The Turning by Francine Prose – A Discussion (Contains Spoilers)

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A new ghost story to add to my collection.

Discussion Notes:

* I liked the way the author combined modern technology with the old way of living – The main character (Jack) types and prints his letters to his girlfriend but still has to send it via snail mail

* A haunted house is always a good hook for me – especially if it is painted black.

* A good introduction to the story – travelling to an isolated island on a boat

* The story is told through letters from Jack to his girlfriend.  I liked this technique as you can get a glimpse into Jack’s most intimate thoughts.

* Not as scary as I would have liked  but I did appreciate the imagery Prose created and the ending left you guessing if the ghosts were real or just in Jack’s head.

Has any one else read any good new ghost stories lately?  

First Lines

photoMaybe I have too much time on my hands but I decided to go through my library and find some first lines that captured my attention in an attempt to improve my own writing skills.

Here they are;

* ‘It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair.’ – Charles Dickens A Tale of Two Cities

* ‘I am an invisible man.’ – Ralph Ellison Invisible Man

* ‘When I think of my wife, I always think of her head.’ – Gillian Flynn Gone Girl

* ‘There was a boy called Eustace Clarence Scrubb. and he almost deserved it.’ –  C.S. Lewis The Voyage of the Dawn Treader

* ‘This is a story of what a Woman’s patience can endure, and what a Man’s resolution can achieve’ – Wilkie Collins The Woman in White

* ‘In the days following the holocaust, which came to be known as the Great White, there was death and madness.’ – Isobelle Carmody Obernewtyn

* ‘It was a little before nine o’clock, the sun was setting into a bank of smoky violet cloud and I had lost my way.’  – Susan Hill The Small Hand

* ‘My name was Salmon, like the fish; first name, Susie’ – Alice Sebold The Lovely Bones

* ‘One thing was certain, that the white kitten had had nothing to do with it: – it was the black kitten’s fault entirely’ – Lewis Carroll Through the Looking Glass

* ‘Jack Torrence thought: Officious little prick.’ – Stephen King The Shining

* ‘When I stepped out into the bright sunlight from the darkness of the cinema, I had only two things on my mind: Paul Newman and a ride home’ – S.E. Hinton The Outsiders

* ‘I don’t really know what I am doing here.’ – John Marsden So much to tell you

* ‘Amerigo Bonasera sat in New York Criminal Court Number 3 and waited for justice: vengeance on the men who had so cruelly hurt his daughter, who had tried to dishonour her.’ – Mario Puzo The Godfather

* ‘Far out in the uncharted backwaters of the unfashionable end of the Western Spiral Arm of the Galaxy lies a small unregarded yellow sun.’ – Douglas Adams The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy

* ‘I haven’t laid eyes on the island in several years.’ – Dennis Lehane Shutter Island

Ten by Gretchen McNeil (A Discussion – Contains Spoilers)

With the dust jacket off - I thought this was a creepy idea

With the dust jacket off – I thought this was a creepy idea

I am a sucker for teenage horror stories.  Always have been, always will.  After reading the by line on the front cover,

‘Ten teens.  Three days. One Killer.’  

I could not resist buying this book even though I knew that it would most likely be as predictable as every other teen horror.

Discussion Notes:

* The beginning hooked me; I liked the dynamic between the two best friends Meg and Minnie.  The setting was also written well.  I could imagine the creepy island in my head.

* When all of the rest of the characters were introduced (yes all 10 of them), it was a little confusing at first and I had to check back to see who was who.  You do get used to them though as each character has a distinct personality even if they are just a little stereotypical.

* I liked the idea of how the killer put red marks on the wall after each character died.  It made it feel more sinister.

* The dialogue was a little irritating at times.  I just didn’t feel it was believable teenage speech.

* As the numbers dwindled the story got a little creepy when there were only a few of them left and you knew that one of them had to be the killer.  As usual though the killer was unexpected and out of the blue.  Although the motives were explained, it would have been fine just once to have the predicable suspect as the killer.  I think it would have been scarier.

As long as you don’t expect too much, this book is entertaining and easy to read.

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Favourite Ghost Stories

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For those of you that like to read a ghost story in the middle of the night, all alone and even though you are frightened and want to stop reading you just can’t…this list of recommendations is just for you!

5) Ring by Koji Suzuki – The movie scared me and so did the book.

4) The Ghost Writer by John Harwood – You almost forget that this is a ghost story for the first part of the book and just enjoy the interesting plot but then all of a sudden you are hit with scariness.  Harwood builds the suspense perfectly.  I also recommend his other ghost story The Seance. 

3) The Turn of the Screw by Henry James – A classic, short but creepy tale.  Leaves you thinking about what happened for a while.

2)  Everything’s Eventual by Stephen King – This is my favourite of Stephen King’s short story collaboration.  There are some scary tales in this book.  I particularly liked ‘Autopsy Room 4‘ and ‘1408’.

1) The Woman in Black by Susan Hill – I read this when I was by myself at the edge of a forest in Germany.  I was so scared that I had to finish it off in the day time.  Okay so it may have been the circumstances that made it so terrifying the first time but it still gives me chills each time I read it and Susan Hill is the queen of the ghost story, one of my favourite authors.

Australian Picture Books!

Cover of "Possum Magic (Voyager Books)"

Cover of Possum Magic (Voyager Books)

In the spirit of Australia Day, I wanted to pay tribute to my favourite Australian picture books.

* The Quinkins by Percy Trezise & Dick Roughsey

* Possum Magic by Mem Fox & Julie Vivas

* Window by Jeannie Baker

* The Bunyip of Berkeleys Creek by Jenny Wagner

* Clive Eats Alligators by Alison Lester

* Sebastian Lives in a Hat by Thelma Catterwell

* Animalia by Graeme Base

* Hist by Peter Gouldthorpe & C.J. Dennis

* Power and Glory by Emily Rodda

 Happy Australia Day!

Australia Day – My Favourite Australian Books

Banksia men

Banksia men (Photo credit: mimbles)

What better way to celebrate Australia Day (Jan 26th) than to show some appreciation for Australian Literature.

Here are some of my favourite Australian books/authors;

1) Picnic at Hanging Rock by Joan Lindsay – I have always found this book fascinating.  I love the mystery and it still manages to give me chills every time I read it.  The imagery and how she describes the Australian setting is spot on.

2) The Complete Adventures of SnugglePot and Cuddle Pie by May Gibbs – As a child I found these tales (especially the illustrations) captivating.  May Gibbs was incredibly talented and creative who would think of having Gumnuts as the main characters?  I was always slightly disturbed by the Banksiamen though.  Creepy!

3) Any book by John Marsden – His novels got me through my teenage years.  My favourite are ‘Checkers’, ‘Letters from the Inside‘ and ‘So much to tell you‘.  All darkly fascinating.

4) The Book Thief by Markus Zusak – The story really doesn’t have anything to do with Australia but the author is Australian and it is one of my favourite books.

5) Storm Boy by  Colin Thiele – Always used to make me cry, a beautiful story about a boy and his friendship with a pelican.

What are your favourite Australian books?