Category Archives: Book Reviews

Margaret Atwood, Prophet of Dystopian Fiction: The Stone Mattress

The Stone Mattress by Margaret Atwood

Tuesday’s Tale of Suspense   August 22, 2017

 

“At the outset, Verna had not intended to kill anyone.”

Do you like small horrors? What about quiet horror?  If you’ve never experienced Margaret Atwood’s fiction (she’s written 40 novels and currently quite popular right now with her The Handmaid’s Tale—a misogyist society where women have no rights and are forced to serve as breeders), here’s a fascinating and suspenseful  story to give you an introduction, The Stone Mattress.

Imagine you are on an Arctic cruise and you come into contact with a man who raped you in high school.  What would you say to this person? Would you seek revenge or forgiveness? Come and meet Verna. She is biting and clever as she is beautiful and courageous.

This is a compelling story and my first experience with Atwood’s fiction. I was blown away by this highly intelligent story of drama and intrigue.

 

 

You’ve likely seen lots of promos for the bestselling and critically acclaimed The Handmaid’s Tale,  a film (1990) and the new series now available on Hulu. Atwood is enormously well read, especially by young writers. She began her career as a poet. Her writing is often in women’s-studies curricula; her stories explore issues of morality. The Handmaid’s Tale was on the American Library Association’s list of the top 100 banned books of the decade. Margaret Atwood is considered  to be the prophet of dystopian fiction.

 

The Handmaid’s Tale Trailer, film 1990, staring Faye Dunaway, Robert Duvall, Natasha Richardson, Elizabeth McGovern; Screenplay by Harold Pinter.

 

The Handmaid’s Tale Series Trailer on Hulu:

 

 

The Stone Mattress short story is part of  a collection named The Stone Mattress.

Read Margaret Atwood’s short story The Stone Mattress here at NewYorker.com/Magazine.

 

Do leave a comment!

 

 

 

 

Don’t forget to view the INDEX above of more free reading. This is a compendium of over 200 short stories by more than 100 famous storytellers of mystery, supernatural, ghost stories,  suspense, crime, sci-fi, and ‘quiet horror.’ Follow or sign up to join me in reading two short stories every month. Comments are welcome.

 

Other Reading Web Sites to Visit

Kirkus Mystery & Thrillers Reviews

Books & Such    Bibliophilica   NewYorkerFictionOnline

 Lovecraft Ezine   Parlor of Horror

HorrorNews.net   Fangoria.com   

Slattery’s Art of Horror Magazine   Chuck Windig’s Terrible Minds

HorrorAddicts.net     Horror Novel Reviews    HorrorSociety.com     

Monster Librarian      HorrorTalk.com 

 Rob Around Books      The Story Reading Ape Blog

For Authors/Writers:  The Writer Unboxed

EZindiepublishing

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Filed under Book Reviews, fiction, ghost story blogs, horror blogs, literary horror, murder mystery, quiet horror, Reading Fiction, short stories, short story blogs, suspense

Book Review: The History of Murder by Colin Wilson

Colin Wilson’s The History of Murder (nonfiction)

It has been said that man is the most violent creature on earth.

Read this book and you’ll be convinced this thought is true.  Wilson writes a history of homicide, covering a couple thousand years—quite a literary achievement. And he does so in very thoughtful ways. I read this book because I am a writer of mystery fiction; murder, death, ghosts, humanity are all part of my stories and exploration. If you study murder or are curious about the psychology of violence (or like to read about the dark side of life) this is one to add to your list. At over 600 pages and two inches thick, this is like an encyclopedia, but Wilson makes it more personal and sometimes philosophical. He explores why man is a killer. Wilson begins with Ivan the Terrible, Nero, Vlad the Impaler and the spectacular sadist Tamerlane. Lots of details that were a bit disturbing for me, especially Countess Elizabeth Bathory who enjoyed soaking in bathtubs filled with the human blood of young murdered girls. Moving on to Murder Elizabethan Style with a poisoned crucifix, disembowelments, castrations, beheadings, Jack the Ripper, British murders, sex crimes and serial killers. A lot to handle. Best way to read this is in small bites. I like Wilson’s narrative style and will likely read some of his fiction titles. At the end, Wilson says “in spite of three thousand years of cruelty and slaughter, there is still hope for the human race.” Read this book and you’ll know why.

