Book Review : White is for Witching

White is for Witching by  Helen Oyeyemi

4 star read

Why I read:  Book Club pick for October.

Book blurb: “In a vast, mysterious house on the cliffs near Dover, the Silver family is reeling from the hole punched into its heart. Lily is gone and her twins, Miranda and Eliot, and her husband, the gentle Luc, mourn her absence with unspoken intensity. All is not well with the house, either, which creaks and grumbles and malignly confuses visitors in its mazy rooms, forcing winter apples in the garden when the branches should be bare. Generations of women inhabit its walls. And Miranda, with her new appetite for chalk and her keen sense for spirits, is more attuned to them than she is to her brother and father. She is leaving them slowly –

Slipping away from them –

And when one dark night she vanishes entirely, the survivors are left to tell her story.

“Miri I conjure you “

This is a spine-tingling tale that has Gothic roots but an utterly modern sensibility. Told by a quartet of crystalline voices, it is electrifying in its expression of myth and memory, loss and magic, fear and love.

 white

 

My review

Oyeyemi’s writing is magical.  She beautifully crafts words together to create a dark gothic atmosphere.  Words weave together,  suggesting things, lyrically grasping at your imagination.  The plot itself is bewildering and confusing. The narrative switches to different peoples viewpoints continuously and sometimes without any headers to indicate who we are now following.  The plot seems to meander along, back and forth through time till you no longer know where you are.  But somehow that works with the strange almost poetry of the words.  Its a book to read and absorb the atmosphere from.

It’s a book about mental health, how reality and illusion blend together when the mind is fragmented.  She captures the fragility of the mind wonderfully.  The main character “Miri” has a form of Pica, an eating disorder, where she consumes chalk.  She is a weird character, and I never felt like I got to know her.  But that fit into the atmosphere of the book as it seemed like Miri did not know herself or what was going on.

I was disappointed that there weren’t any actual witches in the book given the title.   The ending is left open so its not one for people who like all the loose ends tied neatly together in a book.

I’d recommend to anyone who likes:  weird tales, atmospheric books, ghosts,

“I collected pictures and I drew pictures and I looked at the pictures by myself. And because no one else ever saw them, the pictures were perfect and true. They were alive.” 
― Helen OyeyemiWhite is for Witching

****

244 pages
Published June 1st 2009 by Picador USA
ISBN  03304581404
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Book Review : The Unity Game – An inspiring vision – including author Q&A

The Unity Game  by Leonora Meriel

Why I read:   Intriguing sci-fi that sounded different to anything I’d read before.

Book blurb: “WHAT IF THE EARTH YOU KNEW WAS JUST THE BEGINNING?

A New York banker is descending into madness.

A being from an advanced civilization is racing to stay alive.
A dead man must unlock the secrets of an unknown dimension to save his loved ones.

From the visions of Socrates in ancient Athens, to the birth of free will aboard a spaceship headed to Earth, The Unity Game tells a story of hope and redemption in a universe more ingenious and surprising than you ever thought possible.  “

 My review

When I finished the book,  I put it down and thought – what did I just read and how do I begin to review it?  I can’t even explain why its called the Unity Game without giving away the surprise and wonder inside.

The Unity Game is a really thought provoking interstellar mystery.  Its both strange and beautiful. Three main stories, intertwine with each other:  David a New York Banker who is obsessed with making his fortune and thoughtless egoism, Alisdair a Scottish barrister who is exploring the afterlife and Noœ-bouk an energy-channelling alien who is looking down on earth from his alien perspective.  Each one explores the meanings and perception of life  as their story unfolds.  But each story is meaningfully connected to the other.  There are dark, gritty areas in the book but overall its a book of love and mind-bending ideas.

More speculative fiction than sci-fi,  its a unique and complicated book with many themes running through it.  It doesn’t follow a totally sequential plot, more an intertwine of stories that jump space, time, characters and states of conscious.  It contains a wonderful vision of the afterlife and the universe.  I love weird fiction and this book contains a magical obscure beauty. I took my time reading and pondering the ideas which will stay with me.  What if life is just one perception of a moment?  What is love?  What is the meaning of life?  I don’t have any answers but this book gave me new perspectives.

Overall I’d highly recommend reading The Unity Game.  Read and enjoy it with an open mind and be prepared to be surprised and delighted by the ideas that it contains within.

