Friday, April 27, 2012
Thursday, April 26, 2012
Wednesday, April 25, 2012
Thursday, April 19, 2012
If you're looking to resurrect that feeling again, check out Susan Hill's The Woman in Black: A Ghost Story. The book first came out in 1983 and has since lived a healthy life, spawning a play and, most recently, a movie starring Daniel Radcliff of Harry Potter fame. It was the trailer to the movie that hooked my interest.
We've got it in both book form (FIC HILL) and audiobook (AD FIC HILL). With the book, you benefit from John Lawrence's stark, somber illustrations. With the audiobook, Ralph Cosham's narration lends a wonderfully moody atmosphere to the tale.
As someone who enjoys a good scare but doesn't want to be scared witless, The Woman in Black struck a good balance. It has the feel of a story from another time, not just because it's set in early 20th century Edwardian England, but because of the language Hill uses, which harkens back to the gothic novels of Mary Shelley or Bram Stoker.
Arthur Kipps narrates the tragic story:
I was then thirty-five and I had been a widower for the past twelve years. I had no taste at all for social life and, although in good general health, was prone to occasional nervous illnesses and conditions, as a result of the experiences I will come to relate. Truth to tell, I was growing old well before my time, a sombre, pale-complexioned man with a strained expression — a dull dog.In the ensuing pages, we learn what, exactly, led to Kipps' premature aging: As a newly minted 23-year-old solicitor (that's what the British call their lawyers), Kipps is sent to the remote village of Crythin Gifford to attend to the legal affairs of one Mrs. Alice Drablow, recently deceased, of Eel Marsh House.
The unsuspecting Kipps likes the idea of an expedition and a rambling estate to explore. Well, the joke's on him. He soon finds himself growing increasingly uneasy and fearful as he sees and hears things that cannot be explained, beginning with the titular woman in black, whom he first spots at Mrs. Drablow's funeral. Eel Marsh House itself, cut off regularly from the roads by the tide, lends little sense of safety. In fact, when Kipps decides to stay at the house out of convenience, this just makes matters for him worse.
I'll leave you to uncover Mrs. Drablow's secrets but needless to say, Kipps' recounting has everything we've come to expect of ghost stories: creepy noises, moving objects, haunted houses and angry apparitions. In that sense, The Woman in Black covers little new ground. But if it's a traditional spooky story you're after, Hill's story should fit the bill quite nicely.
What's your favorite ghost story? Share your suggestions in the comments.
Tuesday, April 17, 2012
Tyndale House Publishers is offering 3 free e-books each month to people who sign up for their monthly e-newsletter. The e-books can be read on your computer or your portable e-reader device. In order to sign up for the newsletter, you have to have a valid email address. Tyndale House, located in Illinois, publishes mainly Christian fiction and non-fiction. If you're interested, click on this link to sign up.
Tuesday, April 10, 2012
First published in November 2010, Heaven is for Real is now on its 61st week on the New York Times Best Seller List. As with many “faith” stories, reviews of the book are mixed. When Burpo’s son Colton was almost four, he had a near death experience in the hospital and later told his family that he had been in heaven for that time, with Jesus. He described some things that seemed to tally with Biblical accounts of heaven, and some things that the Bible does not mention, such as Jesus having a multi-colored horse. Todd Burpo, a minister, relates how matter-of-factly Colton surprised him and his wife with these pronouncements about what happened to him. Like other children that age, Colton is not trying to tell any story, he only shares details or convictions that seem to be triggered by what he’s watching or what is happening around him – whether it be a television show or a funeral at their church.
Some of the information that Colton shares is about events his parents say they did not tell him about, like the fact that he had a baby sister who had died before being born. He told them that she came up to him in heaven and kept hugging him. And he said that his father’s grandfather introduced himself to Colton while he was there. What was striking to his father was that none of the pictures he had of his grandfather were of him as a young man, but Colton knew who it was when Todd had an early picture sent to him. Perhaps Colton was guessing who this unidentified man was supposed to be. Some readers have suggested that since Colton’s dad Todd is a minister that Colton had absorbed many ideas of the things that he said happened to him. The story is told as though Colton just came out with these “revelations” bit by bit, and that his parents were careful not to react too strongly to his statements.
What we are left with is the impact of the impression his experience had on Colton. How he keeps telling everyone how much Jesus loves children (until his family almost says, okay, we GET it) and how concerned he is about whether a dying parishioner really does love Jesus or not. And what about the little girl in heaven who kept hugging him? About a year later, when Colton is being baby-sat, he starts crying and saying he misses his sister. Why does he think of her then? His mother has just had a baby, giving him a younger brother – maybe with his parents gone, he was lying there and remembered her and suddenly felt –really experienced – the distance between them. Many times children “know” something, but it takes a certain time and place for them to realize it.
Perhaps when Colton grows up, he’ll let us know that he kind of made the book up. But I tend to doubt it. Even though the family (and their church) has had a windfall from the book’s popularity, it’s hard to see the story as being man-made. It’s a slight, airy book, just wafting through your consciousness and not disturbing much of anything, unless you spend some time thinking about it. And that’s probably the secret of its success.
