eddie Cohen, a runaway from his community and his job, they fall in love. But when Eddie photographs the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire, he gets pulled into the mystery behind a girl’s disappearance.

6. Twilight Eyes by Dean Koontz– Slim McKenzie has premonitions. He can also see what he calls “goblins” who hate and inflict suffering on humanity. When he kills one of these goblins, he runs away to join a travelling carnival. Where he discovers that goblins abound. Initially, I thought that the “goblins” were a metaphor for bad people. I thought Slim’s ability to see them was an ability to see through the civil façade that these people present. Then I realized they were actually demonic creatures, but then the explanation of their existence veers more into realm of sci-fi.

7. Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen– Jacob is a veterinary student who is orphaned and penniless. When he crosses paths with the Benzini Brothers Most Spectacular Show on Earth, he is hired care for the animals. He meets the beautiful Mariana, a beautiful horseback rider married to August, an abusive animal trainer. He also meets Rosie, the “untrainable” elephant. I had my issues with this book, but the circus setting and lure is the best part.

8. Nights at the Circus by Angela Carter– Sophie Fevvers is an aerialist, and the start of Colonel Kearney’s circus. She also claims to be part swan. Journalist Jack Walser is intrigued by her story and joins the circus on its European tour to find out the truth about her, And he falls in love with Sophie (of course!)

9. Something Wicked This Way Comes by Ray Bradbury- I think of this as coming of age meets horror/dark fantasy. When Cooger & Dark’s Pandemonium Shadow Show comes to Greentown, Illinois in time for Halloween, and Jim Nightshade and Will Halloway are a bit enthralled by the mirror maze and carousel that can make someone grow older or younger depending on if they ride it forwards or backwards. But an something sinister and evil is using the carnival as a way to harvest souls. Jim and Will, along with Will’s father, Charles, have to learn some important lessons to fight the evil force which has invaded their home.

10. Jurassic Park by Michael Crichton– When you think about it, Jurassic Park is really an amusement park gone horribly wrong. Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the past 30 years or so, you’re probably at least semi-aware that it’s about a rich man who harnesses technology for recovering and cloning dinosaur DNA. He sets up a theme park where people can see the dinosaurs up close. But after a series of incidents prior to the opening, a team of experts come to evaluate the safety of the park. But it soon becomes clear that the people who made the park overestimated their control over mother nature.

Top Ten Tuesday: Places in Books I Would NOT Want to Live

For That Artsy Reader Girl’s Top Ten Tuesday:

March 30: Places In Books I’d Love to Live

For this one I decided to twist things a bit: I’ve given a bit of thought to places in books I’d want to visit/see (here and here ) but these are places I would avoid!

1.Manderley in Rebecca by Daphne DuMaurier- In this case the problem is the servants. Well, really just the housekeeper Mrs. Danvers; but she’s cruel, treacherous, cunning and destructive. Who wants to live with that?

2. Hogwarts in the Harry Potter series by JK Rowling– Here there would be two major issues. One is the fact that I have a crappy sense of direction and I’d probably get lost all the time. The other is the ghosts in the bathrooms. There are some places I just need privacy, and that’s one of them.

3. Panam in The Hunger Games trilogy by Suzanne Collins- The reasons for this one should be fairly obvious. But I would always worry about being chosen for the Hunger Games. I know if I was selected I’d be one of the first to die. Actually there are a lot of dystopias I wouldn’t want to live in. I won’t list them all (that would be a different list) but really most of them sound pretty awful!

4. Obernewtyn in the Obernewtyn Chronicles by Isobelle Carmody– You could call this one a dystopia I suppose. It takes place in a pretty awful post-nuclear holocaust world. But Obernewtyn itself, after the first book in the series (where it’s a horrible place), becomes sort of a refuge. So I suppose if I had to live in that world this is where I’d choose, but I’d rather not live there at all thankyouverymuch. Just a note: these books are pretty popular in Australia but I think they deserve to be better known in the US.

5. Thornfield Hall in Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte– In this one, the biggest problem is the madwoman in the attic who constantly escapes the woman who’s supposed to be watching her, and starts fires. When picking literary houses, that’s an issue I just can’t overlook.

6. Wuthering Heights in Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte– This one is pretty bad too. From the master of the house who is on a vengeful mission, to the ghost who wanders the moors outside, I would just rather not deal with any of them.

7. Neverworld Wake in Neverworld Wake by Marisha Pessl- Sort of a limbo state between life and death where the characters must relive the day of their deaths over and over again until they vote on one member of the group to be the sole survivor. Not only does the prospect of limbo sound bad, but reliving the same day endlessly until you make an impossible decision? No thank you!

8. Foxworth Hall in the Dollinganger series by VC Andrews– In this house I don’t know what’s worse: the religious fanatic owners, the greedy, heartless daughter, the sadistic butler, or the four kids locked up in the attic.