I’d recommend to anyone who likes:  speculative fiction, aliens, meaning of life, sci-fi, original ideas, interstellar mystery

****

I received a free advanced reader copy via Netgallery in return for an honest review.

Kindle Edition, 344 pages
Published April 25th 2017 by Granite Cloud

About the Author

 Leonora Meriel kindly gave me permission to share some added details about the book and herself.
 
Q&A from Leonora Meriel which give more insight into the book:

What inspired you to write Unity Game?

“I wanted to write about New York City, where I had lived for several years and where I started my career. However, I needed to find a new perspective on the theme, and it felt right to draw parallels with an advanced planet far from Earth. This is how the novel became Science Fiction, and then I decided to go a step further and add an after-life dimension. The inspiration started with my work on Wall Street when I lived in NYC, and the desire to write about this in an original way.”

Are you an avid reader? What kind of books do you like to read if so?

“Yes – I am an utterly avid reader. While my favourite genre is literary fiction, I try to read as widely as possible. I read across countries and across genres, I read independently published books and traditionally published books, I read fiction and non-fiction. My favourite books to read are those which have pushed some boundary of literature, for example Virginia Woolf, in her use of language; Haruki Murakami, in his expression of the borders of reality; David Mitchell, in his extraordinary word-crafting. Anything that is doing something new inspires and delights me.”

The following Q&A is from her website:

Tell us about your new novel The Unity Game?

“The Unity Game is a literary fiction and science fiction novel, with a few other genre elements mixed in. It is set in three locations: New York City, a distant planet, and an after-life dimension. It follows three story lines which deal with similar themes, and the story connects in the grand unity game, which is revealed towards the end. It is quite experimental, and has a lot of ideas in it. In the end, I hope that it is uplifting and makes my readers think differently about the world, and about their lives.”

The Unity Game has elements of Science Fiction. Do you read much in this genre?

“I certainly do! I really love science fiction writing when it is also literary fiction. My favourite is Stanislaw Lem’s Solaris which is overwhelmingly brilliant. Ursula Le Guin’s Left Hand of Darkness is also timeless. For newer writers, I am a huge fan of Ken Liu, who I think is one of the best authors of this century, for any genre. Through him, I also came to Cixin Liu’s The Three-Body Problem – another great work. Science Fiction is amazing because there are no limits to where you can let your imagination go. And when wild ideas are combined with disciplined, brilliant writing – you get a masterpiece like Solaris or The Paper Menagerie.”

Did your books need a lot of research?

“For The Unity Game, the New York part needed the most research. I had lived in Manhattan for several years, and had written the entire section from memory, but I had to go back there and check all my details. Google Street View is very useful nowadays, of course! One of my characters dies in the first scene and finds himself in an after-life dimension, so I did a lot of reading about after-life experiences and beliefs. That was very fun. And one of my characters is the philosopher Socrates, so I had to read some Plato and some biographies. I didn’t have to do too much research for the Science Fiction part – mainly I had to make sure I wasn’t repeating an idea that had already been written about.”

About the Author

Leonora Meriel grew up in London and studied literature at the University of Edinburgh in Scotland and Queen’s University in Canada. She worked at the United Nations in New York, and then for a multinational law firm.

In 2003 she moved from New York to Kyiv, where she founded and managed Ukraine’s largest Internet company. She studied at Kyiv Mohyla Business School and earned an MBA, which included a study trip around China and Taiwan, and climbing to the top of Hoverla, Ukraine’s highest peak and part of the Carpathian Mountains. She also served as President of the International Women’s Club of Kyiv, a major local charity.

During her years in Ukraine, she learned to speak Ukrainian and Russian, witnessed two revolutions and got to know an extraordinary country at a key period of its development.

In 2008, she decided to return to her dream of being a writer, and to dedicate her career to literature. In 2011, she completed The Woman Behind the Waterfall, set in a village in western Ukraine. While her first novel was with a London agent, Leonora completed her second novel The Unity Game, set in New York City and on a distant planet.

Leonora currently lives in Barcelona and London and has two children. She is working on her third novel.

