Paranormal Novel Review: Neverwhere

Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman

Harper Collins, 386 pages

This isn’t a traditional ghost story such as I usually review. This is more of a ghost-as-metaphor-for-the-forgotten-ones story. But that’s actually a quest I seek in the ghost stories I read, the yearning that drives one to cross barriers and struggle to connect.

You’ve wondered, I know you have, what would happen if one day you went left instead of right, if one day you stopped because a street person asked for your help. I’ve wondered. In Gaiman’s book we find out: we go to Neverwhere. So goes our protagonist Richard Mayhew. Great name that Mayhew—as in just maybe he may hew a new future for himself. He could use one, too.

As the novel opens, he’s in a sort of thralldom with a loveless, social climbing fiancée—everything he is not—until said time when he answers the call from a forlorn, bloodied girl named Door. Not surprisingly, she can open any door, and Richard follows, as he is now erased from his former aboveground life. He finds himself in Neverwhere, an underground parallel world in which rats are revered and evil lurks along every dark, devious tunnel and Neverwherians can see us but we cannot see them.

I joined a discussion group over at Stainless Steel Droppings, so we’re going to review this novel in parts. Check it out here. For this week’s discussion, we read chapters one through five. I chose the following question to respond to: What ideas or themes are you seeing in these first 5 chapters of Neverwhere? Are there any that you are particularly drawn to?

As I said before, I am drawn to the idea of the outsider, the little match girl gazing into the room with the hearth blazing and the family gathered. To me, that’s what the ghost or other otherworldly creatures represent. I also think writers are ghosts of a sort—watching, looking in. The observers.

In addition to the outsider motif, in Neverwhere I find myself contemplating themes of chance meetings, seized (or missed) opportunities, roads not taken. Or in the case of Richard Mayhew, the road taken. What if you hadn’t gone out with your friend who introduced you to your life partner? What if Friar Lawrence hadn’t been such a bumbler, and Romeo had received the message in time? I think of that movie Sliding Doors or the two endings of The French Lieutenant’s Woman.

What if Richard hadn’t helped Door? Because of that chance meeting, what doors will Door open for Richard in the future?

It’s worth thinking about.

I invite you to read Neverwhere along with me. It’s not too late. We just started!

Ghost Novel Review: The Séance




The Séance by John Harwood

I decided to participate in a reading challenge run by Laura at Laura’s Reviews—my second ever! (The first was R.I.P. at Stainless Steel Droppings.) I recommend reading challenges to all you avid readers and writers out there. Anyhow, Laura’s challenge is Victorian related novels and movies, as in the setting takes place or the author lived between 1837 and 1901. Check it out here.

Of course, me being me (or is it I being I?), I had to add in the ghost element. I’ve already reviewed most of the Victorian ghost novels I know: James’ Turn of the Screw, Morrison’s Beloved, Wilde’s The Canterville Ghost.

Virginie from Laura’s site recommended Harwood’s The Séance, so that is what I read.

The Séance by John Harwood; Mariner Books, 328 pages

The Séance features multiple narrators, but key among them is Constance Langton.  Even as a child, Constance never felt she belonged. Now, orphaned, she bears the dubious distinction of inheriting a decrepit mansion with a sordid past. Disregarding prudent advice, Constance explores Wraxford Hall and reads the journal of  its previous occupant Eleanor Unwin in hopes of unlocking the mysteries of her past. Throw in revolving cabinets, gloomy weather and ill-advised séances, and you have the makings of a fine Gothic novel.

As I read this book, I thought about Wilkie Collins’ The Woman in White. Both novels portray vulnerable brides and ghostly intercessions. What I like about The Séance compared to The Woman in White, is that Harwood brings a modern sensibility to his Victorian women. Harwood’s plucky Eleanor Unwin takes action, both mental and physical—unlike Collins’ Laura Fairlie who must await rescue, winsome soul that she is.

I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking I’ve forgotten Jane Eyre—she who bravely defends her interests and honor against more than one man who would dominate her. But a woman wrote Jane Eyre; therein lies the difference.

It makes you wonder how a 22nd century male writer will depict a 21st century woman. Will he endow her with the no-nonsense, lethal hands on hips, CSI investigator savoir-faire we’ve come to expect? Or is this archetype, too, as ethereal a projection as the Victorian ghost in a table thumping séance?

What Does It Cost to Self Publish My Book?

Baby, take a bow.

For those of you in the under 40 set, this is an allusion to the Shirley Temple movie Stand Up and Cheer.  As a child, my favorite pastime was to watch and watch again and watch some more Shirley Temple black and white movies.  For me, Shirley Temple embodied optimism, that pick-yourself-up-and-dust-off-your-dotted-swiss-voile-and-shake-out-your-petticoats mentality.  One of my most treasured Christmas presents was a petticoat that Santa brought.  I entered the room filled with anticipation and there it was–standing by itself in a corner. It was that stiff.

So, with stiff optimism and as promised, I’m unveiling my version of the self publishing budget. This is what I’m planning to spend to bring Moonlight Dancer to clamoring fans. (Okay, as of this writing, few fans are actually clamoring, but as Raising Hope creative forces Garcia and Greene claim, “If you stop dreaming, you’re just sleeping.”)


Bowker widget                                                             60

Business license                                                            25

Copyright                                                                      65

Cover artwork                                                              150

Domain purchase                                                           10

Fictitious business name                                               40

FBN public notice                                                           60

ISBN                                                                               250

Kindle formatting                                                           29

Research materials                                                       150

Small Publishers Association membership                 89

Web hosting                                                                    84

TOTAL                                                                       1012

As you can see, self publishing is not for the squeamish. Hence, my reliance on Shirley Temple to see me through.

Have I left anything out? What does your self-publishing budget look like?

Soapbox Rant: The Hunger Games

Forgive me. I’m going to break rank.

Instead of the book review you were expecting, I’m going to talk about a movie. A movie that derived from a book, yes, but it contains not a single sheet-waving, chain-dragging spectral presence.

But more than that, I’m going to climb onto a soapbox for a good old-fashioned rant. Creak. There, I’m settled.

The movie: The Hunger Games.

Who would have guessed that, in this century, in this country, myopic movie viewers would say of beautiful and charming Amandla Stenberg playing the gentle Rue, that she is a “black bitch” or that the two African American actors in key roles have “ruined” the movie or that because of racial diversity (and literal interpretation of the book) the Hunger Games is not worth seeing. And worse. Oh, far worse. Words I would not utter.

Check out this article from Jezebel.

I thought that as a nation we had turned a corner in our compassion and generosity and understanding.

I thought, naively, that with the election of Barack Obama we were not color-blind as some have suggested but color-kind—that we could smile indulgently at the “parent from Kenya, parent from Kansas” schmaltzy sound bite. So alluringly alliterative, yet indicative of the inclusiveness we hold dear.

I even thought that maybe now we could judge each other by the content of our character.

How was I so wrong?

I hear that some cars sport Nobama bumper stickers. And now a beautiful, sensitive child portraying a beautiful, sensitive child from another time has been vilified for the color of her skin.

Perhaps it’s time we put into action those words “created equal” that define us as a society. Those words, yes, those words from a document of another time. A little something we like to call the Constitution.