R.eaders I.mbibing P.eril XI

“Now Autumn’s fire burns slowly along the woods and day by day the dead leaves fall and melt.”
–William Allingham (1824-1889)

Yes, autumn is here again! And you know what that means. It’s time for…

R.eaders I.mbibing P.eril XI!

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image courtesy Abigail Larsen

Started by Carl at Stainless Steel Droppings, R.I.P. is a reading challenge in which imbibers come “together to enjoy the literature most associated with the darkening days and cooling temperatures of Autumn:”

Mystery
Suspense
Thriller
Gothic
Horror
Dark Fantasy

Carl says that “it is time to embrace the delicious thrill of things that go bump in the night, to figure out if the butler actually did do it, to cover our eyes during the scary bits and to conquer our fears together.”

To learn more about the wonderful R.I.P. reading challenge, click here.

I will be doing Peril the First, which means I will read at least four books. Here’s what I have in mind so far (though this may change):

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Blood on the Tracks by Barbara Nickless (railroad murder mystery with a human-canine detective duo)

Bring Up the Bodies by Hilary Mantel (Just as in Wolf Hall, a ghost appears. You know I’m all about ghosts!)

Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen (a Gothic parody)

Paco’s Story by Larry Heinemann (The narrator is a ghost, so perfect for R.I.P. Also, this book beat out Toni Morrison’s Beloved–which I loved–for the National Book Award. Interestingly, Beloved won the Pulitzer and, like Paco’s Story, is a ghost novel.)

The Red House Mystery by A.A. Milne (I know…who’d have thought the creator of Winnie-the-Pooh would ever write a murder?)

I have already started reading The Red House Mystery, which reminds me quite a bit of Agatha Christie’s writing style. Not surprising, since both Milne and Christie were writing in the 1920’s, and both authors made use of the country house setting. Review to follow.

So, how about you? Are you participating in the R.I.P. reading challenge this year…or any other autumn-based challenge?

Need some recommendations for R.I.P.? Allow me to do a little shameless self-promotion and suggest you check out 31 Ghost Novels to Read Before You Die.

31 Ghost Novels to Read Before You Die

Two YA Ghost Novels

image flikr creative commons via photopin

image flikr creative commons via photopin

Review: Two YA Ghost Novels

Yep, today we’re going to do a little comparison of two young adult ghost novels that I read for Erin’s Book Challenge.

They are: Ruined by Paula Morris

Ruined (Ruined, #1)

and Minty by Christina Banach

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Both of these ghost novels explore a kind of sisterhood that transcends death.

What they’re about:

In Ruined, Rebecca’s father suddenly dispatches her to New Orleans to live with an “aunt” she barely knows. Used to diverse, bustling New York City, Rebecca is unprepared for the viciousness she encounters in the elite prep school she now attends. Though cautioned never to enter the historic cemetery down the street, Rebecca find her only true friend. Unfortunately that friend is a 19th century ghost. Together, Rebecca and her ghost friend Lisette try to decipher the curse that keeps her tethered to the cemetery.

Minty is the eponymous narrator of this novel and the twin of Jess. They live in present-day Scotland but love everything to do with ancient Rome and have twin dogs named Remus and Romulus. While trying to rescue a dog who is being swept out to sea, one of the twins drowns. The novel is her attempt after death to contact and console her sister. The ghost twin is befriended by a troubled teen who died decades earlier and teaches her the physics of ghostdom.

What I thought:

I really liked Ruined and prefer it of these two ghost novels. The friendship between Rebecca and Lisette is tender. Rebecca’s romantic interest is mysterious and brooding, just the way teens like. The curse is well done and provides the reader insight into New Orleans race relations of the past that unfortunately still resonate with the New Orleans of the present. I learned some things not contained in the history books of my youth.

In Minty, modern teens will relate to the slang (though some of it will ring distinctly Scottish to American ears) and the contemporary feel of the novel. I did find, however, that Minty was too one-note (Do you like my cool new word? I just learned it), contained too many of the same soul-searching questions over and over. I believe the author could have cut 25 pages of internal dialogue to the betterment of the novel. When i read Minty, I flashed on The Lovely Bones, which also features a dead teen trying to connect with her family but is more complex. One difference is that The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold is women’s fiction whereas Minty is young adult. Readers of Minty will probably enjoy Elsewhere by Gabrielle Zevin, another young adult ghost novel.

At any rate, if you’re looking for a ghost novel with a sister-type bond, you will enjoy both Ruined and Minty. And if you’re looking for more ghost novel recommendations, I hope you’ll check out 31 Ghost Novels to Read Before You Die.

Erin’s Book Challenge Check-in # 2

There can never be too many books!

There can never be too many books!

Erin’s Book Challenge Check-in

Greetings Readers!

It’s time for a check-in on my reading progress for Erin’s Book Challenge that runs July 1 to October 31.

