Review – Frankenstein, or The Modern Prometheus

There are books that make me feel very sad; Frankenstein is one of those books. It was a strangely profound sadness that for whatever reason, made me wish the book wouldn’t end because I wanted to find a morsel of light in this dark, lonely tale. It was not to happen.

Having been encouraged early on by loving, generous parents, Victor Frankenstein grows up in a happy household in Geneva surrounded by the comforts of home and family. While as a child he was mildly obsessed with old scientific theories, his father encourages him to broaden his thoughts. Right before he is to leave for school in Germany, the first of his life’s tragedies happen — his mother, a beloved figure to him, passes away after nursing his much loved adopted sister, Elizabeth, back to health. He leaves for Germany with a heavy heart. While there, he throws himself into the sciences, exceeds all his expectation with his interest in chemistry and like sciences. It’s this interest though that causes his second tragedy — the creation of a monster with parts culled from places unmentioned. When the monster escapes, his fears all become real and death follows wherever he goes. He falls into a deep depression knowing that whatever he has to do to stop the monster of his creation, he will never be happy and there will never be any solace.

This is not my first time reading this book but parts felt completely new to me. I love when this happens to me while re-reading. It’s like discovering something that you want to share with everyone. That said, Frankenstein is not an easy read. The words flow easily enough but it’s the emotional toll that got me this time. I really, truly, felt so sad while reading that at one point I burst out crying for no reason. To be affected like this by a book I’ve experienced before surprised me.

There is so much to this book but for the sake of those that don’t like spoilers, I won’t mention all that happens. There are moments when reading though that you wonder how much one person can take and if it’s fair for Frankenstein to heap all the blame on himself. While, yes, he created a monster that has crossed the line and taken life, and has held over him another life if he didn’t comply with his wishes, sometimes things in life are not meant to be. The monster is a physical manifestation for everything that has gone wrong for him. The loneliness that comes with the realization for Frankenstein made me want to put the book down. I couldn’t though because I was waiting for some kind of resolution. When it happens, it’s not satisfying at all. There is remorse, for Frankenstein, and in some way for the monster as well, but it didn’t make me feel any better. It only brings on more grief.

Now that I’ve sufficiently depressed you, let’s talk about something else. The monster has no name; he is simply the monster. Frankenstein is the scientist. Why did I need a reminder of that? Huh, the things we forget. I didn’t remember much from the first reading of this (it may well have been shortly after high school) and my memory faded. I was happy to renew it though. Of course, now each time I see a movie based on the book I’m going to be looking for mistakes.

I read this book for the Gender in SFF challenge. Glad I finally found an excuse to pick this one up again. If you like horror, fantasy, and science fiction, read this one. If you shy away from this one because you think I might be gruesome, it’s not. It’s worth a read.

Frankenstein, or The Modern Prometheus

By Mary Shelley

Signet Classic

ISBN: 0451527712

4.5 stars

Review – That Which Should Not Be

That Which Should Not Be

By Brett J. Talley

JournalStone

ISBN: 9781936564149

3.75 stars

Carter Weston, a student at Miskatonic University in New England, is intrigued when his professor, Dr. Thayerson, asks him to retrieve a book from a nearby village. The book, the Incendium Maleficarum, is thought to be able to control inhuman forces, and is supposedly a legend. Carter is amazing to find out its real and now he’s both excited and worried as he sets off to find it. Upon arriving in the small village of Anchorhead, he finds lodging and a tavern to wait out the snow storm that is burying the village. He befriends four men and being interested in folk stories, he listens to their tales and slowly realizes there might be more to this book than he can handle.

The stories of the four men were interesting (and in some ways the best part of the book for me) but for a short while I did wonder how they would tie into the main plot. They set the stage and there isn’t anything wrong with that but it felt like the story started one way, moved slightly sideways, and then came back to the center. Almost as if they were preparing Carter for what he would find. And in fact that is the case.

October is when I want to read creepy, scary books and when this one arrived I looked forward to it with an almost sense of glee. The cover looked promising — its got a cthulhu on the cover; how can it not be creepy. I love stories that have an element of the unknown and by unknown I’m good with the paranormal and in this case I’m going to include otherworldly creatures too. And, yes, there were some creepy elements to this story. I wasn’t so much sold on the ending but the stories along the way are what caught my attention.  As I said above, the men he meets at the bar regale him with tales and encounters of their own, and these stories, short as they were, were more interesting to me than the main story of the book. While it was promising, it didn’t do much for me.