You can read more about Leonora and read an extract from the book: http://leonorameriel.com/the-unity-game/

Book Review : I Am Behind You : Surreal atmospheric horror

I Am Behind You – by John Ajvide Lindqvist

5 star read

Why I read:   New horror by the author of Let the Right One In – how could I resist.

Book blurb: “A new heart-breaking and terrifying novel from John Ajvide Lindqvist, the author of international bestseller Let the Right One In

Molly wakes her mother to go to the toilet. The campsite is strangely blank. The toilet block has gone. Everything else has gone too. This is a place with no sun. No god.

Just four families remain. Each has done something to bring them here – each denies they deserve it. Until they see what’s coming over the horizon, moving irrevocably towards them. Their worst mistake. Their darkest fear. And for just one of them, their homecoming.

This gripping conceptual horror takes you deep into one of the most macabre and unique imaginations writing in the genre. On family, on children, Lindqvist writes in a way that tears the heart and twists the soul. I Am Behind You turns the world upside down and, disturbing, terrifying and shattering by turns, it will suck you in. ”

 My review

What did I just read?  It’s surreal, confusing, horrific, disturbing, filled with unpleasant people, with horrific things happening to everyone.  Its a totally original horror story.  One that will stay with me.  Hauntingly grotesque.  I want to make everyone read it.  Then tell me their interpretation of what the hell just happened.

The true beauty of the book is how well written all the characters are.  The dark side of people’s nature is thoroughly explored.  All the characters were fleshed out humans, people who made mistakes, had dark thoughts and deeds.  They were flawed and Lindqvist takes you right to their darkest secrets and their shame.  Most were unpleasant people but a child Emil and dog and cat were quite innocent.  Within there is also the warmth of friendship, parenthood, kindness and consideration for others.   I did find I was still able to emphasise with most of the characters because of the solid backstories Lindqvist paints for them all, you saw how they were driven to dark deeds and got a deep insight into their heads.  You might not like the characters but you can get them and this makes the horrors that happen all the more terrifying and fascinating.   Its a book about people, about society, supernatural and darkness.

The first half of the book is mainly spent exploring the characters.  However I don’t want to speak too much of the second half of the book for fear of spoiling it for anyone.  There are many unpleasant incidents, acid rain, tortured beings, fears brought to life.  You never find out why or what is really happening.  Why are they even there and how did they get there?  I loved the mystery of this but if you like horror neatly tied up with explanations then this is not the book for you.   It’s all very surreal and the 2nd half of the book especially is darkly unsettling and scary.  I’d really love to see this book turned into a horror film.  A seriously creepy horror film that gets under your skin and stays there.

I gave it a solid 5 stars because I enjoyed it so much.  I read it slowly as I wanted to enjoy the descriptive writing and fully experience the surreal atmospheric horror.  Its a book to put away and read again in the future.

I’d recommend to anyone who likes: horror, surreal atmosphere, weird happenings, exploring the dark-side of people’s nature.

*****

I received a free advanced reader copy via Netgallery in return for an honest review.

Pub Date 07 Sep 2017  by riverrun (first published August 1st 2014)

ISBN 9781786480392

Original Title: Himmelstrand

Book review – The Travelling Bag – And Other Ghostly Stories

The Travelling Bag And Other Ghostly Stories by Susan Hill

Why I read:  I’ve previously enjoyed spooky ghost stories by Susan Hill.

Book blurb: “From the foggy streets of Victorian London to the eerie perfection of 1950s suburbia, the everyday is invaded by the otherworldly in this unforgettable collection of new ghost stories from the bestselling author of The Woman in Black.

In the title story, on a murky evening in a club off St James, a paranormal detective recounts his most memorable case, one whose horrifying denouement took place in that very building.

A lonely boy makes a friend in ‘Boy Number 21’, but years later is forced to question the very nature of that friendship.

‘Alice Baker’ tells the story of a mysterious new office worker who is accompanied by a lingering smell of decay.

And in ‘The Front Room’, a devoutly Christian mother tries to protect her children from the evil influence of their grandmother, both when she is alive and afterwards.

This paperback edition includes the chilling ‘Printer’s Devil Court’ in which three medical students make an unholy pact whose consequences will pursue one of them to the grave – and perhaps beyond.

This is Susan Hill at her best, telling characteristically creepy and surprising tales of thwarted ambition, terrifying revenge and supernatural stirrings that will leave you wide-awake long into the night.”