Here’s what I’ve read since last time:

Death Is Now My Neighbor by Colin Dexter

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For the five word title category, I enjoyed revisiting the lives of Morris and Lewis in Death Is Now My Neighbor as they investigate a murder on the Oxford campus with professorial connections. The lives of scholarly educators are perhaps darker than we think!

Tomb of the Golden Bird by Elizabeth Peters

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I read Tomb of the Golden Bird for the category “a place I’ve always wanted to visit.” For me, that place was the Egyptian Valley of the Kings. When I first became interested in writing, I wrote a very bad story (I was eight years old at the time) about two explorers who get lost, meet, then fall instantly in love in a pharaoh’s tomb. Okay, gag me now.

A pharaoh’s tomb promised magic and mystery. Later, when I lived in London and visited the British Museum, I lost some of that dreamy-eyed wonder and became, in fact, a little creeped out by the entire floor dedicated to Egyptian artifacts, mummies, and sarcophagi. No, I wasn’t creeped out by the mummies, which I found fascinating. But I found myself wondering why these beautiful, precious items were in England rather than in Egypt. I’m going to be a little perverse here and even wonder how the tomb’s inhabitants would view excavation. What if they really needed those things in the afterlife?

Tomb of the Golden Bird details Howard Carter’s discovery of King Tutankhamen’s tomb. I remember going to the exhibition in San Francisco in 1979, waiting in a tent for my group number to be called. What an amazing array of art and craft was there! Author Elizabeth Peters does a good job of including historical facts and information about the artifacts. For instance, I had no idea that Howard Carter and company were suspected of underhanded dealings and even some possible thefts. In addition, Peters gives the reader a real sense of day-to-day life as well as the cultural shift beginning in the 1920’s with new freedoms for women and the rising influence of the Egyptian nationalist movement.

The novel itself was less successful. The series characters were not allowed to be involved in excavation, so all their activities were peripheral as well as confusing and a little boring. The characters were running to and fro chasing documents and looking for conspiracies–much of it, in the end, coming to nothing.

The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky

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At first, I couldn’t figure out why this was in the music category. But after reading, I understand. There are many instances of music setting the mood in this book. Playlists also take prominence and really bring the reader back to the era of playlist themes and burning CD’s as gifts. I remember my kids doing this in high school. Creating a playlist was a big part of a birthday celebration.

I loved this movie, and I love the book, too. The protagonist is completely endearing as he struggles to navigate the treacherous and confusing waters of high school. One complaint: The author does use the verb to cry a bit too much. A writing teacher once said to me, “Don’t make your characters cry; instead, make your reader cry.” That quibble aside, I highly recommend both book and movie.

Here’s what’s in the hopper for next time:

1. Reading during my work break Night Film by Marisha Pessl

2. Reading at bedtime Ruined by Paula Morris

3. Listening to True Detectives by Jonathan Kellerman (this one is not part of the challenge)

Anyone else doing a book challenge right now? Do tell! I’d love to hear.

Erin’s Book Challenge Check-in

There can never be too many books!

There can never be too many books!

Erin’s Book Challenge Check-in

Greetings Readers!

It’s time for a check-in on my reading progress for Erin’s Book Challenge that runs July 1 to October 31. Here’s what I’ve read so far.

A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness in the “Book into Movie” Category.

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Finished this in one night. A Monster Calls was an incredible and thought-provoking coming of age novel exploring a teen’s struggle with his mother’s life-threatening illness. I could see this used in a high school psych course. Not for the faint of heart, however.

Here is the trailer for A Monster Calls. What do you think? To me, the monster of the movie trailer looks more like a friendly giant than the menacing id of Ness’s novel. I remember when A Bridge to Terabithia was turned into a movie. A similar thing happened. The movie focused on the fantasy creatures and special effects, which were only peripheral aspects of Paterson’s soulful coming of age novel.

In the “Blue Cover” category, The Hypnotist’s Love Story by Liane Moriarty

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I had a wonderful time spending time with this lovelorn hypnotist and her quest for marriage and family, complicated by her new boyfriend’s struggles with a stalker. There were laugh out loud moments interspersed with all the joys and setbacks of new love. I even learned some stuff about hypnotism therapy. This protagonist is definitely not the amateur sister-in-law of Matheson’s Stir of Echoes.

Moriarty is now one of my favorite authors in the Women’s Fiction genre. My other favorite books of hers are What Alice Forgot (very funny) and Big Little Lies (a must-read for every parent and teacher).

What’s next for me in Erin’s book challenge:

1. Started listening to Tomb of the Golden Bird by Elizabeth Peters

2. Reading during my work break Night Film by Marisha Pessl

3. Reading at bedtime Death Is Now My Neighbor by Colin Dexter

Anyone else doing a book challenge right now? Do tell! I’d love to hear.