Brief Thoughts on a Bunch O’Books #2

I’ve been feeling depressed lately, repressed by my busy schedule and moodily brooding in my dark & dingy office as I work toward catching up and earning some free time I can burn by sharing with y’all.  And wouldn’t ya know it, several of my sublime fellow Bloggers just happened to provide some handy word prompts on the very day I have time to post. Thank you Kristian, Fandango, and Ragtag Community!

I already posted these reviews on Goodreads.  If y’all’re interested in reading any of the synopses, just click the linked titles below.  And if you’ve read any of the following, I’d love to read your thoughts in my Comments section.

Martin of Gfenn

Martin of Gfenn by Martha Kennedy.  Rated 4 of 5 stars, “really liked it” and shelved as historical fiction, medieval, and novel on Goodreads.

I really enjoy novels set in the Medieval period, so I was thrilled when Martha Kennedy’s Martin of Gfenn arrived in my mailbox, and I was not disappointed.

Kennedy is an indie author, and she warned me to expect typos, and although I noted their presence, they did not distract me from or detract from this heartbreaking and inspiring story of what must be one of the earliest Christian Humanists on record, the titular Martin of Gfenn.

Kennedy does a wonderful job of creating characters as lively and vivid as Martin’s own frescoes must have been. The relationships between Martin, his best friend, his landlord, his teacher, and his student are detailed and realistic, and they give the story added depth.

The descriptions of Zurich and its surrounding wilderness, the Augustinian Canons of St. Martin, and of the Knights of St. Lazarus community where the afflicted Martin eventually comes to rest are richly detailed and give the reader an almost cinematic picture of 13th-century Central Europe. Martin’s searching philosophical thoughts and conversations with his various interlocutors are moving expressions of his efforts to express his beliefs about the message of compassion brought by the Gospels, and his unceasing attempts to bring his artistic gifts to bear on bringing that message power this unique and lovely tale.

Entropy in Bloom

Entropy in Bloom by Jeremy Robert Johnson, ebook version.  Rated 4 of 5 stars, “really liked it” and shelved as anthology, fiction, horror, macabre, short story collection, and transgressive fiction on Goodreads.

I had never heard of Johnson before so didn’t know what to expect. I was pleasantly surprised by this collection of stories. I shelved it as transgressive fiction because many of the stories remind me of Chuck Palahniuk in the amount of physical and/or emotional suffering endured by some of the characters; Johnson really puts them through hell.

Most of the stories collected here feature characters who are victims of abusive relatives or authority figures with serious mental health issues and/or substance abuse disorders or are suffering from their own substance abuse/mental health disorders. Johnson reveals an intimate knowledge of the psychological damage associated with such characters. He does a superb job of portraying a very realistic funhouse mirror version of our chaotic, disjointed, absurd modern world. Even the more outlandish and far-fetched stories here are not that hard to imagine as being able to occur in America in the 21st century, which is precisely what makes this collection so fuckin’ scary.

Another feature of this anthology I liked was the end matter. Johnson shares brief anecdotes about what inspired each story and lists the publications that initially published each one, both of which are valuable resources for aspiring authors.

I really need to get a copy of Entropy in Bloom for my bookshelf. Take heed, though; if you are a sensitive person who is easily triggered by descriptions of violence, emotional suffering, or substance abuse, you’ll want to avoid this collection.

Rust_Stardust

Rust & Stardust by T. Greenwood.  Rated 2 of 5 stars, “it was okay” and shelved as American, fiction, historical fiction, and novel on Goodreads.

The true story of the abduction and abuse of Sally Horner is heartbreaking, and had she lived to tell her own tale, I would want to read it. But this is not that. T. Greenwood’s writing isn’t bad, and to her credit she admits in the afterword that most of this story is made up. But Rust & Stardust, rather than being Sally Horner’s story, is merely the transparent fiction of an author who was moved to try tell her tale. The bones of the plot poke through at every turn, and an experienced reader can see the hand of the author at work everywhere. Greenwood clearly tries hard to get into the heads of her characters, maybe too hard. Many of the characters end up seeming rather one-dimensional. This book fell flat for me.

Howl_Mountain

Gods of Howl Mountain by Taylor Brown.  Rated 2 of 5 stars, “it was okay” and shelved as American, fiction, novel, Southern on Goodreads.

A decent bit of Southern fiction but the action & events are a bit over the top. Brown’s prose is good, he gives lovely descriptions of setting and landscape, but his characters are too starkly black and white for my liking; they lack nuance. A week after I finished the book, I had to go back and re-read the final chapters because I had completely forgotten how the story ends. I don’t know if that’s ever happened to me before.

Haunted Castles

Haunted Castles: The Complete Gothic Stories by Ray Russell, foreword by Guillermo del Toro, Penguin Classics edition.  Rated 2 of 5 stars, “it was okay” and shelved as classics, fiction, Gothic, horror, and short story collection on Goodreads.

I really liked Guillermo del Toro’s introduction to this Penguin Classics edition, and I’m sure I probably loved some of Russell’s stories as a child, but they were much less satisfying this time around. I appreciate them for their contribution to the development of the genre, but they’re so tame in comparison to what’s on offer today, and the 19th-century alpha, rich, white male attitudes so proudly on display are jarring to my modern sensibilities.

Have y’all read any of the above?  What are your thoughts?

Via  Word of the Day Challenge for 10/29/18, “repress“.

Via Fandango’s One-Word Challenge for 10/29/18, “dingy“.

Via Ragtag Community’s Ragtag Daily Promt for 10/29/18, “sublime“.

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5 thoughts on “Brief Thoughts on a Bunch O’Books #2

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