Book Review: The Haunted Hotel by Wilkie Collins

hauntelhotelIs there no explanation of the mystery of The Haunted Hotel? Is The Haunted Hotel the tale of a haunting — or the tale of a crime? The ghost of Lord Montberry haunts the Palace Hotel in Venice — or does it? Montberry’s beautiful-yet-terrifying wife, the Countess Narona, and her erstwhile brother are the center of the terror that fills the Palace Hotel. Are their malefactions at the root of the haunting — or is there something darker, something much more unknowable at work?

A mysterious woman consults a doctor to see whether she is going mad or not. She tells a tale of her fiancee ditching his previous beau to marry her. However, she has left a reputation across Europe – justified or not – that has raised more than a few objections but results in the fiancé blackmailing her into the marriage.

Four months later, the husband with £10,000 in life insurance, dies whilst on honeymoon in Venice .

A year later, the Venetian palace where he died has been converted into a hotel, into which the man’s brother has a financial stake. A wedding in the family takes place, and the Grand Tour, combined with theatrical business required in Europe results in the various members of the family staying at the new hotel. Who ever from the family stays in the room where the death occurred is distressed, and refuses to stay another night in the room. In the mean time the widow (who is becoming more disturbed) arrives back in Venice and starts writing a novel.

Investigations take place in the hotel which answers some questions but raises more. However the younger brother is pressed with reading the widow’s “play” and soon we hear an alternative answer to the death, which is only more disturbing.

There are some truly creepy points in this book – the disembodied head floating above the bed for instance. The “cast of thousands” and who was related to whom was a little confusing at first but settled down to the main characters. Certainly gives some of the more modern horror writers a run for their money!

Book Review: Doctor Sleep by Stephen King

drsleepOn highways across America, a tribe of people called The True Knot travel in search of sustenance. They look harmless—mostly old, lots of polyester, and married to their RVs. But as Dan Torrance knows, and spunky twelve-year-old Abra Stone learns, The True Knot are quasi-immortal, living off the “steam” that children with the “shining” produce when they are slowly tortured to death.

Haunted by the inhabitants of the Overlook Hotel where he spent one horrific childhood year, Dan has been drifting for decades, desperate to shed his father’s legacy of despair, alcoholism, and violence. Finally, he settles in a New Hampshire town, an AA community that sustains him, and a job at a nursing home where his remnant “shining” power provides the crucial final comfort to the dying. Aided by a prescient cat, he becomes “Doctor Sleep.”

Then Dan meets the evanescent Abra Stone, and it is her spectacular gift, the brightest shining ever seen, that reignites Dan’s own demons and summons him to a battle for Abra’s soul and survival. This is an epic war between good and evil, a gory, glorious story that will thrill the millions of devoted readers of The Shining and satisfy anyone new to the territory of this icon in the King canon.

The book starts with Danny, aged 8, in Florida, with his mother, still dealing with the aftermath of his time at the Overlook hotel. He still gets visited by some of the dead from the hotel – his father thankfully not being one of them – and is taught by Dick Hallorann (the guy who taught him about The Shining and who ultimately helped rescue him) how to compartmentalise these visitations.

Andi Steiner – a 32 year old who spent 8 years being raped by her step father – has the ability to make people fall asleep. She uses this to survive, and is found by The True Knot, stealing from an older man in a cinema, and who then bring her into their group. They survive by torturing and killing children with the Shining, extracting the power the torture releases.

We catch up with Danny,  intermittently over the next 20 or 30 years, with Danny hitting rock bottom and fearing that he’s turning into his drunken, violent father, until he finds someone willing to give him a chance and be his AA Sponsor.  He gets a job in a nursing home, where he becomes the handyman and an unofficial medico, and generally ends up sitting up with the old patients as they breathe their last.

Meanwhile he becomes aware of a young child called Abra, who has a stunning Shining talent from the moment she is born (she predicts 9/11 on the day she is born by screaming her lungs out).

The True Knot become aware of her too, when they become aware of her during a torture session. We are introduced to a number of the group’s members and how they go around their business, some being down right creepy.