 

 

 

Read all my book reviews on Amazon.com on my Paula Cappa Reviews page: https://www.amazon.com/gp/cdp/member-reviews/A1O7TTTF8K1E1L

 

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Filed under Book Reviews, ghost story blogs, horror blogs, literature, murder mystery, mysteries, short story blogs

Witch Hunt, Shirley Jackson Style

The Witch  by Shirley Jackson

Tuesday’s Tale of Terror   August 8, 2017

Everyday evil. Shirley Jackson is a master at the subtleties of normal life streaming with little horrors. Most of us know Jackson’s most famous The Lottery (which she reportedly wrote in one morning) and The Haunting of Hill House.  In this 14-minute read of The Witch, the story opens with a little boy and his mom on a train. There is a little sister too. All cozy, right? Enter the witch, and this one is far from the old crone  you’d expect.

 

 

 

 

 

Read the short story here at jlax.wikispaces.com.

 

Listen to the  11-minute audio here at YouTube.com

 

 

 

“Shirley Jackson is the master of the haunted tale . . .   Everything this author wrote . . . has in it the dignity and plausibility of myth . . .  Shirley Jackson knew better than any writer since Hawthorne the value of haunted things.”
The New York Times Book Review

“Leaves no doubt as to Miss Jackson’s craftsmanship and power . . . utterly convincing detail that breaks down the reader’s disbelief.”
Saturday Review

 

I also recommend Jackson’s We Have Always Lived in the Castle, a novella, twisty and suspenseful tale. Book review on Amazon.com.

 

Do you love to read book reviews? I have about 100 book reviews on Amazon.com at Paula Cappa Reviews. Please stop by and take a quick read and click into the book title to read full review. I’d love it if you answer YES ‘if this review was helpful to you’:  PAULA CAPPA REVIEWS ON AMAZON.

 

 

 

Don’t forget to view the INDEX above of more free Tales of Terror. This is a compendium of over 200 short stories by more than 100 famous storytellers of mystery, supernatural, ghost stories, crime, sci-fi, and ‘quiet horror.’

Follow or sign up to join me in reading two short stories every month. Comments are welcome.

Other Reading Web Sites to Visit

Kirkus Mystery & Thrillers Reviews

Books & Such    Bibliophilica   NewYorkerFictionOnline

 Lovecraft Ezine   Parlor of Horror

HorrorNews.net   Fangoria.com   

Slattery’s Art of Horror Magazine   Chuck Windig’s Terrible Minds

HorrorAddicts.net     Horror Novel Reviews    HorrorSociety.com     

Monster Librarian      HorrorTalk.com 

 Rob Around Books      The Story Reading Ape Blog

For Authors/Writers:  The Writer Unboxed

EZindiepublishing

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Filed under Book Reviews, fiction, ghost story blogs, horror, horror blogs, literary horror, literature, mysteries, occult, short stories, short story blogs, soft horror, witches, Women In Horror

A Horrible Grey Loneliness: The Little Ghost

The Little Ghost by Hugh Walpole (1933)

Tuesday’s Tale of Terror    July 25, 2017

 

 

Death is an amazing adventure, yes? If you’ve ever lost a loved one, dear friend or relative, you know that “horrible grey loneliness” that can haunt you in the most subtle of ways. Our narrator has a ghost story to tell you. He is a journalist, happily married with two children and living in Wimbledon. When his greatest friend Charlie Bond, a  man with a charming personality, dies suddenly, the reality hits hard. Missing Charlie in his life becomes a pervasive ache for our narrator, and he escapes for a short holiday to the seaside. Sometimes when you fight a memory, the strangest things can happen. Like when you think you are alone in a room—but are not alone at all.

 

Read The Little Ghost at Gutenberg.net . Scroll down to click the title.

 

This short story was published in the collection  All Souls’ Night.  Sir Hugh Walpole was a best-selling British novelist. He published  36 novels and 6 volumes of short stories.  Virginia Woolf praised his writing: “It is no disparagement to a writer to say that his gift is for the small things rather than for the larger. If you are faithful with the details the large effects will grow inevitably out of those very details.”

Joseph Conrad said of him, “We see Mr. Walpole grappling with the truth of things spiritual and material with his characteristic earnestness, and we can discern the characteristics of this acute and sympathetic explorer of human nature.”

You might also like The Silver Mask or the vampire narrative Tarnhelm, included in All Souls’ Night. 

