Tag Archives: 3.5 stars

‘Hawthorne Cottage’ by R.L. McCallum

Hawthorne Cottage

I shall broach unto thee a dark farewell

If not ye heed this ghastly knell –

Henceforth beware where time is keeping

The dead abroad who are not sleeping…

Summary

Thus begins R.L. McCallum’s Victorian gothic tale of Professor Alexander Greystone, a writer from London who moves to a haunted cottage in Hampshire, England for a more peaceful, simple life. Little does he suspect the terror that awaits there in the form of the seven Hawthorne sisters, former tenants of the cottage who haunt the house and whose contact with the living is rife with terror and violence. The novel follows Greystone’s investigations into the root of paranormal activities at Hawthorne Cottage, bringing the reader through a gamut of close calls, near-death and (full-death!) experiences, a haunted painting, and ignorant curious bystanders until it comes to its conclusion and the reader finds out whodunit.

The plot was imaginative and enjoyable, the perfect story for a rainy day, and I finished this book in less than a week, which is always a good thing. It holds the attention of the reader in most places, but I did find it to drag too slowly in several instances. The author claimed to have purposely used Victorian vernacular in writing this piece, but I found a few anachronisms, and  at times the character voices were not very distinguishable from one another, especially those of Professor Greystone and Constable Kingsley. Other than that, however, the description was excellent and the dialogue between Greystone and Woodruff was especially good.

Plot

I enjoyed the classic elements of the gothic novel, the rain, the ruined cottage, the hauntings, a few deaths. I was slightly disappointed that the nature of Mrs. Parmby’s relationship to the Hawthorne sisters was not further explored, and I felt Miss Farnsworth was not prominent enough a character to be included as she is in the synopsis of the book. I also wondered why, if Anastasia Hawthorne were pregnant when she died, was there no baby among the hauntings at Hawthorne Cottage? The conclusion had promise, and then fell short. The mystery of the killer of the Hawthorne sisters was solved, but Abigail Hawthorne had not been helped to the other side, nor did Greystone discover where she had been laid to rest. The reader, however, is told in what feels like an aside, of how Abigail is brought to peace and where her body had been hidden all along. It felt untrue to Alexander’s character that he would muscle through so many near-death escapes at Hawthorne Cottage to get to the bottom of the mystery, all for the sake of writing his book, which is a very strong motive, and then not give himself the satisfaction of tying up the loose ends for himself and his readers, especially when the other spirits were no longer causing trouble in the house to distract him. I also felt that the death of Cora McKenna was unnecessary, unless the trend of women dying in whom Alexander is interested is to continue in further Professor Greystone novels, as was hinted at in several places throughout the book.

‘The Gothic’ – Check out this link for an explanation of the genre of gothic literature

Grammar & Punctuation

I found there to be several small grammar and punctuation errors, but nothing that hindered the actual progression of the book, and all in all I quite enjoyed this spooky story.

Star Rating

For an excellent ghost story (but because of a few too many hitches) I give this book a resounding 3.5 stars out of 5 and recommend it as a satisfying read for a rainy day or a weekend at the cabin.

Further Reading

R.L. McCallum has a great voice and other works by him can be found on Amazon or at his website.