As usual with a King book, the first section of the book (it is split into 4 parts) is all about set up.  The three main story lines are interwoven with each other as we see Danny, The True Knot, and Abra, first of all from the viewpoint of her family and then by herself. Small things happen, all in themselves innocuous, but you know that they will all lead to something.

The rest of the book builds up to several crises – Abra and Danny manage to get in touch, and their meetings reflect the worst people can imagine when an older man meets a younger girl, so all must be done in public. Danny pulls in some of his friends, including the doctor who treated Abra when she was born. Abra gets so far, but finally relents that her family have to be involved – she doesnt want to, as she is still a 13 year old, and her mother is having to deal with the terminal illness of her mother (Abra’s grandmother)

The True Knot suffer some casualties, both on a case by case basis, and in a group effort, as a posse are sent to capture Abra, without realising she has help of the people around her. This leads to a showdown between Abra (with Danny) and Rose on the grounds of what used to be the Overlook Hotel (that Danny’s father so famously burnt down after being haunted by the spirits of the place in The Shining). It is Danny’s time spent with the dying which allows him to pull a trick out of the bag to allow Abra to overcome the fight between the older and stronger woman.

This is a story of the lonely and friendless coming together to become friends, in order to fight a group of people who ultimately become alone in the world. King shows his strength in the small details – Rose’s hat for instance, how it sits jauntily on her head no matter what, and how its image elsewhere leaves an impression of where her spirit has been.

It has been a while since I read a King novel – I stopped reading around the time The Regulators came out first time. I found this to be a light read, and reminded me of King at his best.

Dr Sleep readalong – part one

sleepalongFor once I’m taking part in a “Readalong” which means that you will see several near-weekly updates on this book until I’m finished. I will be doing a summary review of the book once done, so if you are not interested – or are worried about spoilers – please look away now. I will do an overall review post when finished  (image (left) designed by Charleen at Cheep Thrills)

******************* Warning – may contain spoilers *************

The book starts with Danny, aged 8, in Florida, with his mother, still dealing with the aftermath of his time at the Overlook hotel. He still gets visited by some of the dead from the hotel – his father thankfully not being one of them – and is taught by Dick Hallorann (the guy who taught him about The Shining and who ultimately helped rescue him) how to compartmentalise these visitations.

Andi Steiner – a 32 year old who spent 8 years being raped by her step father – has the ability to make people fall asleep. She uses this to survive, and is found by The True Knot, stealing from an older man in a cinema, and who then bring her into their group. They survive by torturing and killing children with the Shining, extracting the power the torture releases.

We catch up with Danny,  intermittently over the next 20 or 30 years, with Danny hitting rock bottom and fearing that he’s turning into his drunken, violent father, until he finds someone willing to give him a chance and be his AA Sponsor.  He gets a job in a nursing home, where he becomes the handyman and an unofficial medico, and generally ends up sitting up with the old patients as they breathe their last.

Meanwhile he becomes aware of a young child called Abra, who has a stunning Shining talent from the moment she is born (she predicts 9/11 on the day she is born by screaming her lungs out).

The True become aware of her too, when they become aware of her during a torture session. We are introduced to a number of the group’s members and how they go around their business, some being down right creepy.

As usual with a King book, the first section of the book (it is split into 4 parts) is all about set up.  The three main story lines are interwoven with each other as we see Danny, The True Knot, and Abra’s family (we find out little about Abra herself beyond what is seen through her parent’s eyes).  Small things happen, all in themselves innocuous, but you know that they will all lead to something.

It’s been a long time since I read The Shining, and I dont really remember Tony as a separate character, though he seems significant for Danny (and Abra) in this book and seems to be the connection from Abra to Danny.

So summary for this first part: Usual King slow start, setting up the reader for what comes next. Most readers will not suffer from not having read The Shining, based on what’s come so far.