 

 

Hugh Walpole Portrait, by Stephen Bone, oil on canvas.

 

 

 

Don’t forget to view the INDEX above of more free Tales of Terror. This is a compendium of over 200 short stories by more than 100 famous storytellers of mystery, supernatural, ghost stories, crime, sci-fi, and ‘quiet horror.’ Follow or sign up to join me in reading two short stories every month.

Comments are welcome.

  

Other Reading Web Sites to Visit

Kirkus Mystery & Thrillers Reviews

Books & Such    Bibliophilica   NewYorkerFictionOnline

 Lovecraft Ezine   Parlor of Horror

HorrorNews.net   Fangoria.com   

Slattery’s Art of Horror Magazine   Chuck Windig’s Terrible Minds

HorrorAddicts.net     Horror Novel Reviews    HorrorSociety.com     

Monster Librarian      HorrorTalk.com 

 Rob Around Books      The Story Reading Ape Blog

For Authors/Writers:  The Writer Unboxed

EZindiepublishing

3 Comments

Filed under Book Reviews, classic horror stories, fiction, ghost stories, ghost story blogs, Ghosts, Gothic fiction, Hauntings, horror blogs, literary horror, mysteries, paranormal, Reading Fiction, short stories, short story blogs, supernatural, supernatural fiction, tales of terror

Philomel Cottage, an Agatha Christie Obscure Murder Mystery

Philomel Cottage  by Agatha Christie (1934 Published in Listerdale Mystery)

Tuesday’s Tale of Terror   June 20, 2017

 

This short story by Agatha Christie, the murder mystery master, is one that hasn’t seen much popular light. Raymond Chandler was said to criticize Christie’s literary skills but that didn’t tarnish her fame or book sales.  She remains the queen of crime.  Philomel Cottage is probably one you’ve not read.

The name of this cottage carries a very specific subtext. The title Philomel—also known as Philomela—refers to a Greek goddess who was turned into a bird. In Christie’s story, Philomel represents the nightingale, symbolic of the feminine rejecting the dark silence and her finding voice in that darkness to sing.

This is a romantic twisty tale, set in a cheerful English village of gardens and gossip. The drama is about a newly married couple, Alix and her demanding husband Gerald—how lovely their new home is and how happy the setting. Well, maybe not for long. Murder and the dark psychological powers of dreaming prevail.

The ending is unpredictable and not at all in the neatly tied-up style we are used to in Christie crime mysteries. It’s unusual for Christie to flavor her stories with anything supernatural, but one might interpret this story to be haunting in a Hitchcockian way.  Christie’s compelling narrative suspense, as always, does not disappoint.

Read the short story  here at Celine.Klinghammer.free.fr.

 

This story was adapted for film in 1937 with Ann Harding and Basil Rathbone Love With A Stranger. If you are an old film buff like me, this one is thoroughly enjoyable. Vintage black and white and so fashionable. Women wearing curvy slinky dresses, budding rounded busts with sexy shoulders and pearls. Men with mustaches and tailored in tweed suits with wide lapels and cuffed wide trousers. Absolutely nostalgic!

Watch it here on YouTube.com.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Audio: Old Time Radio Suspense of  Philomel Cottage with Orson Wells. This is a real treat!

 

If you are an Agatha Christie fan, you’ll love the Agatha Christie Blog.  

Click here for “How to Make A Miss Marple’s Afternoon Tea.”

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Christie’s first novel , The Mysterious Affair at Styles, was written in 1916, published in 1920. Murder on the Orient Express (1934); Death on the Nile (1937) and Appointment with Death (1938).   And many more: 78 mystery novels, 19 plays, and over 100 short stories. Her final novel, Sleeping Murder: Miss Marples Last Case, was published posthumously in October 1976. She is considered the best-selling novelist of all time  (2 billion copies sold and by some estimates nearly 4 billion, her works ranking 3rd behind Shakespeare and the Bible). What a gal!

 

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Check out The Guardian‘s “No One Should Condescend to Agatha Christie—She’s a Genius.” 

Don’t forget to view the INDEX above of more free Tales of Terror. This is a compendium of over 2 00 short stories by more than 100 famous storytellers of mystery, supernatural, ghost stories, crime, sci-fi, and horror. Follow or sign up to join me in reading two short stories every month.

Comments are welcome.

