Thoughts on 3 Books #9

I am several weeks behind on my bookthoughts, but I know y’all are dyin’ to hear what I have to say about at least some of what I’ve been readin’ so here ya go.  I’ll try to share a few more next week.

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 these books, I’d love to hear what you think in my Comments section.  Y’know, way down yonder at the bottom.

Eleanor Oliphant

Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman.  I rated it 3 of 5 stars, ‘liked it’, on Goodreads and shelved it there as fiction, literary, mental health, novel.  Read from March 27 – 30, 2019.

I enjoyed Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine quite a bit, and it was a very quick read. Honeyman’s writing is fluid, engaging, and virtually error-free, which is refreshing. She does a fine job of making the reader fall in love with, even if grudgingly, and root for the delightfully flawed, doggedly determined, socially awkward but unflappable Eleanor. I got this one from Mom, who got it from my brother’s wife KC, and even though my enjoyment of it wasn’t quite sufficient to make me want to spend my money on my own copy, I enthusiastically recommended it to my 13 year-old daughter, who loved it.

I’ve noticed regretfully that a number of other Goodreads reviewers have been discouraged from finishing Eleanor Oliphant because they find Eleanor to be such an unlikable character, and that’s a cryin’ shame. Eleanor may appear to be prickly, cranky, unconcerned with public opinion, withdrawn, and unlikable, but she is a deadly accurate portrayal of a young woman suffering, with damn good reason, from a severe anxiety disorder, clinical depression, PTSD, alcohol abuse disorder, and an ugly facial disfigurement who nevertheless pushes through her crippling issues to win for herself a thriving, indeed rewarding, future. If you like uplifting stories of people who conquer their personal demons, I can’t think of too many better than Eleanor Oliphant.

There are a couple of plot twists that I saw coming from a mile away, but there’s a big one near the end that, even though I consider myself an astute reader and quite good at accurately predicting plot twists, managed to surprise me. In a good way.

Hum and Shiver

The Hum and the Shiver (Tufa series, #1) by Alex Bledsoe, audiobook read by Emily Janice Card and Stefan Rudnicki.  I rated it 3 of 5 stars, ‘liked it’, on Goodreads and shelved it there as fantasy, fiction, novel, Southern, & supernatural.  I recommend if for fans of Southern fiction and modern or urban fantasy.  Audited from March 22 – 31 2019.

I hadn’t heard of Alex Bledsoe until last month. I was looking through the Audie Awards winners trying to find something good to listen to when I saw that the 2014 winner for Fantasy was Wisp of a Thing, volume 2 of Bledsoe’s Tufa series. The synopsis sounded interesting, so I researched Bledsoe & learned that he was born & raised in my home state of Tennessee. That decided me. ‘Course, I didn’t wanna start with book 2. Fortunately, my awesome Nashville Public Library had volume 1 available in e-audiobook format, so I promptly checked it out, and I’m glad I did.

Genre-wise, it’s kinda hard to classify The Hum and the Shiver. As another Goodreader remarked, it’s Urban Fantasy in a rural setting. Can’t say I entirely agree with that, but it’s close enough. It’s really a mash-up of Southern fiction & modern fantasy, with a healthy dose of erotica and a wee bit o’mystery thrown in for good measure. The mystery being what the heck are the Tufa and where do they come from? Bledsoe unveils partial answers to both questions throughout the novel, but it looks like all won’t be fully revealed ’til later in the series.

There’re plenty of well-defined, complex characters here, and it looks like each book will feature a different set of protagonists and antagonists. I suspect, and really, hope, that some of the main characters from The Hum and the Shiver will turn up again throughout the series.

Bledsoe excels at describing rural & mountain settings as well as the lives, attitudes, & behaviors of the folks who live in them. He does a wonderful job of illustrating inter- and intrafamilial conflict. Indeed, it looks like an overarching theme of the story will be a Hatfields & McCoys type of feud between the two Tufa clans.

Narrators Emily Janice Card and Stefan Rudnicki are fine readers and do an admirable job of portraying a wide range of characters ranging from a 9-10 year-old boys & girls to octogenarian men & women and even a haint (that’s ghost for all you Yankees out there). Rudnicki’s voice is so deep and resonant that, if I heard it speaking to me from no identifiable source, I’d almost be persuaded it was the voice of god. And y’all know I’m not a believer.

I enjoyed The Hum and the Shiver. You can bet I’ll be listening to and/or reading the rest of the series, and I’ll check out what else Bledsoe has written, too, even though he no longer resides in Tennessee. Can’t say I blame him, really. I wouldn’t still be here if I didn’t have to be.

Darkness

Darkness: Two Decades of Modern Horror.  Short story anthology edited by Ellen Datlow.  I rated it 3 of 5 stars, ‘liked it’, on Goodreads and shelved it there as anthology, fiction, horror, and short story collection.  Read from March 10 – 26 2019.

As she has done consistently for decades, Ellen Datlow has here assembled another anthology of fantasy/horror/specualtive fiction as diverse in quality as it is in genre and theme. I obtained my overall 3-star rating by ranking each story individually then dividing the total score by the number of stories (25) in the collection. The average is 2.76, and since Goodreads doesn’t allow partial star ratings, I rounded up to 3.