 

 

My review

The Travelling Bag and other Ghostly Stories contains 4 short  tales all eloquently written in Susan Hill’s gothic style.    They are all spooky stories that slowly creep up on you rather than gory horror.   As the atmosphere within each one slowly builds up like a  crescendo of eeriness to  their creepy finale.  Most are in the traditional Gothic style but a couple have a more contemporary setting.  These are all beautifully crafted to leave a chill down your spine.     You do have to  let your imagination run wild from the subtle suggestions contained but this just adds to the traditional style.

If you’ve loved previous books by Susan Hill definitely give these tales a spin.  They are not her best  stories however  fit beautifully into her collection of work.  I enjoyed all the tales.   Each one was different enough to keep my attention.  There is nothing groundbreaking in them but all are fine examples of gothic spookiness.   They are a quick and easy read I think the total page count for all is less than 200 pages. Perfect to read tucked up in bed on a dark stormy night.

Recommended for fans of: traditional ghost stories, spooky tales

I received a free advanced reader copy via Netgallery in return for an honest review.

***

EDITION
ISBN

Book Review Killing Is My Business – Robot Crime Noir

Killing Is My Business A Novel by Adam Christopher (Ray Electromatic Mysteries #2)

Why I read: Robots!!!! Crime noir.

Book blurb: “A blend of science fiction and stylish mystery noir featuring a robot detective: the stand alone sequel to Made to Kill

Another golden morning in a seedy town, and a new memory tape for intrepid PI-turned-hitman–and last robot left in working order– Raymond Electromatic. When his comrade-in-electronic-arms, Ada, assigns a new morning roster of clientele, Ray heads out into the LA sun, only to find that his skills might be a bit rustier than he expected….Killing is My Business is the latest in Christopher’s noir oeuvre, hot on the heels of the acclaimed Made to Kill.

“Robot noir in 60s Los Angeles? You had me at ‘Hello.'” —John Scalzi, New York Times bestselling novelist on Made to Kill”?”

My review

Ray Electromatic, is the last robot. He works as as a Private Investigator but as the pay is better he sidelines as a hitman under the guidance of a supercomputer, Ada.  Every 24 hours his memory tape run out and he has to be reset by Ada with data for his current assignment.   Here the action packed novel begins as we follow Ray as he begins his current task  to infiltrate a gang and kill the boss.

This book is great robotic fun.   A quick and easy read with plenty of laughs. Filled with robots, explosions, car chases, gangsters, murder and a huge dollop of noir.  A  crime mystery with little twists alongside the main plot line that keeps everything entertaining.  There’s even a touch of “what does it mean to be human” philosophy thrown in.  It doesn’t take itself seriously and there is a lot of tongue in cheek humour.  Ray is a brilliantly lovable character, fun, witty and  endearing as he overcomes everything the world throws at him.

I haven’t read the first novel in the series but this did not seem to matter at all I enjoyed it as a standalone book.

I’d recommend it to:  fans of robots, crime noir, and anyone who wants a  fun read to brighten their day.

I received a free advanced reader copy via Netgallery in return for an honest review.

****

Hardcover, 288 pages   (I read ARC on PDF)
Published July 25th 2017 by Tor Books
ISBN  0765379201 (ISBN13: 9780765379207)

 

Book Review: A Man of Shadows – Noir sci-fi mystery

A Man of Shadows – Jeff Noon

Why I read:   I was intrigued by the mix of sci-fi and detective story with a serial killer thrown into the mix.

Book blurb: “”The brilliant, mind-bending return to science fiction by one of its most acclaimed visionaries.

Below the neon skies of Dayzone – where the lights never go out, and night has been banished – lowly private eye John Nyquist takes on a teenage runaway case. His quest takes him from Dayzone into the permanent dark of Nocturna.

As the vicious, seemingly invisible serial killer known only as Quicksilver haunts the streets, Nyquist starts to suspect that the runaway girl holds within her the key to the city’s fate. In the end, there’s only one place left to search: the shadow-choked zone known as Dusk.”