Book Review – ‘The Cosmic Trilogy: Voyage to Venus’ by C.S. Lewis

Featured image

Voyage to Venus (originally published as Perelandra) is the second book in C.S. Lewis’ Cosmic Trilogy. Compared to the other two in the trilogy, this one best fits the mold of a ‘proper’ allegory. Ransom’s journey to Perelandra (known to us as the planet Venus), his subsequent enmity with the creature animating the body of his old rival, Weston, and their fight to either preserve (in Ransom’s case) or corrupt (in ‘Weston’s’) the integrity of the Green Lady, (Queen of Perelandra) during the absence of her husband the King is clearly tied to the struggle outlined in the Biblical book of Genesis between Eve and the Serpent. However, in this book, the idea is that the people of Earth (or Thulcandra) fell to the powers of the Evil One, but on Perelandra another planet’s Mother is given a chance at succeeding against temptation where she of Earth did not, as well as the results of that success. The idea carries through with a great deal of philosophical and theological dialogue back and forth. The dialogue between Ransom and the Evil One reads almost like a treatise in conversational form, and that between the King and Queen of Perelandra, the god Mars, the goddess Venus, and Ransom is clearly rooted in the tradition of Greek chorus. With its dense content and fine print, this book is a more difficult one to get through. It is not a light read. It is a fine piece of intellectual science fiction, especially for those interested in allegory or classical themes, but those looking for a novel will be searching in the wrong place. The next book in this trilogy, That Hideous Strength, is my favourite of the three, however, as it is allegorical like the first two, but also reads like a fantasy novel. It is easy when reading the third book to remember that this is the same man who gave the world The Chronicles of Narnia. The first two books in this trilogy, however, are more reminiscent of the Mere Christianity and The Great Divorce side of Lewis. More character development and description in this second book was nice. I can’t wait to reread the third. 🙂

3.5 stars out of 5


Fated: Book 1 – A Draemorian Chronicle: The Western World by Sebastien Leonard

Featured image

When I first read Fated: A Draemorian Chronicle: The Western World by Sebastien Leonard, I was provided with a rough draft to offer my editorial thoughts. My feedback on the rough draft revolved mostly around how much I liked the characters, the potential of the fascinating world Mr. Leonard had created, and my appreciation of the parallels he had drawn between the history of his world and that of ours. I told him to flesh things out a little more and that I would love to see a more polished version in future. Well, I just finished the final version, and to be honest – I was not disappointed.

As a reader, a writer, and sometimes editor (and especially as a writing reader who edits while reading), it is SUCH a joy to me when I see someone reach a potential that I know they have. Leonard’s writing had a spark to it when I read the rough draft. It is so wonderful to see that spark fanned into a flame.

The book is composed of two major parts: the first part being a compilation of journal entries from the minstrel, Sorrownote, and a collection of documents from various characters in the second part who each introduce the histories of the various parts of Draemoria in their own unique voice as a backdrop to the story. The second part is a novella involving the writers of those documents in a battle that sets the readers up for the rest of the series (and, Sebastien tells me, a future video game franchise as well!).

The first part of the book was completely revamped from the rough draft, and I loved how each document was separated by a journal entry and the voice of the character was made much clearer throughout. The rough draft had me confused, but this final version is exactly what I was hoping for.

The novella had a few problems with grammar and sentence structure in the middle, but because the first part of the book had been arranged in such a way that I really cared about the characters and attained that suspension-of-disbelief element, I only really thought about it after the fact instead of being stopped in my tracks, because I was actually so involved in the story that I didn’t care about the grammar.

The rough draft was also devoid of illustrations, and when I received my copy of the final draft, I was elated because Derek Sproule had done some absolutely beautiful artwork for it. A fantasy novel is never really complete without proper illustrations, and the map of Draemoria was also really helpful in helping track the band’s journey throughout the land. The illustrations capture the essence of the novel at its heart, and I really liked that. It was clear the illustrator and the author both shared the same vision, and especially for a new fantasy series, that is very important.

Map of Draemoria

Map of Draemoria.

Derek Sproule's illustration of 'Paradigm: Island of Ash'

Derek Sproule’s illustration of ‘Paradigm: Island of Ash’

This book is total fantasy nerd fun, and I love it. I think it would make an AMAZING graphic novel, if the opportunity ever arose, and I am actually really excited for the day it becomes a video game because I could see myself TOTALLY addicted to it. The thing to remember when reading this book is that it is the beginning to a series, and Leonard is purposely choosing to introduce the history first so the reader has background to go on, much as one would in a video game’s script, and that the story itself will deepen and become more intricate as other books come out. I am very excited about this new author and I hope you all go and buy his book. I give it a very well-deserved 3.5 stars out of 5.

Support Sebastien and help him get more books in print here: https://www.inkshares.com/projects/a-draemorian-chronicle-the-western-world

See more of Derek’s work here: https://www.facebook.com/DerekSprouleFineArt

So long, and happy reading!