9. The Overlook Hotel in The Shining by Stephen King– Even if it weren’t for the malevolent ghosts that drive you crazy, I wouldn’t want to live somewhere that’s so isolated. Plus, the fact that you have to take care of the boiler carefully or the whole place will blow up, sounds very stressful. So the fact that it’s haunted just makes it a bit worse. Really any/every haunted house book falls in this category (similar to dystopias) but I won’t list them all.

Top Ten Tuesday: Small Town Novels

For That Artsy Reader Girl’s Top Ten Tuesday:

ttt-new

This week’s topic was:

August 11: Books I Loved but Never Reviewed

But the thing is that there are a lot of books I’ve loved but never reviewed. My reviewing a book has more to do with time/inclination than love.

Since I wasn’t feeling this week’s topic, so I decided to go with one of my own. I’m definitely more of a big city girl IRL. But I do appreciate some small town fiction.

  1. 71pevpzotdl._ac_uy218_Sharp Objects by Gillian Flynn– Camille is a reporter who returns to the small town of Wind Gap, Missouri  to investigate the disappearance of two teenage girls. She finds a town that’s even more toxic than the one she left years earlier. At the same time she must grapple with some equally toxic family relationships.
  2. 81jwx0nliyl._ac_uy218_Anne of Green Gables by LM Montgomery– Avonlea is practically a character in these novels (most of them at least). Actually most of Montgomery’s work features small PEI based towns that play a large role in the story.
  3. a1eoxybsj5l._ac_uy218_We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson– The small town takes on a villainous role in this one. I think it rivals Wind Gap for toxicity! This town has it’s own set of witches (sort of), but the “normal” townspeople might be more dangerous than the witches!
  4. 91paeh4pugl._ac_uy218_Garden Spells by Sarah Addison Allen- A lot of Allen’s fiction is set in small towns, but this one (and the sequel First Frost) is set in Bascom, North Carolina. It’s a typical small Southern town in many ways, but some of the residents (namely the Waverly family) are anything but typical. That fact sends Sydney Waverly out of town right after high school graduation. But it might also be what brings her back.
  5. 91j44fyb1ml._ac_uy218_Salem’s Lot by Stephen King- I’m actually not a big fan of  this novel, but one thing that King does in it really successfully (IMO) is create a portrait of mundane, everyday evil. We see acts of abuse and bullying that make up the fabric of daily life in ‘Salem’s Lot. Ultimately I think that’s more chilling than the vampires that eventually make an appearance.
  6. 81ap62fhl._ac_uy218_Shakespeare’s Landlord by Charlaine Harris– I know that the Sookie Stackhouse novels, the Aurora Teagarden series and the Midnight, Texas series are also set in small towns (and have small screen adaptations) but those never really resonated with me. I prefer this series set in Shakespeare, Arkansas. I included this book because it’s the first, but any of the others also apply.
  7. 41fsa9p0jul._ac_uy218_Peyton Place by Grace Metalious– This novel is about how three women come to terms with their identity as women and sexual beings in a very conservative, small, gossipy New England town. This book was a major bestseller when it came out in the 50’s (it was quite scandalous because it dealt with subjects like incest, abortion, adultery, and murder; as well as larger issues like hypocrisy, social inequality, and economic privilege) . It spawned a sequel, and both books got film adaptations. It also inspired a successful TV series. I read it years ago, and don’t remember much in terms of plot, but I do remember that secret filled town.
  8. 713lu0aeegl._ac_uy218_Empire Falls by Richard Russo– The titular town in this novel is a working class town sees through the eyes of Miles Robey. Miles owns the Empire Grill (where everyone in town seems to eat) and is father to a teenager.
  9. 81d3bhbgngl._ac_uy218_Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng- Shaker Heights prides itself on being an open minded small town.  Mia Warren and her daughter Pearl arrive and make a home for themselves there. But when a controversial custody case divides opinions in town, Mia finds herself on the opposite side from her employers, the Richardson family. The split could have dangerous consequences.
  10. 81ay1lxk9l._ac_uy218_To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee– I think that Maycomb, Alabama is one of the of first places I think of when I think of fictional small towns. Like many, it’s a close knit community where there’s a lot of gossip and people know each other’s business. It’s harmless, until it’s not. We see another side of this town from a different perspective in Go Set a Watchman.

Top Ten Tuesday: Books Set in A Single Location

For That Artsy Reader Girl’s Top Ten Tuesday:

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April 23: (First Ten) Books I Reviewed (These do not have to be formal reviews. A small sentence on a retailer site or Goodreads counts, too! Submitted by Rissi @ Finding Wonderland)

Since I can’t think of where to begin with that (I’ve written some form of book reviews for years!) I decided to make up my own topic: books set in a single location. While some of these have an opening and/or closing scene in another location all of them have about 70-80% of the narrative set in one space.  Some books, like Room, don’t apply because they’re only 50% in one space and then the story moves elsewhere. Others, like Jane Eyre or The Shining, are set largely in one place but important events to the story and the characters happen elsewhere, during the action of the story.

