Halloween, Historical Fiction, Reader's Rights, Reviews

Sometimes You Just Need to Give Up

The Spellbook of Katrina Van Tassel: A Story of Sleepy Hollow

Maybe it is the years of reading for school that drill into us this compulsion to finish every book even when we aren’t enjoying it.  I am only now, nearly twenty years past my last Summer Reading assignment, able to simply put a book aside or give up reading it altogether when I’m not enjoying it.  I still feel a little guilty but then I just start another – hopefully, more enjoyable – book and the guilt fades.  Other times circumstances help make the decision for you.

The Spellbook of Katrina Van Tassel: A Story of Sleepy Hollow by Alyssa Palombo

When NetGalley gave me the opportunity to read The Spellbook of Katrina Van Tassel, I was thrilled because I’d been intrigued when I saw it on Goodreads and because I love Washington Irving’s The Legend of Sleepy Hollow. I quickly got over my excitement. The narrative is slow, the main character, Katrina, is spoiled and annoying, and the language which is supposed to read as historical just feels stilted and unnatural. But I read some reviews that said that it got better so I forged ahead. The first half of the novel, at least, is a cloying romance between Ichabod and Katrina. And then it was repetitive. I just could not get into it when there were so many other books to be read so I was considering abandoning this one when the lending period ended. So…maybe it does eventually get better, which would explain all of the great reviews The Spellbook of Katrina Van Tassel has received, but I’ll probably never know because I wasn’t even interested in finding out what happens.

I don’t have a recommendation but I am reading another historical fiction from NetGalley.  V.A. Shannon’s When Winter Comes is based on an actual historical event  – the journey of the Donner party of all things! – rather than a work of fiction but so far it is a much more exciting and interesting read.

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Fantasy, Halloween, Historical Fiction, Reviews

Review: The Historian

3 Stars

historianMy first impression The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova, a literary novel about Vlad III (the Impaler) and the Dracula legend, was that it was sort of like slow-release horror – lots of exposition punctuated by increasingly disturbing moments of horror. This impression was made within the first hundred pages or so. After that, the tale goes from slow release to slow motion. There are still a few disturbing moments distributed throughout the next 500 pages but they are so few and far between that I was barely affected by them. With all of the talk, talk, talk, my imagination seemed to have gone numb by the time I read the big climax. A scene which wasn’t nearly as dramatic as it should have been.
While this novel didn’t inspire much horror in me, it did reawaken my desire to travel and explore some of the wondrous places the characters explore throughout their quest. What Kostova does well is to illuminate her settings beautifully. The passages describing a city or a site or a library were written with the reverence that the more dramatic or horrific scenes needed but lacked.

Note:  I don’t usually talk about the physical appearance of a book because, as we all know, you aren’t supposed to judge a book by its cover, however, I must mention the artificially aged pages.  The pages of the hardcover edition that I read were browned and often streaked or spotty.  This combined with the italic font of many passages made for some serious eye strain.  It was an unnecessary gimmick.

NosferatuIf you enjoy The Historian or simply enjoy vampire stories, I recommend watching Shadow of the Vampire, the excellent fictionalized look at the making of the 1922 silent horror classic, Nosferatu.  Then go ahead and watch the 1922 silent horror classic Nosferatu.  I am not a fan of silent cinema but since horror is a visual genre, this movie is extremely watchable even if just as a study in lighting.  The unsettling image of the shadow of Count Orlock’s hands on the wall alone makes it worth watching the movie.

Halloween, Quotes

Quote of the Week

The wind outside nested in each tree, prowled the sidewalks in invisible treads like unseen cats.
Tom Skelton shivered. Anyone could see that the wind was a special wind this night, and the darkness took on a special feel because it was All Hallows’ Eve. Everything seemed cut from soft black velvet or gold or orange velvet. Smoke panted up out of a thousand chimneys like the plumes of funeral parades. From kitchen windows drifted two pumpkin smells: gourds being cut, pies being baked.

-Ray Bradbury, The Halloween Tree

Happy Halloween!

Audiobooks, Halloween

Review: The Edgar Allan Poe Audio Collection

3.5 Stars

I’ve read a few of Poe’s stories and poems and I’ve attempted to read others only to come to the conclusion that they, like the plays of William Shakespeare, are most enjoyable when performed. In this case performed by two great dramatic actors – Basil Rathbone and Vincent Price.  I don’t often listen to audiobooks but their interpretations of Poe’s tales and poems were thoroughly enjoyable and thrilling – a perfect addition to my Halloween reading.

comedy of terrors

If you enjoy listening to or reading the works of Edgar Allan Poe, you may also enjoy the over-the-top campy film adaptations starring Vincent Price.  And if you enjoy those movies, do watch Vincent Price and Basil Rathbone (along with Boris Karloff, Peter Lorre, and comedy icon Joe E. Brown) in The Comedy of Terrors and have a wicked Halloween.


Spooky Reads

Happy Halloween!  In celebration of the holiday, I thought I share a few of my favorite Halloween reads.  As a rule, I do not read many horror or thriller novels.  I’m just too much of a wimp.  But during the month of October, I do enjoy a seasonal read.  One of my go-to books for Halloween is Ray Bradbury’s The Halloween Tree, which I discovered thanks to the animated version shown on television in the 1990s.  While I still enjoy watching that movie version, the book transports you to small town America on that most haunting of nights thanks to Bradbury’s powers of description.  My favorite phrase from the book is a perspiration of boys”.  How wonderful is that?

For a scarier read, I enjoy reading the short stories of Edgar Allan Poe.  “The Tell-Tale Heart” is a particular favorite of mine.  An audio version presented during class in middle school still haunts me with the palpable beating of the heart through the floorboards.

And Halloween isn’t just for fiction.  Though I scare easily, I do enjoy a good ghost story.  Especially if they occur in places I can recognize.  In high school, I read Ghosts Along the Bayou by Christine K. Word and particularly enjoyed the stories of places near my own hometown in South Louisiana.  It is the perfect read on a dark, stormy Louisiana Halloween night.