Overall though, it wasn’t a bad read for October and if you enjoy horror, this did entertain.

I won this book from the Librarything Early Reviewers Program.

Teaser Tuesdays

Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly meme, hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading.  The idea is to give everyone a look inside the book you’re reading.

Play along: Grab your current read; Open to a random page; Share two teaser sentences from that page; Share the title and author so other participants know what you’re reading.

Today’s teaser comes from That Which Should Not Be by Brett J. Talley. I won this book from the Librarything Early Reviewers program and it seems like a good creepy book for October.

“The day has come, that day I always knew would, and my time is short. But I must protect the Book.” (page 7)

Review – Tales of Terror and Mystery

Tales of Terror and Mystery

By Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

Penguin Books

ISBN: 0-14-004878-2

3.75 stars

I’ve been reading more short stories this year and have come to one conclusion — I prefer one author over several.  I enjoy the stories more if I become familiar with the author’s voice and I can then move along without feeling the need to stop and regain my footing at the end of each story.  In Tales of Terror and Mystery, this is exactly what happened.

There were 13 stories here; six tales of terror and seven tales of mystery.

Tales of Terror:

The Horror of the Heights follows a pilot who encounters giant jellyfish like aliens.  The Leather Funnel reminds us what a true nightmare can be.  The New Catacomb is a take on the value of friendship when a woman’s love is involved.  The Case of Lady Sannox is an affair gone wrong.  The Terror of Blue John Gap involves an imaginary monster made real.  The Brazilian Cat is a tale of family woe and backstabbing relatives.

Tales of Mystery:

The Lost Special is a recounting of a train kidnapping.  The Beetle-Hunter follows a young doctor and the horror he finds in answering an advertisement.  The Man with the Watches is about a train with missing persons.  The Japanned Box makes us wonder what a widower is doing alone in a room late at night.  The Black Doctor involves the disappearance and supposed murder of a well-liked town doctor.  The Jew’s Breastplate is a museum caper complete with a mummy.  The Nightmare Room is an odd scene with a séance to boot.

If you know anything about Sir Arthur Conon Doyle, these stories reflect many of his interests including his love of new technologies and preoccupation in the afterlife.  It’s endearing and somewhat uncomfortable at the same time as his prejudices also come through.  I’m not going into that here though.

I enjoyed the tales of terror more and there are a few gems among the mysteries as well but I did see a few endings coming which didn’t cause any disappointment.  With a short story, in some cases only pages, it’s going to happen.

If you’re a fan of Doyle, this one is worth a look.  It’s fast and the stories are entertaining.

 

Today’s Book with Extra Book Bits

I’m about to finish The Woman in Black by Susan Hill.  It’s a ghost story and while it has it’s conventional parts, it feels more like a slow moving thriller and it works wonderfully.  She dishes out details slowly, building a lot of tension for the ending I know is coming.  The best word to describe it would be atmospheric.  It has long, lush sentences that evoke a foreboding for the horrible ending.  It reminds me a lot of Shirley Jackson whose storytelling has the same feel.  In case, you’re wondering how I know what’s coming — I read the end already.

I haven’t done a library loot in forever so here goes.

The Woman in Black by Susan Hill (See above.)

Time Travelers Never Die by Jack McDevitt (On my list and it fits a challenge, a twofer book.)

Savage Kingdom: The True story of Jamestown, 1607, and the Settlement of America by Benjamin Woolley (I read a book last year about Jamestown and loved it so I’m trying another.  We’ll see if my interest holds up through this one.)

Also new to me but not a library loaner is A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness.  I’ve been craving this one since it came through the door and it’s so my next book.  Admire that cover.  I love, love, love it.  Can’t really say why but the sapphire blue cover is working for me.

The Dead Path

The Dead Path

Stephen M. Irwin

Doubleday

ISBN: 9780385533430

4 stars

Every year around this time, with the leaves turning and pumpkins making their way into stores, I find myself craving ghost stories. Stories that make you want to sleep with the lights on and double check the locks on the doors and windows when the slightest sound is heard. Irwin deftly accomplishes both in his debut novel.

Nicholas Close is living his dream life in London. He has a beautiful wife, they’re renovating their new home together, and he has a job he enjoys. When a sudden and tragic accident takes his wife’s life, he can’t get past the devastation, the collapse of their dreams, and the downward spiral of his life. One other problem he’s having that he would do anything to escape — he’s seeing ghosts. Not just simple hauntings, like socks going missing and found in odd places, but what he’s seeing are the last violent moments of people’s lives over and over like a movie he can’t shut off. Everywhere he goes they appear making him wonder if he’s losing his mind.

