July 31, 2003
The Collector of Hearts: New Tales of the Grotesque by Joyce Carol Oates

The Collector of Hearts: New Tales of the Grotesque by Joyce Carol Oates: normally I love anthologies and enjoy reading them greatly, but this one was an exception.

I’ve mentioned before that while I don’t mind “vague” stories - stories where you don’t really know what’s going on, who the people are, or why they’re there - full books of them always are tedious for me to make my way through. Unfortunately, most of the stories is The Collector of Hearts were of the vague kind, so I didn’t really enjoy the book and couldn’t wait for it to be over.

There were some good stories in it - notably “The Sky Blue Ball,” “Death Mother,” “Schroeder’s Stepfather,” “The Sepulchre,” “The Sons of Angus Macelster,” “The Affliction,” “Unprintable,” “Valentine,” and “The Crossing.” Mostly these stories had less of a vagueness to them and I felt it easier to connect to the characters.

All in all, not a bad book, but not really recommended unless you’re a fan of the short story or of her.

July 27, 2003
Books of Blood (Volumes One to Three) by Clive Barker

Books of Blood (Volumes One to Three) by Clive Barker: I hadn’t reread any of Clive Barker’s books in quite some time, so when a co-worker and I ended up discussing some of his short stories, I had to immediately re-purchase the Books of Blood and immerse myself back into Clive Barker’s world.

These stories are extremely visceral and it’s easy to see why the term “splatterpunk” was coined with this type of writing in mind. His stories are very graphic and seem to have an underlying theme behind them - even though something horrible may be incredible horrible (a pig that speaks with a dead boy’s voice, for example), these events are still awe-inspiring in the truest since of the word and the way that the human mind reacts to them can be widely different than one would expect.

To me, Barker’s stories herein (and in most of his other work), the world exists with a veil that can be drawn away at any time. When I got done watching The Matrix for the first time, I was struck with the similarities between that world and the worlds that Barker creates.

Truthfully, I didn’t enjoy all of these stories as much as I did when I read them probably a little over ten years ago. However, many of them were still as strong and as moving as they were then. The best of these are “The Book of Blood,” “The Midnight Meat Train,” “In The Hills, The Cities” (probably my favorite story of his ever), “Dread,” “Hell’s Event,” “Jacqueline Ess: Her Last Will and Testament,” “The Skins of the Fathers,” “Son of Celluloid,” and “Rawhead Rex.”

If you like your stories strong and disturbing this collection is for you. If not, may be best that you skip, but you’ll never know until you try.

July 19, 2003
The Lovely Bones: A Novel by Alice Sebold

The Lovely Bones: A Novel by Alice Sebold: I tried to tell some friends who came over this weekend why exactly this book was so good, but it seems hard for most of the people to get past the fact that this book is by a girl who has just been raped and murdered by a family acquaintance as she watches down on her family from Heaven. Of course, her heaven has the high school that she went to with the wonderful architecture that she loved so, but they never have to go to class and their textbooks are Vogue and Seventeen.

Susie watches her family try and come to grip with the sudden hole that she has left in their midst. She can’t influence them, but she cannot tear herself away from them either.

What moved me most about this book was the way that the characters - from the boy who gave Susie her first kiss to her sister to her little brother to the girl who felt her soul leaving this earth to her killer - were intertwined. The story’s biggest impact on me was simply the way that one must learn to let go - not forget, no - but let go when a tragedy like this has occurred.

Sebold writes with a clear voice that makes all of the people in her book incredible real and alive. I can’t help but worry for her family as they try and stay together. I can’t help buy worry about Ray, the boy who kissed her - will he be able to move past almost having her?

Oddly, though, George Harvey, the man who killed Susie was never much in my mind. I think it was because I loved her family so, that as long as he wasn’t near them to do harm, he didn’t really matter much to me.

Despite the morbid tone to the idea of this book, this book does not ever come close to being morbid. In fact I found it full of promises, light, and hope and I hope that everyone will take time to read this amazing novel.

July 17, 2003
Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë

Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë: I was excited when I was able to borrow this book from a fellow Book Crossing member. I kept thinking, “Tragic, gothic romance. Should be right up my alley!” Unfortunately, I found it not to be.

I know that I’ve liked other books from this time period (Jane Eyre and (Madame Bovary for example), but I found Wuthering Heights to be extremely difficult to get into. I also had a rough time keeping track of the characters and their relationships to one another as well.

To me, I think the biggest problem was that I didn’t really like any of the characters. By having no particular character to root for, it became a laborious task to continue with the book. However, around page 200 or so, I finally found a character that I could sympathize with and like and I felt that the book picked up and managed to draw me in since I did want to see how it ended. I don’t know, though, if slogging through the first part of the novel made it worthwhile.

July 09, 2003
Buried Bones by Carolyn Haines

Buried Bones by Carolyn Haines: another Delta mystery that’s just as good as the first.

Once again we’re back into Sarah Boothe’s Souther world, but this time she’s trying to solve the murder of one of Zinnia’s most wonderful men - Lawrence Ambrose, an author who’s secrets lead directly to his demise.

Once again, we have Jitty the ghost haunting both Sarah Boothe and Dahlia House, but it a good motherly way. We also have the convoluted relationship between Harold and Sarah Boothe that seems to never be able to decide which way to go. Tinkie and Chablis are even back and more fiesty than ever.

As I said about Them Bones, the characters are just so real and wonderful that you can’t help but get sucked into the book. This one may be a bit more darker than the first, but it’s still a great read and I can’t wait to get the next book, Splintered Bones.

July 02, 2003
Them Bones by Carolyn Haines

Them Bones by Carolyn Haines: another fabulous female detective series. You just can never have enough books like these.

I completely loved everything about this book from the hot, steamy men to the dead, but very much alive and kicking, ghosts. The characters were great and while I suspected at first that they were going to be very generalized Southern belles and tough but sensitive Southern men I was pleasently disappointed. The people in this book are just that - people. They seem real and like individuals that I could know.

Another wonderful thing about this book is its Southerness, perfectly expressed by how much Sarah Boothe cares for Dahlia House and for the traditions that her life encompasses.

Let’s not ignore the fact that this is a mystery - and a pretty darn good one at that. I had no idea who was going to show up at the end of the book and was pretty surprised at what happened.

All in all, highly recommended period no matter what background you hail from.