BOOK REVIEW: Tales from the Dead of Night, edited by Cecily Gayford

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BOOK REVIEW: Tales from the Dead of Night, edited by Cecily GayfordTitle: Tales from the Dead of Night: Thirteen Classic Ghost Stories by Cecily Gayford
Published by Profile Books
Published: November 25th 2014
Genres: Fiction
Pages: 288
Format: Hardcover
Source: Purchased
Goodreads

"These classic chillers will certainly make you look under the bed at night."—Daily Mail
From rural England to colonial India, in murky haunted mansions and under modern electric lighting, these master storytellers—some of the best writers in the English language—unfold spine-tinglers that pull back the veil of everyday life to reveal the nightmares that lurk just out of sight.
Contains ghost stories by Ruth Rendell, M. R. James, Rudyard Kipling, Edith Wharton, E. F. Benson, E. Nesbit, Saki, W. W. Jacobs, W. F. Harvey, Hugh Walpole, Chico Kidd, and LP Hartley.

 Two travellers sat alone in a train carriage.

‘Do you believe in ghosts?’ asked one, by way of conversation.

‘Yes,’ said the other, and vanished.

Tales From the Dead of Night: Thirteen Classic Ghost Stories is a collection of ghost stories by still-known and lesser-known authors. Over half of the names I didn’t recognize, and those unknown half to me had the more mediocre stories in the collection. My favorites of the collection are “The Shadow,” by E. Nesbit, “The Cotillon,” by L.P. Hartley, “Pomegranate Seed,” by Edith Wharton, and “The Black Veil,” by A.F. Kidd.

I will admit that I purchased this title mostly because the cover is absolutely gorgeous. I’ve held on to the book for several years because I kept putting off reading it, but during October, I made an effort to read more ghost stories and more “Halloween” things, and this was at the top of my list. I love reading Gothic fiction and older ghost stories written and set in times before the advancement of technology because things seem a bit more eerie then, but this collection to me failed to be a cohesive collection. A few stories gave me the shivers, but the rest plodded on and didn’t entice me in the slightest, even while taking into account the styles and techniques of Victorian and Gothic literature.

Below are the stories in this collection I think are worth reading and thinking about in the context of society and in the context of literary ghost stories:

Edith Wharton’s “Pomegranate Seed” focuses on a haunting of an upper class marriage in New York City and examines a woman’s fear.

L.P. Hartley’s “The Cotillon” explores an extra guest at an extravagant party.

E. Nesbit’s “The Shadow” uses a frame story to tell the ghost story (and honestly the frame story is more exciting than the story inside the story).

A.F. Kidd’s “The Black Veil” is probably one of the scariest stories I’ve ever read.

tales from the dead of night, posted on fairy.bookmother on IG

BOOK REVIEW: My Best Friend’s Exorcism, by Grady Hendrix

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BOOK REVIEW: My Best Friend’s Exorcism, by Grady HendrixTitle: My Best Friend's Exorcism by Grady Hendrix
Published by Quirk Books
Published: May 17th 2016
Genres: Fiction
Pages: 336
Format: Hardcover
Source: Purchased
Goodreads

Abby and Gretchen have been best friends since fifth grade, when they bonded over a shared love of E.T., roller-skating parties, and scratch-and-sniff stickers. But when they arrive at high school, things change. Gretchen begins to act…different. And as the strange coincidences and bizarre behavior start to pile up, Abby realizes there’s only one possible explanation: Gretchen, her favorite person in the world, has a demon living inside her. And Abby is not about to let anyone or anything come between her and her best friend. With help from some unlikely allies, Abby embarks on a quest to save Gretchen. But is their friendship powerful enough to beat the devil?

 But she remembers when the word “friend” could draw blood. She and Gretchen spent hours ranking their friendships, trying to determine who was a best friend and who was an everyday friend, debating whether anyone could have two best friends at the same time, writing each other’s names over and over in purple ink, buzzed on the dopamine high of belonging to someone else, having a total stranger choose you, someone who wanted to know you, another person who cared that you were alive.

I found My Best Friend’s Exorcism on a book list for things to read after you’ve finished watching Netflix’s Stranger Things. Needing something to fill in that void, I picked this up and started reading it immediately. I couldn’t put it down.

My Best Friend’s Exorcism is set in the late eighties and follows Abby’s friendship with Gretchen during a series of strange events. When Gretchen begins to behave differently than usual, Abby eventually figures out that a demon has possessed Gretchen and Abby does everything she can to exorcize that demon.

While the plot was a little slow at first, I thought it worked for this book because rather than it being an action-packed adventure through devils and demons and exorcists, this book is an exploration of the friendship of teenage girls and the ups and downs that occur in high school friendships, whether or not one is possessed by demons. Having grown up with a lot of eighties references and eighties films, this book also evokes a similar kind of nostalgia for that decade that Stranger Things did. While Stranger Things seems to evoke those action-packed, Spielberg films of the eighties, My Best Friend’s Exorcism evokes those heart-filled John Hughes films of friendship and budding relationships.

