7 Dec 2018

Book Beginnings and the Friday 56 #30


Book Beginnings on Friday and The Friday 56 are weekly memes hosted by Rose City Reader and Freda's Voice.

Rules: 

Book Beginnings: Share the first sentence (or so) of the book you are reading, along with your initial thoughts about the sentence, impressions of the book, or anything else the opener inspires. 

The Friday 56: Grab a book, turn to page 56 or 56% in you eReader. Find any sentence (not spoilery) and reflect on it if you want.


My current read is:

(Mythic Maiden)
by C. K. Brooke


Synopsis:

If you think you know the story of King Arthur and his mythical sword, think again. Your legends have it wrong. Here’s the truth: I was never married to Arthur, and he wasn’t a king. Because Arthur never pulled that sword out of the stone. I did.
I, Guinevere.

On the winter solstice, a mysterious sword in a stone appears in the churchyard. Not even the mightiest of the village men can remove it, until fifteen-year-old Guinevere gives it a try. The sword heeds the unsuspecting maiden, proclaiming the unthinkable: she is the blood of Pendrakon, heir to the vacant throne of Camylot.

Guinevere never dreamed she was born royalty. Now, between apprenticing the eccentric wizard, Merlyn; swordplay lessons with an abrasive—albeit, attractive—boy named Lance; and clandestine, magical meetings with the formidable High Priestess of Avalon, Guinevere is swept up in a whirlwind of training and preparation for her monumental new role as future queen. But invasions by the barbarous Saxyns and visitations from mysterious dark forces continually warn that she may be in over her head. Can Guinevere defend the kingdom from the darkness and deception that threaten to seize it? Despite her doubts and the sinister forces working against her, can she harness the power to wield Exkalibur and rule the realm? Or is Camylot already destined to fall? 


Book Beginning:

If you think you know the story of King Arthur and his mythical sword, think again.

Go on, I'm paying attention...


The Friday 56:

A grin broke through as I bent to retrieve my favored sword. 
It glowed lambent for me, grateful that I held it again.

I wonder if she'll have to use that sword.


What are you reading this week? Don't forget to share your link in a comment below!

30 Nov 2018

Review + Showtime #3 - The Haunting of Hill House

Title: The Haunting of Hill House

Author: Shirley Jackson

Synopsis: 

Four seekers have arrived at the rambling old pile known as Hill House: Dr. Montague, an occult scholar looking for solid evidence of psychic phenomena; Theodora, his lovely and lighthearted assistant; Luke, the adventurous future inheritor of the estate; and Eleanor, a friendless, fragile young woman with a dark past. As they begin to cope with chilling, even horrifying occurrences beyond their control or understanding, they cannot possibly know what lies ahead. For Hill House is gathering its powers - and soon it will choose one of them to make its own.




My Thoughts: 

I half wish I could have read this book not having read or watched anything featuring a house full of ghosts before. The Haunting of Hill House is the ultimate haunting house story, it chills to the bone with simple classic elements of horror that you think you're already tired of until you read this novel.

"Certainly there are spots which inevitably attach to themselves an atmosphere of holiness and goodness; it might not then be too fanciful to say that some houses are born bad."

Dr Montague has a mission: he wants not only to experience the supernatural, but to record it; prove its existence scientifically. He seeks for the perfect spot to conduct his experiments and one day he hears of Hill House... Eleanor and Theodora receive a letter from him; a letter from a stranger, inviting them to a house without a soul. Of course they are all unaware how the little vacation will transform them. Luke, the future owner of the house joins them too, and together they soon stand to face the morbid secrets of Hill House.

To be honest it's not the ghostly activities that are scary here, more like the atmosphere itself. Yes, there are doors closing without anyone holding the handle, there are bangings on the doors/walls, a phantom hand holding the hand of a character in the dark etc... but these all become really scary because Shirley Jackson had such a talent to set a tone for a horror book. This novel put me in a mood, it turned me uneasy, after reading a big chunk of it I turned positively grumpy for the day. This book had power over me and that is what made it really frightening.

I would have enjoyed to read more about the backstory of the house. Dr. Montague summarized it, but there wasn't much elaboration and I think it would have been worth it to linger there more. I guess Ms Jackson wanted to keep the house in a mysterious light by focusing more on the haunted rather than on the ones who did the haunting. 

The real protagonist of the piece is Eleanor, who has just lost her mother after taking care of her throughout a long illness. The dynamics of Eleanor's relationship with Theo is one that is worth paying attention to. Eleanor had basically been shut in with her mother, looking after her every need, she'd been a slave to her task and never had the chance to be free, to enjoy life, to get away. She's looking forward to experience freedom in Hill House for the first time. Theo soon transforms into a mother figure to her that she starts to despise and since the house latches onto all kinds of weakness she slowly becomes a target...