‘A Wrinkle in Time’ by Madeleine L’Engle

I first heard about Madeleine L’Engle’s A Wrinkle in Time via Meg Cabot`s The Princess Diaries series, in which Mia cites it as one of the favourite books of her childhood. Then, it appeared in a book I still question myself for purchasing (but which I simply cannot seem to bring myself to get rid of): 501 Must-Read Books, published by Bounty Books, in the ‘Children’s Fiction’ portion of the anthology. So, when I came across A Wrinkle in Time in a used-book store for only $4.00, I knew it was time to give it a go.

For all its critical acclaim and all the ideas packed inside this story, it turned out to be much shorter than I had anticipated. Then again, it was originally written as a Young Adult book in 1962 (a different time with different standards for the lengths of Young Adult fiction), and there is definitely much more to it than at first appears. It is a coming-of-age story with all the deep and painful and awkward and confusing emotions that go along with being thirteen as I remember it (the age of the protagonist, Meg Murry). However, it has the added complexity of science, good-versus-evil, poetry, tesseracts, love, compassion, and aims to teach readers to see past the façade of appearances to the true substance underneath. My favourite passage illustrating this is a scene is between Aunt Beast and Meg on the planet Ixchel:

Perplexity came to her from the beast. ‘What is this dark? What is this light? We do not understand. Your father and the boy, Calvin, have asked this, too. They say that it is night now on our planet, and that they cannot see. They have told us that our atmosphere is what they call opaque, so that the stars are not visible, and then they were surprised that we know stars, that we know their music and the movements of their dance far better than beings like you who spend hours studying them through what you call telescopes. We do not understand what this means, to see.’

‘Well, it’s what things look like,’ Meg said helplessly.

‘We do not know what things look like, as you say,’ the beast said. ‘We know what things are like. It must be a very limited thing, this seeing.’

Below is an example of how to tesser (how to travel via a ‘wrinkle in time’):

tesseract

If there had not been more to the story I would have been very disappointed, since the beginning of the plot takes a lot longer to get going than the rest of the book (I’d say about 60% of the book takes too long to get going, and while it is philosophically interesting, I have a hard time thinking the young adults of today would really get into it straight from page 1), but since there are several subsequent books in this series, which I am very interested in reading, and since this particular book offers a good strong ending in its own right and doesn’t rely on those books to complete itself fully, I was satisfied.

A good (dare I say ‘timeless’?) book for younger readers (though not at all like the YA books sold at Chapters/Coles/Indigo today), this would probably be more currently suitable for an Intermediate but mature age group of 8 to 11 years old , and for older ones  too (even 25-year-olds like me).

3.5 stars out of 5


Husband/Wife Book Reviews – ‘Dune’ by Frank Herbert (March 29th, 2014)

Reposted from Livejournal:

Hello, dear readers!!! As you may remember, a while ago, my husband and I challenged each other to read a book and review it. I was given Bram Stoker’s Dracula and my husband Graham was allotted Frank Herbert’s Dune. Here are those reviews! The honour of first review goes to my husband Graham Podolecki, who, admittedly, writes better book reviews than I do.

Dune by Frank Herbert

A prophetic and earnest work, Frank Herbert’s Dune is a foundational text for modern science fiction, bringing in themes that in 1968 were just beginning to acquire prominence: ecology, over-dependence on foreign resources, and the sometimes breathtaking ignorance of ruling powers to the needs or even existence of former colonial societies. Dune addresses these issues in the background of the rise of young Paul Atreides whose family’s recent acquisition of Arrakis from the rival Harkonnen family. This sets off a play of factors that transforms him into the prophet and overall superman of the native population (Fremen) Muab’Dib.

Featuring an epic scale of characters, and the first work in a long line of sequels, Dune seems to spend a significant amount of time introducing its world, and it lags in parts. Herbert’s introspective look at his character provides fascinating psychological analysis, although the book seems to have an over-serious view; humour is almost entirely absent. Dune is a rewarding work to read but the reader must be patient, and ready to slog through rough patches.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5

034