If you’re left wanting more between seasons of Stranger Things, I definitely recommend My Best Friend’s Exorcism!

BOOK REVIEW: The Sunlight Pilgrims, by Jenni Fagan

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BOOK REVIEW: The Sunlight Pilgrims, by Jenni FaganTitle: The Sunlight Pilgrims by Jenni Fagan
Published by Hogarth
Published: July 19th 2016
Genres: Fiction
Pages: 288
Format: Hardcover
Source: Blogging for Books
Goodreads

The stunning new novel from the highly-acclaimed author of The Panopticon
It's November of 2020, and the world is freezing over. Each day colder than the last. There's snow in Israel, the Thames is overflowing, and an iceberg separated from the Fjords in Norway is expected to drift just off the coast of Scotland. As ice water melts into the Atlantic, frenzied London residents evacuate by the thousands for warmer temperatures down south. But not Dylan. Grieving and ready to build life anew, he heads north to bury his mother's and grandmother's ashes on the Scottish islands where they once lived. 
Hundreds of miles away, twelve-year-old Estella and her survivalist mother, Constance, scrape by in the snowy, mountainous Highlands, preparing for a record-breaking winter. Living out of a caravan, they spend their days digging through landfills, searching for anything with restorative and trading value. When Dylan arrives in their caravan park in the middle of the night, life changes course for Estella and Constance. Though the weather worsens, his presence brings a new light to daily life, and when the ultimate disaster finally strikes, they'll all be ready. 
Written in incandescent, dazzling prose, The Sunlight Pilgrims is a visionary story of courage and resilience in the midst of nature's most violent hour; by turns an homage to the portentous beauty of our natural world, and to just how strong we can be, if the will and the hope is there, to survive its worst.

 You can drink light right down into your chromosomes, then in the darkest minutes of winter, when there is a total absence of it, you will glow and glow and glow.

It’s 2020 in Scotland, and the world’s freezing over. Jenni Fagan’s The Sunlight Pilgrims is an end-of-the-world novel, but it’s not a loud one. There are no explosions, no aliens taking over the planet, no rampant diseases. Just ice and snow and a chill that never seems to go away. It’s a quiet exploration of family, death, life, and identity when the world as we all know it is ending.

The Sunlight Pilgrims will make you think about your family, and maybe other families too, and hopefully make you realize and every family has its problems. It will make you think about death a little bit and maybe the end of the world and what comes after. But mostly, this book will make you think of some event that led to your “coming of age.” The event that made you cross that line from child to tiny adult, from tiny adult to actual adult. At the heart of it all, The Sunlight Pilgrims is a coming-of-age novel, and sometimes, some of us have several of those coming-of-age moments..

What I liked most about it is Stella. In the midst of the chaotic climate change, she is figuring out her identity and figuring out how to share it with the world without being constantly humiliated. Each of the characters are fully formed with an interesting backstory that links them all together, but I was really curious to see Stella’s story developed, and Fagan raises key points about gender identity that I thought poignant and timely.

I read this in a day, mostly in a single sitting. I don’t often get the chance to do that, and I don’t often become so engrossed in a book that I want to do that. The Sunlight Pilgrims is a haunting, lyrical exploration of a family at the brink of change, for themselves and for the world.

Thank you to Blogging for Books for a review copy!

BOOK REVIEW: Children of the New World, by Alexander Weinstein

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BOOK REVIEW: Children of the New World, by Alexander WeinsteinTitle: Children of the New World: Stories by Alexander Weinstein
Published by Picador
Published: September 13th 2016
Genres: Fiction
Pages: 229
Format: eBook
Source: Netgalley
Goodreads

AN EXTRAORDINARILY RESONANT AND PROPHETIC COLLECTION OF SPECULATIVE SHORT FICTION FOR OUR TECH-SAVVY ERA BY DEBUT AUTHOR ALEXANDER WEINSTEINChildren of the New World introduces readers to a near-future world of social media implants, memory manufacturers, dangerously immersive virtual reality games, and alarmingly intuitive robots. Many of these characters live in a utopian future of instant connection and technological gratification that belies an unbridgeable human distance, while others inhabit a post-collapse landscape made primitive by disaster, which they must work to rebuild as we once did millennia ago.
In “The Cartographers,” the main character works for a company that creates and sells virtual memories, while struggling to maintain a real-world relationship sabotaged by an addiction to his own creations. In “Saying Goodbye to Yang,” the robotic brother of an adopted Chinese child malfunctions, and only in his absence does the family realize how real a son he has become.
Children of the New World grapples with our unease in this modern world and how our ever-growing dependence on new technologies has changed the shape of our society. Alexander Weinstein is a visionary new voice in speculative fiction for all of us who are fascinated by and terrified of what we might find on the horizon.