The Haunting of Hill House is a must read for horror fans, don't shy away, you know you want to read it!




The Haunting of Hill House on Netflix



I confess I picked up the book for the sake of the tv show, since I was very curious about it when it came out in October. As almost always, the book was better. Why?

I immensely enjoyed the tv show up until the very last episode, when unfortunately everything that had been carefully built up by the writers crumbled into tiny sad pieces.

In the show creative liberty was taken on a large scale, since the creators only grabbed the haunted house from the original story and planted a family in it. Five kids and their parents spend a summer in Hill House and they come to regret it for the rest of their lives.

I liked that they operated with two timelines; we see scenes of the kids in the house and scenes where they are grown up, where they try to juggle their lives with all the residue of Hill House in it.

Unlike in the book, here we can see actual ghosts (I think that happened in the novel maybe once), screaming, ugly, angry, sad ghosts, of which if one appeared in my bedroom at night, I'd probably die of fright. There are quite a few jump scares on the way, which is a bit boring, but they don't overdo it at least.

It was great to watch the show right after reading the book, because they used the original text often and creatively. I understood all the references and could take away more than someone who watches the show without knowing the book I think.

Out of all the episodes I'd highlight episode 6, Two Storms. It was beautifully done, there were only 5 scenes in the 57 minute episode, the longest went on for 16 minutes without a single cut! Once they changed set without cutting. It was truly amazing.

And now that you see that altogehter I liked the show, let me tell you why I was ultimately disappointed. I'm afraid this will be mildly spoilery. I won't tell you any detials of what happened, only that the tone changed, but if you plan on watching the show you might not want to read on.

Guys, the most important message of the book was that the house was EVIL. What we've been fed for 9 episodes in the show was that the house was EVIL. How it should be. Because it is Hill House. However, in the last episode in the show they chose to shed light on an advantage in the house. They suggest it can be used for good purposes. They suggest there is GOOD in it!

*facepalm*

I completely lost it there, I really did. Then came all the cheesy bullshit that love solves everything and if we care for each other nothing bad can touch us. It's a shame they let this carefully constructed piece go out with such a flat and overused message in the end. I was truly said that the ending wasn't better.

Having said this, I still think this show is worth a watch (except for anyone who feels suicidal. I'm serious, please don't watch it if you're suicidal). If you're after a good horror show and you're willing to put up with a mild ending, go for it.

20 Nov 2018

Review - The Spellbook of Katrina Van Tassel

Title: The Spellbook of Katrina Van Tassel

Author: Alyssa Palombo

Release Date: 2 October, 2018

Synopsis:

When Ichabod Crane arrives in the spooky little village of Sleepy Hollow as the new schoolmaster, Katrina Van Tassel is instantly drawn to him. Through their shared love of books and music, they form a friendship that quickly develops into romance. Ichabod knows that as an itinerant schoolteacher of little social standing, he has nothing to offer the wealthy Katrina – unlike her childhood friend-turned-enemy, Brom Van Brunt, who is the suitor Katrina’s father favors.

But when romance gives way to passion, Ichabod and Katrina embark on a secret love affair, sneaking away into the woods after dark to be together – all while praying they do not catch sight of Sleepy Hollow’s legendary Headless Horseman. That is, until All Hallows’s Eve, when Ichabod suddenly disappears, leaving Katrina alone and in a perilous position.

Enlisting the help of her friend – and rumored witch – Charlotte Jansen, Katrina seeks the truth of Ichabod Crane’s disappearance, investigating the forest around Sleepy Hollow using unconventional – often magical – means. What they find forces Katrina to question everything she once knew, and to wonder if the Headless Horseman is perhaps more than just a story after all. In Alyssa Palombo's The Spellbook of Katrina Van Tassel nothing is as it seems, and love is a thing even death won't erase.

I received a free ebook copy of this book from the publishers via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

My Thoughts:

When I started to read The Spellbook of Katrina Van Tassel, I thought I was in for a spooky adventure, but unfortunately the novel was a real letdown from many aspects. 

When you engross yourself in a Sleepy Hollow story, you naturally expect a lot of action involving the Headless Horseman – well, in this book he only appears in dreams and as hearsay. Up until the very last pages we don't know if he is a mere legend or more than that. Even the dreams in which he is present are repetitive and therefore they completely failed to excite me.

I understand what the author was aiming for in this book. First of all, she tried to write a feminist retelling of a well-know story in that she succeded. Second of all, she wanted to show that while old superstition made people afraid of bloodthirsty apparitions, in reality people themselves could be monsters enough, even bigger ones than supernatural villains. But hey, I was here for the Headless Horseman, not a drama-ridden love story... I didn't get what I signed up for and the substitute just wasn't good enough.