Click here for the catalog listing
Monday, April 9, 2012
Offensive language; religious viewpoint; sexually explicit; unsuited to age group
Nudity; sex education; sexually explicit; unsuited to age group
Anti-ethnic; anti-family; insensitivity; offensive language; occult/satanic; violence
Nudity; sex education; sexually explicit; unsuited to age group
Offensive language; racism; religious viewpoint; sexually explicit; unsuited to age group
Nudity; offensive language; religious viewpoint
Insensitivity; nudity; racism; religious viewpoint; sexually explicit
Nudity; offensive language; sexually explicit
Drugs; offensive language; sexually explicit
Offensive language; racism
Thursday, April 5, 2012
April is National Poetry Month, and the American Academy of Poets has some wonderfully fun suggestions for how you could celebrate. There is Poem in Your Pocket Day , you can subscribe to their Poem-a-Day newsletter to receive a daily poem in your email during the month of April, or you can celebrate by just tooling around on the Academy's website to find new and old poetry that you might like. Their website is extremely creative and fun -- be sure to take a look.
Another interesting poetry project out there is the Favorite Poem Project. This project, initiated by former U.S. Poet Laureate Robert Pinsky, includes a video archive of Americans reading their favorite poems. You can watch some of the videos on the Favorite Poem website.
Even the SF crowd is getting into National Poetry Month. The folks at Tor Publishing (a science fiction-fantasy publisher) are sponsoring a sci-fi/fantasy poetry series this month. They're going to have contributions by some biggies like Jane Yolen & Catherynne M. Valente, with a new poem added each week. Check out their blog by clicking here. Happy reading -- and maybe you'll even get inspired to start writing.
Tuesday, April 3, 2012
Lee Kennett, who died last year, was a history professor at Georgia and a noted historian. He wrote books about French and American military history, from the Revolutionary War to World War II. I read this book because we are in the seventieth anniversary years of World War II, a major event that appears to be passing from our view, as those people whose lives were impacted by the war are now aging significantly.
While this is a book of “straight” history, and not likely to be in the public eye as much as a historical novel, I found it immensely readable. Kennett describes how the United States had to quickly assemble an army after Pearl Harbor. Some early recruits had to share a gun for target practice and others were put to clearing swamps to build their training camps. But by the time the American soldier went marching into North Africa, Europe, and went flying into the Pacific, the quality and quantity of his outfitting and supplies were duly noted by both the Allied and Axis’ armies.
Kennett covers all the bases, from the first drafting of men through their induction, training and deployment. He does not try to defend times when the U.S. Army failed to meet its objectives. An example of this was how Italy, occupied by the U.S. after the war, became a breeding ground for profiteering and organized crime. In America, the local draft boards decided who were to be called up, and complaints didn't usually change their rulings. Kennett reports that the Hispanic and African-American men were given less exemptions than white recruits, probably a function of the more segregated society of that time.
U.S. Army soldiers in Europe had different experiences than those who were fighting the Japanese, and Kennett details for us the essential bleakness of those stationed in the Pacific. They had to fight in a jungle, facing an enemy that allegedly tortured and killed captured soldiers. Interestingly enough, Kennett tells us that documentation on the Japanese Army side also records their soldiers feeling alienated and spooked by the jungle, with its wild animals and pestilent diseases. Many soldiers in the Pacific were not felled by the enemy, but by disease.
Although the book reiterates how varied the G.I. soldier really was, Kennett still manages to make some solid generalizations about Americans in the Army that make a lot of sense. You can almost picture these young men (and women) being so friendly and open that children just flocked to them wherever they went, and how they got the reputation from the other Allies for not having much patience - always wanting to “get moving”. Another thing Kennett shows us, is that for all the hype and propaganda put out by our government, the American soldier didn’t have any enthusiasm for talking about patriotism. In his view, he was just “doing his job”. Kennett has left us with a pertinent portrait of Americans participating in World War II, one that we can use to remind ourselves of what the war meant for them and how they went out to meet it.
Click here for our catalog listing.
- Hull zero three, by Greg Bear
- The end specialist, by Drew Magary (published under the title The postmortal in the US)
- Embassytown, by China Mieville
- The testament of Jessie Lamb, by Jane Rogers (a paperback edition will be released in the U.S. in May)
- Rule 34, by Charles Stross
- The waters rising, by Sheri S. Tepper
Perhaps as interesting as perusing the list itself is the commentary that it has generated in the SF community. Christopher Priest (author of The prestige) published a viscerally cranky, but entertaining, critique of the judges' decision on his blog last week, and Catherynne M. Valente (an American and a fantasy writer, no less) published an equally engrossing response to Priest's critique on her blog. I find this stuff fascinating -- there is hand-wringing over the Current State of Literature, but we're in the SF blogosphere, so there are f-bombs and space jokes included in the rants.