 

Other Reading Web Sites to Visit

Kirkus Mystery & Thrillers Reviews

Books & Such    Bibliophilica   NewYorkerFictionOnline

 Lovecraft Ezine   Parlor of Horror

HorrorNews.net   Fangoria.com   

Slattery’s Art of Horror Magazine   Chuck Windig’s Terrible Minds

HorrorAddicts.net     Horror Novel Reviews    HorrorSociety.com     

Monster Librarian      HorrorTalk.com 

 Rob Around Books      The Story Reading Ape Blog

For Authors/Writers:  The Writer Unboxed

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Filed under Book Reviews, crime stories, crime thrillers, fiction, ghost story blogs, Greylock, horror blogs, murder mystery, Night Sea Journey, Reading Fiction, short stories, short story blogs, supernatural, tales of terror, The Dazzling Darkness

Creativity for Artists: Letters to a Young Poet by Rilke

Letters to a Young Poet by Rainer Maria Rilke (published in 1929)

Book Review and Commentary   April 11, 2017

 

“Rodin lived inside his art.”

First, this book  is not about poetry. If you are an artist,  novelist, sculptor, painter or poet, or creative nonfiction writer then you probably have had moments, perhaps even weeks or months, when you entered a period of despondency and thought “What is this all for? Why bother? Maybe I should give up.” Art and struggle go hand and hand for most of us. You’ve probably read all the pep blogs about following your passion and keeping the faith, recognizing the common Van Gogh blues, blah, blah, blah.

The poet Rainer Maria Rilke tell us that the famous sculptor Auguste Rodin “lived inside his art.” Who cannot look at  The Thinker and not ruminate with him. Rodin and Rilke were the deepest of friends and comrades in creativity.

 

Whatever kind of artist you are, Rilke’s Letters to a Young Poet is a voice worth listening to.  The letters were written in the early 1900s when Rilke was about 30 years old. He wrote ten letters to a young poet named  Franz Kappus, offering not only advice and  inspiration, but a philosophy on how to cultivate the creative spirit and be true to yourself and your art.

Rilke’s book is such a refreshing look at why a person writes  or creates art at all. He addresses doubt, loneliness vs solitude, nature, love, patience, demons and dreams,  absolute conviction, and passion. This is probably one of the most impressive of books I’ve read on this subject. The thoughts in this little 100-page book is a true source and one to keep on the night stand. I love to open a page at random and see what Rilke has to say to me for the day. Page 61 told me that “We must embrace struggle. Every living thing conforms to it. Everything in nature grows and struggles in its own way, establishing its own identity, insisting on it at all cost, against all resistance.”

This book is for any artist who wants validation to soldier on and  inspiration on how to live as an artist.

[This edition was translated by Joan M. Burnham, published by New World Library, 2000, ISBN 1-57731-155-8]

In you are fascinated by Rilke and want more of his insights about his life as an artist, you would probably enjoy You Must Change Your Life by Rachel Corbett. This is the biographical story of Rilke and the artist Auguste Rodin, their friendship, their heartbreaking rift, and the reconciliation.  Unforgettable portraits of both creative masters.

REVIEW: “Much more than the story of Rilke as a young man serving as the personal secretary and confidante to Rodin. Laced with first-and second-hand accounts of the artists and their milieu, You Must Change Your Life is an examination of the gritty how and why of artistic creation, as well as an acknowledgement of the costs of such a life.” (Sarah Roffino – Brooklyn Rail)

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My Recommended List of the Best Writing Books I’ve Read.

Mystery and Manners, The Nature and Aim of Fiction  by Flannery O’Connor (book review here).

How to Write Short Stories and Use Them to Further Your Writing Career by James Scott Bell (book review here)

Creating Characters, The Complete Guide to Populating Your Fiction, by the Editors of Writer’s Digest
(book review here) 

Dialogue, The Art of Verbal Action for the Page, Stage, & Screen, by Robert McKee  (book review here)

The Annotated Dracula (Bram Stoker), Annotated by Mort Castle (book review here) (Also The Annotated Jane Eyre (Charlotte Bronte) Annotated by K.M. Weiland)

How to Write Like Chekhov, Advice and Inspiration, Editor Brunello and Lencek  (book review here)