The focus is clearly on the romance and it is the cheesy kind, unfortunately. I was eager to get through the first part where Ichabod was courting Katrina, because it was plainly boring, but even after they got separated in the middle of the novel, it just didn't get better. I was thinking about giving it up, but I had put too much energy into reading it already so I pushed on till the end.

Guys, if you are after a Sleepy Hollow retelling with lots of Headless Horseman, this is NOT it. On the one hand I'm so sorry I couldn't like this novel, on the other I feel seriously betrayed.


4 Nov 2018

October Wrap-Up, Novermber TBR


October was a decent little month this year. There was lots of work to do, but I managed to finish three books (and one long poem The Highwayman by Alfred Noyes – that Goodreads counted as a book, yay!)

I'm glad I picked a theme for this October – witches and wichcraft – because my reading materials sort of set the atmosphere for the end of the month which we are awaiting eagerly each year (despite the fact there is no trick or treating in my country, I just love Halloween and everything to do with it).

On Halloween night we switched my chain of pumpkin lights on, lit a candle, watched Sleepy Hollow and ate Halloween chocolate. I know it's not much but it was nice (also, it was the first time I saw the Tim Burton movie, and yeah... it was definitely worth to watch).

On November 10 we are planning to go on a trip with my friend (the one who came home from England recently), I'm looking forward to that a lot. 

I really hope my reading month will be at least as good as October was, since the end of the year is coming and I still haven't finished my Goodreads challenge.


Here is a summary of October on Paradise Found:

I've finished three books:

Time Crawlers by Varun Sayal My Review

The Witch of Willow Hall by Hester Fox Bolg Tour + Review

Lady Macbeth's Daughter by Lisa Klein


Other posts on the blog in the month of October:

Book? Movie? Both? Books I'm planning to read because I'm excited to see their adaptations on screen

Review – The Crucible by Arthur Miller


Weekly Memes:

Book Beginnings and the Friday 56 (Oct 12, Oct 19)


Plans for November:

I'd like to read the following books in November (in no particular order):

The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson

Aaru (The Aaru Cycle #1) by David Meredith

The Winner Stands Alone by Paulo Coelho

 The Oddling Prince by Nancy Springer

What are you planning to read in November?

2 Nov 2018

Book Beginnings and the Friday 56 #29

Book Beginnings on Friday and The Friday 56 are weekly memes hosted by Rose City Reader and Freda's Voice.

Rules: 

Book Beginnings: Share the first sentence (or so) of the book you are reading, along with your initial thoughts about the sentence, impressions of the book, or anything else the opener inspires. 

The Friday 56: Grab a book, turn to page 56 or 56% in you eReader. Find any sentence (not spoilery) and reflect on it if you want.


 My read for the week of Halloween:

by Alyssa Palombo 


Synopsis:

When Ichabod Crane arrives in the spooky little village of Sleepy Hollow as the new schoolmaster, Katrina Van Tassel is instantly drawn to him. Through their shared love of books and music, they form a friendship that quickly develops into romance. Ichabod knows that as an itinerant schoolteacher of little social standing, he has nothing to offer the wealthy Katrina – unlike her childhood friend-turned-enemy, Brom Van Brunt, who is the suitor Katrina’s father favors.

But when romance gives way to passion, Ichabod and Katrina embark on a secret love affair, sneaking away into the woods after dark to be together – all while praying they do not catch sight of Sleepy Hollow’s legendary Headless Horseman. That is, until All Hallows’s Eve, when Ichabod suddenly disappears, leaving Katrina alone and in a perilous position.

Enlisting the help of her friend – and rumored witch – Charlotte Jansen, Katrina seeks the truth of Ichabod Crane’s disappearance, investigating the forest around Sleepy Hollow using unconventional – often magical – means. What they find forces Katrina to question everything she once knew, and to wonder if the Headless Horseman is perhaps more than just a story after all. In Alyssa Palombo's The Spellbook of Katrina Van Tassel nothing is as it seems, and love is a thing even death won't erase.


Book Beginning: 

Washington Irving got it wrong. I don't know what secondhand version of Katrina Van Tassel's story  he heard, but it was all wrong.

I'm curious what the twist will be compared to the original.


The Friday 56:

The vision that had come to me in the candle flame came back to torment me in its every detail. Two figures in the woods, one chasing the other. The unmistakable sounds of struggle. The whinny of a horse, and the sound of a blade – a great blade like the horseman carried – being drawn from its sheath.

 This is so atmospheric, I like it a lot!