My review

Five star read:

A wonderful blend of sci-fi and mystery with a noir feel. Jeff Noon is a master of descriptive prose. Intricate writing and vivid depictions bring the complex world to life. Its dark, disturbing with plenty of bizareness thrown into the mix. Amazing world building in a city where time is a commodity and citizens move from one time to another adjusting their wristwatches to match one of the different timelines on offer. The city is split into 3 zones: Dayzone where darkness has been banished by billions of light sources and it is always bright. Nocturna where darkness lives. And the area in between which people refer to as Dusk where it is rumoured ghosts, shadows and dark shapes live within the mist.

Nyquist’s latest job is to track down a runaway girl Eleanor. But the case turns out much more complex as it appears Eleanor may hold the key to the city’s future. Whilst a vicious serial killer known as Quicksilver stalks the streets of Dayzone adding another dimension of horror to the tale. The writing is deeply layered as we follow Nyquist on his quest more and more complexity is revealed. There were plot twists I didn’t see coming which I love in a good mystery. Because it was a complex book this one took me a while to read but I still really enjoyed it.

John Nyquist is an interesting many-layered protagonist, a noir detective, a tough looking man with raw edges and a sharp mind. Eleanor Bale is another complex character an 18 year old girl, combining beauty and fragility with amazing strength. There are a multitude of other interesting and varied characters all well fleshed out.

I loved the book so much its going in my must read again pile. I can’t wait for a sequel. Its certainly changed the way I think of time.

I’d recommend to anyone who enjoys, sci-fi, urban fantasy, mystery, detective noir, wierd fiction and likes complex and layered stories.

I received a free advanced reader copy via Netgallery and Angry Robot in return for an honest review.

*****

Expected publication: August 1st 2017 by Angry Robot

Paperback: 384 pages   (I read an advanced copy on pdf)

ISBN: 9780857666703

Book Review – Wylding Hall – Spooky Acid-Folk Tale

Wylding Hall – by Elizabeth Hand

Why I read:  Book club pick

Select Quote “ But there was a feeling we all had that we were in a magic place, and we wanted to make the most of it. And we were young, so our powers of recovery were remarkable. We could drink all night, smoke till the house was spinning, do the odd bit of windowpane or blotter, busk at the pub if we needed a bit of ready cash for groceries, and still pop up bright-eyed and bushy-tailed and hop down to the living room, strap on our mighty axes, and get to work. ”

Book blurb: “When the young members of a British acid-folk band are compelled by their manager to record their unique music, they hole up at Wylding Hall, an ancient country house with dark secrets. There they create the album that will make their reputation, but at a terrifying cost: Julian Blake, the group’s lead singer, disappears within the mansion and is never seen or heard from again.

Now, years later, the surviving musicians, along with their friends and lovers—including a psychic, a photographer, and the band’s manager—meet with a young documentary filmmaker to tell their own versions of what happened that summer. But whose story is true? And what really happened to Julian Blake??”

My review

A haunting story about the disappearance of Julian Blake, lead singer of an Acid-folk band.   “When he was young, Julian was almost unearthly; he was so handsome, it was difficult for me at first to keep my eyes from him. Spooky beautiful.”  Jon.  The band are sent by their manager to Wylding Hall, an old gothic house which is remote and in disrepair in order to create their album without distractions but strange events unfold.  Some years later the people involved meet with a film maker to tell what happened at Wylding Hall.

The story has an interesting structure and is set out in the form of interviews with the various people who were present at the time including the musicians, manager a psychic and a photographer.  This tells the tale from many different points of view with each person giving their own thoughts and opinions of what happened in Wylding Hall.  However sometimes you couldn’t distinguish which character you were reading as some were similar.

It beautifully entwines music, spookiness and  subcultures as the main tale is set in the 70s folk scene.  I loved the British feel and references that speckled the book.   There is a sprinkle of folktales that add to the creepiness.  The atmosphere of the book is more of a mild subtle spookiness, than horror. Personally I would have preferred more creepiness and some more explanation and horror at the end as it is quite ambiguous.  Although I found the end a bit disappointing it was still a wonderfully written tale.

I really wanted to listen to this bands music – especially their haunting folk sounds played out in the garden. So I wish there was an audio-file to accompany the book to further set the atmosphere.

Its a nice quick easy read at under 200 pages, giving a  70s twist on the traditional gothic ghost story.

Id recommend to fans of band bibliographies, gothic ghost stories and mystery.

****

 ebook, 176 pages
Published February 17th 2015 by Open Road Integrated