Book Review | The Clairvoyants by Karen Brown

clairvoyants karen brown.jpgAfter growing up on the Connecticut coast, Martha moves to Ithaca to further her photography skills at Cornell. Before long, she is joined by her younger sister, Del, and they fall in with a group of gals from the neighboring town of Milton. Martha’s curiosity regarding the disappearance of one Milton girl grows after she sees the girl’s spirit outside her apartment. After thinking she’s found love, Martha is at a loss when she finds out she’s been courting the missing girl’s beau.

The Clairvoyants is an enjoyable and thought provoking read. Brown’s writing is clear, offering a plot that’s easy to get involved in. Though I didn’t particularly like any of the novel’s characters, their stories were interesting and kept me constantly engaged. The supernatural aspect of the plot, while ever-present, is not overdone. This book would appeal to fans of gothic or women’s fiction. Check it out from a library near you!

I received an advance reader’s edition of this book as a Goodreads giveaway in exchange for an honest review. Thanks to the author/publisher for participating in the giveaway.

*If you’ve enjoyed reading The Clairvoyants, you may be interested in An English Ghost Story by Kim Newman (2014).

A Summary of the 27 books I read during 2014 – Best & Worst

The titles are listed below and are mostly novels, but also include art and historical fiction, art history, photography and short stories. In an attempt to make this post useful to readers, I’ve created sections to group the books. Not all of the books I read during 2014 were released in 2014. A full list of titles appears at the end of the post.

My four favorite books:

A Marker to Measure Drift – A Liberian refugee in her mid-20’s is starving as she tries to make a new life in the Greek Isles.

Sad Peninsula – A Canadian ESL teacher in South Korea learns about the Japanese occupation during World War II and Korean comfort women.

The Anatomy Lesson – In 1600’s Amsterdam, Rembrandt paints his masterpiece of a human dissection.

Decompression – A German writer and soap star take a vacation to the Canary Islands to learn scuba diving.

After those four, my next five favorite books:

Hikikomori and the Rental Sister – A man has made his room a prison that he will not leave so his wife hires a Japanese rental sister to coax him out.

The Silence of the Wave – An Italian detective has suffered a breakdown after many years undercover, but things look up when he meets a lady.

A Hologram for the King – A failing business man is sent to Saudi Arabia to broker an IT deal with the king.

The Book of You – An English woman is relentlessly stalked by a fellow university employee.

The Year of the Hare – A man quits his job and leaves his wife and life to spend a year wandering Finland with a hare as his companion.

Four books that should have been better:

Shotgun Lovesongs – High school friends are reunited in smalltown Wisconsin for a wedding.

The Last Magazine – An intern watches a journalist’s career being shredded to protect the magazine.

Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage – A Japanese man living a quiet life learns the stories that ripped his high school friends away from him.

October – A South African woman returns home after years abroad to face the trials that have torn her family apart.

Five books that were a waste of my time:

Notes from the Internet Apocalypse – The internet goes out and a man searches for a way to restore it.

Rude Bitches Make Me Tired – A lady rants about habits of others that she considers rude and annoying.

The Transcriptionist – A newspaper transcriptionist becomes obsessed with a story about a blind woman being mauled to death by lions.

Monster’s Chef – An ex-convict is hired as the personal chef for a famous musician.

The Way Inn – A man discovers that his hotel is a gateway to accessing the whole world.

All titles appear in alphabetical order by author’s last name. Title links are to book reviews I’ve written. I’ve placed an asterisk by the names of authors whose work I had previously read. I’m happy to answer any questions about these books or provide suggestions for further reading if there’s a certain title you particularly enjoyed.

Hikikomori and the Rental Sister – Jeff Backhaus
Shotgun Lovesongs – Nickolas Butler
The Silence of the Wave – Gianrico Carofiglio
A Hologram for the King – Dave Eggers*
The Coast & the Sea: Marine and Maritime Art in America at the New-York Historical Society – Linda S. Ferber
Notes from the Internet Apocalypse – Wayne Gladstone
Terms & Conditions – Robert Glancy
The Last Magazine – Michael Hastings
Horrorstör – Grady Hendrix
Fifty Shades trilogy – E.L. James
The Book of You – Claire Kendal
Joyland – Stephen King*
A Marker to Measure Drift – Alexander Maksik
Perimeter : A Contemporary Portrait of Lake Michigan – Kevin J. Miyazaki
Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage – Haruki Murakami*
The Strange Library – Haruki Murakami*
An English Ghost Story – Kim Newman
The Year of the Hare – Arto Paasilinna
Rude Bitches Make Me Tired – Celia Rivenbark
The Transcriptionist – Amy Rowder
Sad Peninsula – Mark Sampson
The Anatomy Lesson – Nina Siegal
Monster’s Chef – Jervey Trevalon
October – Zoë Wicomb*
The Way Inn – Will Wiles
Decompression – Juli ZehBooks I tried to read, but quit:
Ripper – Isabelle Allende
Cartwheel – Jennifer Dubois
On Such a Full Sea – Chang-Rae Lee

