Jan Reads 2024

The House at Phantom Park, Graham Masterton (ebook)
I found this to be far from the author’s best work. In the past, scenes from a previous book of the author’s made me go physically cold, difficult to make me do as I don’t scare easily. This one carried a slight creepiness but didn’t scare. I liked the plot and these less than average ghosts impressed. A lot of info gets repeated in the narrative, particularly in conversations and within a short timeframe, reminding me of several shows that have unnecessary exchanges to remind the audience of what they already know. In style, this made me wonder if the book’s intended as YA horror, though some scene content seems a little too gory for that. I wanted to like this more than I did, though there were elements I appreciated.

Leave the World Behind, Rumaan Alam
This book seems to do a few of the things many publishers tell their authors not to do, so it took a little while to get used to the omnipresent head-hop style, knowing things the characters in the book can’t yet know, or never know. A social commentary on isolation, dependance on technology and society, wrapped up in tension, the themes here make one realise how helpless so many of us might be in the face of disaster; how most people require order and structure, and how close they come to panic, man turning on each other when these things come under threat. A suspenseful piece of writing. Often disturbing. (Note: the Netflix adaptation is good but I preferred the reading experience.)

Agatha Raisin and the Potted Gardener (audio), M.C.Beaton (read by Penelope Keith)
Agatha never learns from past mistakes; whenever she cheats, as with horticulture in this story, you know she’s going to be caught out. She is a mercurial character, though that’s partly what makes her fun. We like to see her fail as much as triumph. Her sense of right and wrong is her saving grace, though she has a sharper tongue than mind sometimes. In this, the sniping among the characters, not only Agatha, provides the most fun.

Rotherweird, Andrew Caldecott
A book that’s difficult to describe. Made me think of Gormenghast a little, in that it’s a hidden world in our world, somewhat though not entirely closed off because of a historical secret, and I’m sure the town is more fantastical in my imagination than the author intended because of that. I want to adore this book, but it requires concentration in part because of the wealth of characters. There’s so many don’t expect any real depth to them. In that, possibly the book is missing something, but to allow the audience to get to know them more deeply would require additional verbiage to an already long narrative and it’s already a little too much. I can’t help feeling that this book would benefit from some editing, though choosing what to cut (the author already states in the back that scenes and characters ended up on the cutting room floor), would require a well-trained eye, or perhaps several, as opinions will naturally vary. But the flaws are irritating because this should be, and is to a degree, an amazing book. I guess the broadest genre to place this would be fantasy, but to use one word to describe the work would be an injustice; if you can think of it, you’ll likely find it here. Fantastical is perhaps a better word. The book excels in scope and is mostly a triumph, but it’s heavy going, and I used to read a lot of epic fantasy with no problems. I couldn’t help loving most of it and may tackle the trilogy in time, though for now, I feel as though my brain needs a rest.

By the Light of the Moon, Dean Koontz
A re-read for me as part of a book clearance, although I enjoyed this as much, if not more, than the first time around, so may hold on to it awhile. Not only a solid plot, but Koontz creates an enjoyable balance of characters here. Even the antagonist, with his self-serving justification, lifts the mad scientist level somewhat. Yes, it’s necessary to suspend disbelief, but then this is a supernatural thriller — what else should the reader expect except the miraculous? The penultimate part with Shep being a little bit ‘something’ (the best way I can describe it, giving nothing away) has always stood out for me and the urge to protect the protagonist’s autistic brother makes for plenty of suspense.

About Sharon

Writer of Dark and Light Fiction. Fact, fiction, poetry, short stories, articles and novels. Cross-genre, slipstream, non-traditional romance, gothic, horror, fantasy and more... Visit this diverse writer's site.
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