 “If it’s any consolation,” says tech support, “they won’t feel a thing; they’re just data.”

Alexander Weinstein’s Children of the New World is a fantastic collection of speculative fiction stories. Each of the stories is incredibly engaging and explores different aspects of our future and technology’s integration with our future. Each of the stories also explores the human relationship with technology and the positive or negative effects technology has on our hearts and our society. I rarely read short story collections in which I enjoy every story, and in this case, I enjoyed every single one and am left thinking about each one long after I’ve read it. I’m looking forward to reading more of Weinstein’s work.

My favorite stories are “The Cartographers,” “Children of the New World,” and “Rocket Night,” because they’re immediate and more than once made me think what the fuck, this is going to happen in our immediate future.

The stories are both a nostalgic trip (because it feels like we’ve done this before and will do it again, and there’s a pervading sense of longing) and a warning (because this is our future if we’re not careful, and our future doesn’t look so welcoming).

If you enjoyed Anthony Marra’s The Tsar of Love and Techno, I think you’ll enjoy reading these.

Thank you to Netgalley and Picador for a review copy!

BOOK REVIEW: The Dollhouse, by Fiona Davis

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BOOK REVIEW: The Dollhouse, by Fiona DavisTitle: The Dollhouse by Fiona Davis
Published by Dutton
Published: August 23rd 2016
Genres: Fiction
Pages: 304
Format: eBook
Source: Netgalley
Goodreads


"The Dollhouse. . . . That's what we boys like to call it. . . . The Barbizon Hotel for Women, packed to the rafters with pretty little dolls. Just like you."
 Fiona Davis's stunning debut novel pulls readers into the lush world of New York City's glamorous Barbizon Hotel for Women, where a generation of aspiring models, secretaries, and editors lived side-by-side while attempting to claw their way to fairy-tale success in the 1950s, and where a present-day journalist becomes consumed with uncovering a dark secret buried deep within the Barbizon's glitzy past.   When she arrives at the famed Barbizon Hotel in 1952, secretarial school enrollment in hand, Darby McLaughlin is everything her modeling agency hall mates aren't: plain, self-conscious, homesick, and utterly convinced she doesn't belong—a notion the models do nothing to disabuse. Yet when Darby befriends Esme, a Barbizon maid, she's introduced to an entirely new side of New York City: seedy downtown jazz clubs where the music is as addictive as the heroin that's used there, the startling sounds of bebop, and even the possibility of romance.   Over half a century later, the Barbizon's gone condo and most of its long-ago guests are forgotten. But rumors of Darby's involvement in a deadly skirmish with a hotel maid back in 1952 haunt the halls of the building as surely as the melancholy music that floats from the elderly woman's rent-controlled apartment. It's a combination too intoxicating for journalist Rose Lewin, Darby's upstairs neighbor, to resist—not to mention the perfect distraction from her own imploding personal life. Yet as Rose's obsession deepens, the ethics of her investigation become increasingly murky, and neither woman will remain unchanged when the shocking truth is finally revealed.

Fiona Davis’s The Dollhouse explores two women who live in the famous Barbizon hotel in alternating viewpoints from the 1950s to modern day New York City. When Darby McLaughlin arrives at the Barbizon in 1952, she is nothing like the other girls who live on her floor. The other girls model and are gorgeous and compared to them, Darby is plain and soft-spoken. When she meets Esme, a maid at the hotel, Darby becomes involved in a world she’s only heard about and eventually is involved in a deadly accident. Years later when the hotel has been converted into condos, Rose Lewin, after hearing about the accident involving Darby and Esme, sets out to uncover the history and the secrets between the two women to write an article and she ends up discovering so much more.

I really enjoyed this novel. It’s a breezy read that kept me entertained and left me wanting to know how Darby’s story and Rose’s story intermingled with one another. Davis’s writing explores women who are left to the side in society because they “aren’t enough” to the men in their lives, and each of the women discover who they are through the course of the novel and become stronger for it.

One of my favorite parts of the novel is the contrast between what was expected of women in the 1950s versus what is expected of women in the 2010s. I particularly liked the attention to detail in clothing and attire that women were supposed to wear in the 1950s, like the clothing, the gloves and the hats; and I liked the contrast in the restrictions women had in that time, especially at the Barbizon, to today’s current social climate regarding the freedom of women. I thought it realistically portrayed each woman’s struggle in finding the right job, her purpose in life, and even the right partner, and I loved the similarities in those struggles each woman faced contrasting with the differences in society.

This is an excellent read if you enjoy historical fiction about women in their discovery of self, no matter what time in which they live. I’m looking forward to reading more by Fiona Davis!

Thank you to Netgalley and Dutton Books for the review copy!