Book Review: The Void by Brett J. Talley

void
The Void by Brett J. Talley
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Aboard the intergalactic ship the Chronos in the year 2169 the crew of Captain Caroline Gravely, Rebecca Kensington, Aidan Connor, Jack Crawford, Cyrus McDonnell and Malcolm Ridley engages in warp travel and encounter a deserted long lost ship The Singularity. On an undisclosed mission to the distant Riley the crew faces obstacle after obstacle.  Cyrus becomes infected as a result of something gone awry in midst of his sleep chamber while in warp mode. As a result the crew submerges in trepidation in having to quarantine him for his own safety and everyone else’s. It appears as though he won’t make the balance of the journey let alone the return home. The Chronos, their mother ship narrowly escapes several black holes, a glimpse into certain, inevitable demise. Their ultimate mission takes a dramatic turn as Crawford discloses their sole purpose is to find The Singularity, restore it bring it back to civilization. A mutiny ensues as we learn Rebecca knew all along of their superiors’ intentions. Newly enamored Aidan cannot shake his sense of betrayal as the remaining crew are held hostage to comply with their suicidal mission. Unearthly apparitions make their presence known first through the haunting dream like states the crew experiences while sedated in midst of warp travel then eclipses into reality while aboard the Singularity. Will the nightmarish fiends enslave the core existence of the crew of The Chronos? Or will they have the stuff to conquer fear within itself?

Received as part of LibraryThing Early Reviewers June 2012 batch.

Did seem to be a bit of a palaver to get the book – I got sent an email, that gave me a link to a password protected page, where after entering the password, I had to enter my name and email on another page, to take me to another page, where I could make my free purchase and download the book. Despite the “download the version specifically formatted for your type of ebook!” there was the odd formatting issue when loaded onto my Kobo, but that was more of a personal taste issue, than there being a fault with the book itself.

As to the book itself – it’s been a long time since I’ve read either a scifi book or a horror book. There’s a little hard science in this, but it’s more about the effect of warp on the humans involved. It turns out that warp causes dreams, all of which are connected (though few people realise it as few openly talk about that they see in their dreams).

In an attempt to stop the dreams, there is an experiment on a specially designed ship (the singularity) to test a new way of travel. The Chronos comes across the desolated remains of the Singularity and finds out what happened – causing the remaining crew to confront not only the horror of what happened on the Singularity, but what the dreams mean to themselves.

There are some truly disturbing parts in the book, though I did feel that those on the Singularity who managed to record their dreams were very wordy and didnt come across as people who were borederline mad and in fear for their lives (from the Shadows, their crewmates or themselves)

Brett can be found at his website here

Book Review: The Wise Woman by Philippa Gregory

The Wise Woman by Philippa Gregory. Book Cover. #witch #historical
Alys joins a nunnery to escape the poverty of her life on the moor with her foster mother, Morach, the local wise woman with whom she lives as an outcast, but she soon finds herself thrown back into the world when Henry VIII’s wreckers destroy her sanctuary. Summoned to the castle as the old lord’s scribe, she falls obsessively in love with his son Hugo, who is married to Catherine. Driven to desperation by her desire, she summons the most dangerous powers Morach has taught her, but soon the passionate triangle of Alys, Hugo, and Catherine begins to explode, launching them into uncharted sexual waters. The magic Alys has conjured now has a life of its own — a life that is horrifyingly and disastrously out of control.

Is she a witch? Since heresy means the stake, and witchcraft the rope, Alys is in mortal danger, treading a perilous path between her faith and her own female power.

This is not the usual Gregory book dealing with politics surrounding the King and his wives. This time it’s at a lower, baser level – Alys escapes the hovel she’s living in with the local Wise Woman by becoming a nun. When the nunnery is burned down by the local Lord Hugo, she escapes and becomes a scribe to Hugo’s father Hugh. She starts using her skills in an effort to stay within the castle and become Hugo’s lover in place of his wife Catherine.

She becomes more and more desperate, using more dangerous “dark arts”, only to be haunted both by the wax figurines she uses, the old Wise Woman (who drowns as she predicted) and by the Prioress who insists on continuing to practise the now heretical Catholic religion and can bring added danger to Alys

It’s not a book for the easily embarrassed or offended – there’s lots of sex (in explicit detail) and whether the reader believes in witchcraft or not, it details a dangerous time when women even knowing how to read can be a life threatening time