Book Review | An English Ghost Story by Kim Newman

book cover an english ghost story by kim newmanAfter difficult times, Steven and his wife Kirsty decide to leave city life behind for a home in the Somerset countryside and a new start for their family. Both parents, daughter Jordan and son Tim immediately fall in love with The Hollow, a property previously owned by a famed authoress. An English Ghost Story explores the family’s discoveries about their new home being inhabited by spirits and the interaction between the ghosts and the family members. Things heat up as family members are torn apart and turn against each other.

Accessible to all readers, this book started out with an inviting storyline. While there are not regular chapter breaks, there are section breaks that Newman uses to switch focus between characters. Jordan is 17 and interested in her boyfriend Rick who has stayed in London. Little Tim is constantly playing soldier. Steven runs a business where he matches clients with funding. Kirsty is a bit up in the air about her role as Mother, keeping the family together and feeling like she wants to break out on her own. Each character is quirky and forms different relations with the spirits and magical objects in the house. The book is well written and keeps the reader guessing about what is real versus imagined and what will ultimately happen to the family in The Hollow. This novel is recommended for those interested in haunted houses, dysfunctional families or obsessed with a childhood author. Check it out from a library near you.

Book Review | Horrorstör : a novel by Grady Hendrix

horrorstor by grady hendrixWhen the furniture showroom doesn’t look as it should in the morning, a manager set on keeping his job pulls two recruits to spend the night at the store patrolling with him. On their first round, they discover two young employees attempting to film a supernatural episode. Next they discover a man who has repeatedly been sneaking into the store and spending the night amongst the furniture. Things get really out of hand when they decide to hold a séance and the ghost of a warden takes over the man’s body. Apparently the store has been built on the site of a panopticon prison. Things take off into crazyland after that, a suspense thriller, will they make it out alive.

I picked this (e)book for its appealing cover. The book was alright. It was not at all hard to get into, especially for those who enjoy workplace or corporate fiction. The 24 year old female protagonist is sarcastic and edgy. The storyline, although seriously unreal, carried well and was easy to read with a fast moving plot. Horrorstör would make a good airplane book. Check it out from a library near you.

Film Review | Contracorriente (Undertow) by Javier Fuentes-Leon

film poster for undertow contracorrienteSet in a Peruvian fishing village, Contracorriente tells the story of Miguel, a beautiful man with a wife and child on the way and how he deals with the abrupt death of his secret lover Santiago. Miguel is a local with family ties who works on a fishing boat. Santiago is an artist who lives temporarily in the village and is a societal outcast because of his lifestyle. The two meet only in secret and no one knows of their relationship. After a fight, something unexpected happens, which causes Miguel to reevaluate his choices and values.

This film was the best movie I’ve seen in a very long time. I wasn’t expecting the depth and emotional waves that came. If you’re willing to relate to the characters, have a handkerchief nearby. The acting was top notch and the story was completely realistic. I didn’t want this movie to end. It’s no surprise that this film was featured at multiple film festivals and won the 2010 Sundance World Cinema Audience Award. If you loved Julian Schnabel’s film Before Night Falls based on the novel by Reinaldo Arenas, this movie is worth buying. If you want to try it out first, check a library near you. The trailer is also available on the film’s website.

Book Review | Joyland by Stephen King

book cover Joyland by Stephen KingIt’s been almost a month since I read Joyland. I was looking for an easy read, a paperback to take on the plane and this fit the bill. I’ve read quite a few of Stephen King’s books, 28 to be exact, and this was at the very bottom of my enjoyment list. While the writing was decent, the tension, build-up, and plot in general were lacking. The characters are underdeveloped and fairly flat. It took more than half the book for the actual crux of the story to become apparent.

Just in case you’re still interested… Joyland tells the story of a college kid who takes a summer job at an amusement park. He’s heart broken after his girlfriend splits on him so he throws his all into being a carny and befriends a few other summer employees who board at the same house. The fortune teller senses an ill omen for the kid and things shift course when the three of them check out the haunted ride where years before a young lady was murdered. He saves a choking girl while dressed like a dog and then meets a little boy who can hear thoughts and see spirits. Have you figured out the plot yet? This book is probably on the shelf at a library near you. For a much better, but completely different read by King, try Desperation.