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1. Bel Canto by Ann Patchett- While there are flashbacks to other places at other times, the bulk of the action in this novel takes place while the characters are held hostage in home of the Vice President of an unnamed South American country.

51qf7-d2cl-_ac_us218_2. Flowers in the Attic by VC Andrews– About 85% of this book takes place in the attic of Foxworth Hall. About 10% takes place elsewhere in Foxworth Hall. I think only the first chapter or two takes place in another location.

51sslc2wctl-_ac_us218_3. Misery by Stephen King– This novel is set entirely (save for the epilogue) in an isolated farmhouse where the main character, novelist Paul Sheldon, is being held hostage by Annie Wilkes, a woman who rescued him from a car wreck somewhere in the Colorado Rockies.

51lz9ueudjl-_ac_us218_4. Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie–  In this case all the action takes place on a train. The train itself moves (until it’s stopped by a snowdrift somewhere in Croatia) but no one gets on or off.

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5. The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson– In this case we learn things about the characters, and their lives prior to their arrival at Hill House, and their motivations for being there, but the action of the story itself takes place in the house.

51mny8nb9il-_ac_us218_6. The Ruins by Scott Smith- I’d estimate the first 20% of this book is set elsewhere in Mexico, leading up to the four protagonists arriving at the titular ruins. But from the moment they arrive there, they’re trapped.

518ejevmohl-_ac_us218_7. The Woman in the Window by AJ Finn– In this case, the protagonist, Anna Fox, is  an agoraphobic who is unable to leave her Harlem townhouse. We learn about how she developed her condition via a flashback but a few steps outside of the door is as far as we see her travel during the action of the plot.

41oieugca5l-_ac_us218_8. One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest by Ken Kesey– The action of this novel is set almost entirely in a mental hospital. Once again, we learn (in some cases) how the characters ended up there, but that information is conveyed via flashback and conversation.

Does anyone have any other novels set predominately in one location?

 

 

 

Gothic Book Tag

In honor of Halloween I decided to do the Classic Club’s Gothic Book Tag

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Warning: Spoilers Abound

Below we have thirteen questions to creep you out and send shivers up your spine!

The rules are easy.

  1. Answer the 13 questions with classic books in mind.
  2. How you define ‘classic’ is up to you.
  3. How you define ‘scary’ is up to you (it could be content, size of book, genre etc).
  4. Add your link back here when you’re done.
  5. If you’re feeling social, visit other blogs and leave a comment or share your thoughts on twitter, fb, instagram or goodreads using #CCgothicbooktag
  6. Join in if you dare.

Which classic book has scared you the most? I think that The Shining by Stephen King was a pleasant surprise to me. I’d seen the film prior to reading the book, so I thought that I had an idea of what to expect, but it was an entirely different ballgame. The film basically takes on a similar premise (a couple and their young child act as caretakers of an isolated, haunted hotel in winter) and the same character names but little else. That doesn’t mean it’s a bad film by any means, but it’s a separate thing. Stephen King agrees. In the film, the bulk of the horror is internal stemming from the character Jack Torrance. I’ve actually see arguments that it all took place in the character’s head. In the book, you can’t make that argument. Once I realized that this was going to be a different experience I was along for the ride. The internal and external horror in the book is difficult to separate. Jack Torrance, is an alcoholic with a history of anger issues, who is trying to stay sober for the sake of his wife, Wendy and son, Danny. The evil in the hotel draws the evil inside Jack to the surface, and it comes to possess him, using his internal weaknesses as weapons. At the same time, Jack’s son, Danny has psychic abilities that cause the supernatural activity to become more powerful. Echoes from the hotel’s violent past, make for a dangerous threat in the present when he is around. His ability make him stronger because the hotel can’t posses him, but it also makes him a target for harm.  I liked that the film made all of the horror internal. That was an interesting story as well. But the book is how the internal weaknesses and in Danny’s case, gifts, are weaponized by external forces, and how the lines between internal and external blur. It’s a different story.

Scariest moment in a book? In The Haunting of Hill House when Eleanor and Theodora are in the bedroom and someone (or something…) is trying to open the door. They’re holding hands, and then Eleanor comes to realize that it’s not Theodora whose hand she’s holding… Something about the idea of being in a frightening situation, reaching out for support and realizing that the person you reached out to, thinking it meant safety, may be the very thing you feared gets to me!