Here’s my ratings breakdown by number of stars:
1: “Eaten (Scenes from a Moving Picture” by Neil Gaiman.
2: “Dancing Chickens” by Edward Bryant; “The Greater Festival of Masks” by Thomas Ligotti; “The Pear-Shaped Man” by George R. R. Martin; “The Juniper Tree” by Peter Straub; “Calcutta, Lord of Nerves” by Poppy Z. Brite; “The Dog Park” by Dennis Etchison; “Rain Falls” by Michael Marshall Smith; “The Specialist’s Hat” by Kelly Link; “No Strings” by Ramsey Campbell.
3: “Two Minutes Forty-Five Seconds” by Dan Simmons; “The Phone Woman” by Joe R. Lansdale; “Teratisms” by Kathe Koja; “A Little Night Music” by Lucius Shepard; “The Erl-King” by Elizabeth Hand; “___” by Joyce Carol Oates; “The Tree is My Hat” by Gene Wolfe; “Heat” by Steve Rasnic Tem; “Stitch” by Terry Dowling; “Dancing Men” by Glen Hirshberg; “My Father’s Mask” by Joe Hill.
4: “Jacqueline Ess: Her Will and Testament” by Clive Barker; “The Power and the Passion” by Pat Cadigan; “Refrigerator Heaven” by David J. Schow.
5: “Chattery Teeth” by Stephen King.

A few details about Darkness surprised me and are worthy of comment. Neil Gaiman is one of my all-time favorite authors, so I was caught off guard by how much I disliked his entry here. I’m not a prude by any means, but his story is just so full of unnecessarily gratuitous sex & violence that I couldn’t even read the whole thing. I didn’t get the point of it. Clive Barker’s story, in light of the current #MeToo moment, is ahead of its time. Its ending was unsatisfying, but it offers a strikingly empowered and powerful female protagonist. And considering the recent revelations about the likely causes of the problems with Boeing’s 737 Max airplane, Dan Simmons’ offering is highly prophetic.

One thing about Darkness didn’t surprise me. Stephen King, my favorite since childhood, wrote the only story here I loved enough to give 5 stars.

All in all, Darkness is a decent collection worth your time if you’re a fan of horror, dark fantasy, and speculative fiction. Datlow also provides the names of the various publications in which the stories collected here first appeared, which is a handy resource for aspiring writers looking for publishers.

How ’bout y’all, have you read any of the above?  What’d you think?  Have you read anything else by any of the authors, and if so, what else would you recommend by them?

Take care, be well, and happy reading!

Love,

Denny

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19 thoughts on “Thoughts on 3 Books #9

  1. I read Eleanor for a book club meeting that I ended up bailing on. At first, I was hooked in, but then the story got boring and predictable. I think I gave it a 3 or 4. I’m probably too generous with stars.

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  2. I liked Eleanor too although I admit it took a few pages to ‘get’ her. Once I did, I was hooked and – like you – widened my eyes at that final twist. Those who don’t finish this book won’t relish this important part of the jigsaw …

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  3. Thanks for this (specifically Eleanor…) because I keep seeing this book and something about it ‘turns me off’ and I never pick it up to check out the ‘flap’. Maybe I’ll be more inclined to read it now…since I DO like reading about people/characters that surmount the odds!

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  4. I must admit I have not read Eleanor, but many friends have loved her. I heard a movie is on the way (don’t know if that is true). I was thinking of buying a copy for the long flight to Australia as so many people had recommended it.

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  5. I’ve only heard of Eleanor – and for all the many comments on this book it’s still on my ‘maybe’ list. Should I get it for a very good price (cheapish), I’d certainly read it but it’s not a ‘must read’. I do love the title however…. Am I shallow?! Maybe, in this case, I am!

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  6. I’ve not read any of the books you listed. I need to get to the library more! 😉 You’ve sparked me to read Chattery Teeth, though, and I’ve added it to my WTR list on Good Reads. I didn’t like Rose Madder, so I hope your recommendation of the CT helps redeem Stephen in my reading world. I did enjoy his “On Writing” book immensely and some of his other books, so I haven’t written him off my go-to author reading list. I look forward to your next recap!

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  7. Oh, wow, I haven’t actually seen any reviews of book bloggers disparaging Eleanor, so that’s come off as a surprise to me. And it’s very sad to hear as well. Like you said, she’s clearly suffering from several mental illnesses. I can understand if the plot is just not to their suiting, but there’s no need to knock a character who’s already down and isn’t really harming anyone. They’re no different to her work bullies in that way. Personally, I loved Eleanor. The story did drag halfway through which was a shame. I did not at all see that twist coming, but I did find it suspicious when she was speaking to the social worker, and I thought, oh okay, somethings up, but I have no idea why! Great reviews!

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    1. Thanks, Soph. There was one review on Goodreads that, frankly, offended me. It was posted by a white American female of my approximate age, and she found Eleanor to be unrealistic and unlikable. But what really got to me was her complaint about the term ‘dead air’, as if she’d never heard of such a thing, which for anyone who’s ever listened to radio or watched t.v. should be a common experience. I refrained from being snitty and calling her out directly, though, which required a near-heroic effort.

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      1. I think it’s okay to find her unrealistic and unlikeable, I mean if she can explain her arguments well then I’m fine. Eleanor is mostly harmless, so I’m very much confused! Should we not reserve this kind of backtalk for characters who would actually cause harm. I had heard of dead air and I could guess what it means, but in the U.K. we often just use a euphemism instead – ‘technical difficulties.’ Classic British politeness, Americans are much more frank! (But I have to say I still prefer living in the U.K., Theresa May is an angel next to Donald Trump).

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