Steering the Craft, A 21st-Century Guide to Sailing the Sea of Story, Ursula K. Le Guin (book review here)
Writing Wild, Tina Welling (book review here)
Writing Down the Bones, Natalie Goldberg (book review here)
Method Writing, Jack Grapes (book review here)
Zen in the Art of Writing, Ray Bradbury (book review here)
On Writing, A Memoir, Stephen King (book review here)

More Craft Books I’ve Read and Recommend:

Writing Fiction, A Guide to Narrative Craft, by Janet Burroway. All the basics of how to write: the writing process, show vs. tell, characterization, fictional atmosphere and place, story structure and plot, point of view, theme, and revision.
Story, Robert McKee
Story Trumps StructureSteven James
The Fire in Fiction, Donald Maass
The Art of Fiction, John Gardner (I reread this book once a year, it’s that good)
Making Shapely Fiction, Jerome Stern
The Art of Character, David Corbett
Getting into Character, Brandilyn Collins
The Secret Miracle, the Novelist’s Handbook, edited by Daniel Alarcon
Becoming a Writer, Dorothea Brande
The Faith of a Writer, Life, Craft, Art, Joyce Carole Oates
If You Want to Write, Brenda Ueland
Reading like a Writer, Francine Prose
Elements of Style, Strunk & White

Best Editing Books for Writers:
Self-Editing for Fiction Writers, Renni Browne & Dave King
A Dash of Style, Noah Lukeman
The Grammar Bible, Michael Strumpf & Auriel Douglas
Line by Line, Claire Kehrwald Cook
The Careful Writer, Theodore M. Bernstein
Fowler’s Modern English Usage, Second Edition, Ernest Gowers
Chicago Manual of Style
Words Into Type, Third Edition, Skillin & Gay

Comments are welcome.

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Filed under Book Reviews, fiction, Fiction Writing, literature, Reading Fiction, short stories, short story blogs, writing craft books

Chanticleer Books Reviews Greylock – 5 STARS

 

 

5 STAR review at Chanticleer Book Reviews

Greylock by Paula Cappa – Mystery/Thriller/Paranormal

Rating:
Title: Greylock
Author(s): Paula Cappa
Genre(s): Fiction, Ghosts, Literary Fiction, Mystery, Mystery, Occult, Paranormal Romanticism, Supernatural, Thriller/Suspense, Thriller/Suspense
Publisher: Crispin Books (2016)
Please help promote the author by liking the review at:

What’s in the music we create? When we say it lives – when we say it breathes – when, for one fleeting moment it seems to bridge the gap between one soul and another – what kind of existence does it assume? What does it feel? What does it think? What does it want? Such questions may reside in theory for most, but not for piano virtuoso Alexei Georg in Paula Cappa’s Greylock.

Hot off the release of what will surely be his magnum opus, October, Alexei has achieved the level of success found only in his wildest dreams. Hailing from a Russian family steeped in musical artistry, he has transcended all those before him and become something they never could: a legend. And that’s all thanks to October.

There’s only one problem: he didn’t compose it.

And that would have been fine for him, taking credit for pages found in an antique chest belonging to one of his ancestors, if it weren’t for the demons it conjured every time he plays those chords. If it weren’t for the shadowy figure haunting him, punishing him, coming for him. October may have surfaced through the Georg bloodline, but there is something far more sinister and mysterious hidden in each note that is threatening to break free from Alexei’s control.

Alexei wants nothing more than to move on, but the past will not let him. Add to his troubles the threat of fraud exposure from those he’s closest to and a string of grisly murders within the Boston music community that brings the police knocking on his door, he can only come to realize just how much October is at the center of it all. He’ll have to confront three generations worth of Georg family demons to overcome this evil before it claims everything he has and hopes to achieve.

Using music as a central motif and life force to drive the narrative, Paula Cappa defies the limitations of the written word and adds a new dimension in storytelling through the personification of music. The descriptions being so richly layered and animated, one might just imagine these nightmares dwelling in the punctuation, awaiting their chance to come alive themselves.

With just enough integral characters in place to create conflict, Cappa creates a compelling mystery that allows the reader to virtually hear the machinations of the plot grind away before they inevitably crank up to a satisfying crescendo.

By Tim MacAusland
March 2017

2 Comments

Filed under Book Reviews, crime stories, fiction, ghost story blogs, horror blogs, literary horror, murder mystery, mysteries, paranormal, quiet horror, Reading Fiction, short story blogs, supernatural music, supernatural mysteries, supernatural thrillers

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