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Classic villain that you love to hate? I think Mrs. Danvers in Rebecca is great. You wouldn’t expect a middle aged housekeeper to be a threatening villain, but her idealization of and obsession with Rebecca; combined with the unnamed narrator’s insecurity and inferiority complex, makes her powerful enough to almost drive the narrator to suicide.

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Creepiest setting in a book? I think the marshes in The Woman in Black are pretty creepy. It’s a lonely, isolated place and Eel Marsh House is at the mercy of the constantly changing weather. Because the landscape is flat and wet, and there aren’t any distinguishing characteristics like trees to break things up, it feels endless and becomes hard to tell where the sky ends and the begins. This atmosphere makes it a perfect place for the supernatural because boundaries between land and water and earth and sky are already blurred. It’s easy to imagine the boundary between life and death being similarly distorted.

Best scary cover ever? I actually haven’t even read this book yet, but this cover of Shirley Jackson’s The Bird’s Nest creeps me out. How did the girl’s head get in the nest? Was it cut off and put in there? Or did it grow put of there? Why is there an egg on her eye, and what is coming out of the egg?

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Book you’re too scared to read? I’m pretty brave! I haven’t encountered a book as an adult that was too scary to read/finish. As a child on the other hand? It’s a long and fairly embarrassing list!

Spookiest creature in a book? I’ll go with Mr. Hyde from The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. There’s good and bad in everyone. I think in many ways the scariest thing is the evil that we’re all capable of. In this book that happens to be synthesized into a separate being. But the creepiest thing is that Jekyll and Hyde are the same person. Jekyll is presented to the reader as imperfect but a fundamentally decent human being. But everything that Hyde does, including murder, is something that Jekyll has the capability of doing. If he didn’t, Hyde wouldn’t be able to do it either. I think that’s a scary thought!

Classic book that haunts you to this day? I think that in some ways We Have Always Lived in the Castle haunts me more than The Haunting of Hill House. We have these sisters who have been isolated by their town after Constance, the older sister, was acquitted for the murder of their whole family. Merricat, the younger sister, likes this state of affairs, which is threatened when an estranged cousin, Charles, turns up. I suppose that I like that the threats in this book come from so many different sources: there’s the hostile townspeople who think that Constance got away with murder; Charles, who forms a close relationship with the naive Constance, and may be trying to take advantage of her; and Merricat herself, who will lash out dangerously when she thinks her life with her sister is threatened. It’s disturbing because ultimately it has “happy”  ending, at least from Merricat’s point of view. She sets fire to the house, which dives Charles away, and she and Constance live out their days happily (at least according to Merricat, who is an unreliable narrator) in the burned out carcass of their family home.  They become fairy tale witches in a “castle” overlooking a town that fears them.

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Favourite cliffhanger or unexpected twist?  I’m not sure I’d call it “scary” per se though there are certainly some very creepy/atmospheric moments, but I read Fingersmith on a crowded train and when I came to the end of the first portion of the book, I literally yelled out “Holy crap!” It was a bit embarrassing but this twist totally reset my perception of the characters and the plot.

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Classic book you really, really disliked? I’m not sure you’d call it a “classic,” but I’m not a fan of Anne Rice. Interview With A Vampire did nothing for me. But then I’m not a huge fan of vampires in general.

Character death that disturbed/upset you the most?  I’ll go with Miles in The Turn of the Screw. The narrative is ambiguous so what happens to him could be one of several (disturbing) possibilities. Either he has somehow been manipulated and attacked by the ghost of an employee at his uncle’s estate; or his governess is insane and the ghosts are her delusions, and she kills him in some way and blames it on the supernatural in her mind. In either scenario, he’s a child who is at the mercy of an adult he trusts.

List your top 5 Gothic/scary/horror classic reads.  

Rebecca by Daphne DuMaurier

The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins

The Shining by Stephen King

The Woman in Black by Susan Hill

The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson

But really most of the books in this post are good!

Share your scariest/creepiest quote, poem or meme.

“I do know that for the sympathy of one living being, I would make peace with all. I have love in me the likes of which you can scarcely imagine and rage the likes of which you would not believe. If I cannot satisfy the one, I will indulge the other.”
― Mary Shelley, Frankenstein

I think this quote disturbs me because what it expresses is so true. Most people who cause harm and destruction, do so because they have been hurt deeply themselves. Frankenstein’s monster is a character who does a lot of damage but does it because he’s never been nurtured or loved. The idea that all of that violence could have been turned in a positive direction and potentially made the world a better place, is both heartbreaking and frightening. Once we start to see villains as people who have suffered, our sympathies are engaged, and depending on the villainous actions, this can be disturbing too. We don’t want to feel sympathy for monsters because we want them to feel “other” in a fundamental way. Once we feel bad for them, we start to understand their actions, which makes us feel really uncomfortable.