What are you reading this week? Don't forget to share your link in a comment below!

26 Oct 2018

Review - The Witch of Willow Hall by Hester Fox















Title: The Witch of Willow Hall

Author: Hester Fox

Publication Date: October 02, 2018

Synopsis:

New Oldbury, 1821

In the wake of a scandal, the Montrose family and their three daughters—Catherine, Lydia and Emeline—flee Boston for their new country home, Willow Hall.

The estate seems sleepy and idyllic. But a subtle menace creeps into the atmosphere, remnants of a dark history that call to Lydia, and to the youngest, Emeline.

All three daughters will be irrevocably changed by what follows, but none more than Lydia, who must draw on a power she never knew she possessed if she wants to protect those she loves. For Willow Hall’s secrets will rise, in the end…


My Thoughts:

Let me start with stating how very lucky I feel for being part of this book tour. I wanted to receive an early copy of The Witch of Willow Hall badly because I was convinced by its synopsis it will please me to no end.

I was not a least bit wrong. This is such a deliciously dark gothic romance, I haven't read anything so powerful in the genre in ages. 

Lydia's, family – her parents and two sisters – move to the countryside from Boston to run away from a scandal that could become the ruin of all three girl's prospects. However, the house they choose as their new home is half-alive with memories and tragedies of another family, and the nights are rarely peaceful there.

When two gentlemen from the neighbourhood start to make visits to the house, Lydia finds herself in bigger animosity with her sister Catherine than ever before, which is all the worse because thanks to that neither of them foresee the calamity that would change both their lives forever.

After disaster strikes Lydia's anger and helplessness makes her realize she is somehow different form the rest of the world; she is in for a journey of self discovery.

The novel seriously had everything I enjoy: regency era, haunted house, romance done well(!), witchery, creepy ghosts, a nasty scandal, a mysterious family tree... and some other things I can't mention here because I don't want to spoil your experience.

This would be the perfect read for all Jane Austen-lovers who also enjoy thriller/horror. I swear I haven't read anything this good on the gothic side since The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield and that must say something, because I LOVED The Thirteenth Tale.

Don't miss out on Hester Fox's amazing debut novel, it is quite a ride believe me.





About the Author:




Hester comes to writing from a background in museum work and historical archaeology. She loves the Gothic, the lurid, the dark...so long as the ending is a happy one. She has never seen a ghost, though she remains hopeful. Hester lives outside of Boston with her husband. THE WITCH OF WILLOW HALL is her first novel.






The blog tour was organized by:

25 Oct 2018

Review - The Crucible by Arthur Miller


Title: The Crucible


Author: Arthur Miller


Synopsis:

The place is Salem, Massachusetts, in 1692, an enclave of rigid piety huddled on the edge of a wilderness. Its inhabitants believe unquestioningly in their own sanctity. But in Arthur Miller's edgy masterpiece, that very belief will have poisonous consequences when a vengeful teenager accuses a rival of witchcraft—and then when those accusations multiply to consume the entire village.



 
My Thoughts:

In Arthur Miller's play a group of teenage girls accuse women of witchcraft in 17th's century Salem, and the famous witch trials take place as the consequences of their words.

The work itself is not written in the traditional drama format, since there are pieces of texts inserted in between the dialogues, that attempt to explain what must have been the reasons behind the mass hysteria that evolved in Salem in those fateful years. Arthur Miller lays out facts for us, and like an investigative journalist tries to dig to the bottom of the case and come up with motives. I found this new form of drama-writing refreshing, this play really worked better with a little realism.

Of course originally the pointing wasn't done by teenage girls, but there is something frightning in that Mr Miller gave such power to children in this piece. In the beginning the girls just want to shift the attention from themselves and their night activities in the forest but eventually their game gorws into something bigger, they lose control over it and their self-defence will cost lives.

I liked that I couldn't exactly figure out how to feel about certain characters. I mean essentially I had a positive intuition about John Proctor and I nurtured negative feelings towards Abigail (Abigail is the leader of the girls and John Proctor is the owner of the house where she worked; their personal relationship is one of the main motivators in the play), but in the end I brought myself to think about both their situations and what happened between them before, and I realized John Proctor wasn't absolutely innocent either (it doesn't mean Abigail should have done what she did but still, I was playing around with perspectives a bit...)

The whole play is very tense, families get torn apart and there are fierce battles of words that eventually land some residents of Salem in prison. The last act is especially tough. Those who won't confess end up on the gallows. The moral questions that the idea of confession to witchcraft brought up were extremely interesting and I was struggling to decide what I would have done in the place of the accused.

I think everyone should read this play once in their life, and there isn't a better time than October to do so.



 

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