Nicholas makes the decision to move back to his native Australia with the hope of starting fresh. His hometown doesn’t have much to offer but it was home many years ago and what he’s looking for is a clean slate which his small town can provide. His mother, never a very affectionate person, welcomes him home rather half-heartedly, but he’s fine with the reception not expecting much more than the cup of tea she offers. His sister, a mother and successful business woman, decides to visit him as well and Nicholas finds in her a kindred spirit of sorts. She understands about the ghosts, and reveals a small secret — their long dead father believed in witchcraft and she herself is a follower.

When a child disappears into the woods that have long haunted Nicholas, he starts to see and hear things that he knows can’t be possible. He starts to research the woods and finds a long dead woman still alive and possibly the reason for the strange occurrences, disappearances, and murders around town.

There’s that old saying that writers should write what they know. Well, I sincerely hope Stephen Irwin is not writing what he knows because his life would be terrifying if that were the case. This book starts out with death and racks up the numbers quickly. At first, I wasn’t sure if I would be able to finish this book but then something happened, and without taking away any of the adrenalin-rush, Irwin brings on the creepy mystery and changes the story from one about child murders to a depraved witch on a hunt for blood. He doesn’t drop the intensity level one bit and you race through the pages wondering what’s going to happen next.

It’s dark, disturbing, and in places disgusting, but does what it’s supposed to do — it scares you. It makes you want to turn on every light in your house and banish house plants for fear they could be communing with a witch in the woods to conspire your ending. What I liked about the evil in this book was that it was subtle in appearance and you have to wait for Nicholas to figure things out, which in some places was a little frustrating but all part of the story. By the end of the book, you stop feeling sorry for Nicholas and want to yell at him to fight.

While I found parts of the book slightly unpalatable, child murders are never an easy subject even when it is clearly fiction, the book delivered on the terror factor. If you’re looking for a book for Halloween, this might be the one to try. It will certainly leave you with the need for extra lighting and a creepy feeling about dark woods.

In addition to this blog, I also do reviews for The Book Reporter website. The above review was done for the Book Reporter which can be found here. The book was provided to me by the publisher.

My Favorite Reads – The Sandman: Preludes & Nocturnes, Volume One

Alyce from At Home With Books features one of her favorite reads each Thursday and this week my pick is…

The Sandman: Preludes & Nocturnes, Volume One by Neil Gaiman, illustrated by Sam Kieth, Mike Dringenberg, and Malcolm Jones, III, introduction by Karen Berger.

From the back cover: The Sandman is the most acclaimed and award-winning comics series of the 1990s for good reason: a smart and deeply brooding epic, elegantly penned by Neil Gaiman and illustrated by a rotating cast of comics’ most sought-after artists, it is a rich blend of modern myth and dark fantasy in which contemporary fiction, historical drama, and legend are all seamlessly interwoven.  The saga of The Sandman encompasses a series of tales unique in graphic literature and is a story you will never forget.

Preludes & Nocturnes introduces readers to a dark and enchanting world of dreams and nightmares — the home of The Sandman, Master of Dreams, and his kin, The Endless.  This first collection of Neil Gaiman’s multi-award-winning title introduces key themes and characters, combining myth, magic, and black humor.

My thoughts: Since this is the last week for My Favorite Reads, I wanted to end with something appropriate for Halloween since it is just a few days away.  Neil Gaiman is an author who ranks among my favorites and I thought this was a perfect pick to end on.

I’m not a comic reader but my husband does pick them up once in a while.  I’m not sure how this came into my hands, but considering how much I adore Gaiman’s writing, why not try his comics as well.  I wasn’t sure what to expect, but at the end, I was left wondering why I don’t read more of these.

The Sandman is a complicated character and I wasn’t sure if I was supposed to feel sorry for him or be revolted.  I was both but oddly there’s a human quality to him that also makes you feel sorry for him; although I can’t say that for some of the others in this comic.  The family aspect is fantastic as well and what can I say about the artwork.  It’s phenomenal.  It’s enough to provide guidance in the story but doesn’t anticipate too much so that you stop imagining the story yourself.

There are 11 volumes in this series.  I haven’t read past Preludes & Nocturnes but it might be time to pick up a few more.

Thanks to Alyce for hosting My Favorite Reads.  It’s been fun sharing my favorites.