Friday, July 21, 2017

Book Blogger Hop No. 101: Toxic Books


Welcome to the Book Blogger Hop,
hosted by Billy @


For more information, and 
to find out the topic of next week's question, click HERE.


This Week's Question

Have you ever read a book or
books you would consider
'toxic' because of the effect it/they
had on you? If so, which one(s)?

(Submitted  by Maria @ 
A Night's Dream of Books)





WARNING
I totally BLAST the horror genre in this post, 
so, if you're a fan of this genre, 
read no further.
YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED!


My Answer

There is one book that I would say wins the "Grand Prize for Toxicity" award, although there are some "runner-up" stories. That book is the one pictured above.

Before I start getting into details, I need to explain that I consider one specific literary genre to be HIGHLY toxic, and that's the horror genre. I DETEST this genre with every fiber of my being. Why? The basic answer is: because of its detailed depiction of evil. But there's more. The horror genre thrives on a detailed depiction of FEAR, as well. It painfully depicts the effect of all the evil on helpless human beings. Since fear is a highly unpleasant emotion for me, I do not want to waste any more of my precious time (which I already have wasted, unfortunately, but never again) reading any book which will induce this emotion in me. I do not enjoy feeling TERRIFIED. AT ALL. I also avoid horror movies, for the same reason.

The novel and stories I am mentioning here all belong to the horror genre. Unfortunately, I had to read a few horror stories in high school, as they were required reading. I'm surprised that they were, too, as I attended an all-girl Catholic high school run by nuns. What were those nuns thinking, to assign HORROR stories to their students?!

First, the "runners-up". There's one story by Stephen King. (This one was not assigned reading; I stupidly read it on my own. Lol.) For some reason, I don't remember the title. Unfortunately, I DO remember the plot..... Here is a condensed version: a family moves into a dream home in a beautiful valley where everything is just WONDERFUL. Of course, it's all too good to be true. The price for this paradise-on-earth is a yearly sacrifice to the Devil.... So the family manages to escape one night, with only the clothes on their backs, and they start hitchhiking. They are eventually picked up by a van driven by a middle-aged, friendly hippie couple. Ah, King finally writes a happy ending, right? NOT. Everyone is merrily chatting away,  enjoying themselves, when, without warning, the cute little hippie couple turn into two DEMONS, and the van into a gigantic MOUTH that swallows up the entire family....

Is this enjoyable reading matter? Absolutely NOT. Instead, it's SICK, DISGUSTING, REVOLTING. And, worst of all, it shows THE TRIUMPH OF EVIL. This is totally TOXIC stuff. It poisons the mind and the emotions. Oh, WHY did I read that story?! It has haunted me ever since. I guess I just wanted to see if King was all that scary. Well, he certainly was! I have never touched ANYTHING by him since then. Nor will I do so ever again!

More "runners-up": three SICKENING, NAUSEATING stories by Edgar Alan Poe: "The Telltale Heart", "The Pit and the Pendulum", and "The Cask of Amontillado". These were the stories assigned by the nuns....UGH.

The first story is just totally morbid and sick. A man who is obviously insane murders an old man he had been taking care of, and buries him under the floorboards. The police investigate by coming in to question him. During the questioning, the crazy guy thinks he actually HEARS the beating of the dead man's heart, and it's getting louder and louder.....well, he ends up confessing to the crime, because he just can't TAKE the loud beating of the heart.....

Thankfully, I don't remember much of the plot of "The Pit and the Pendulum", but I do remember that it involves a man getting sawed in half by a swinging pendulum....

The third story, "The Cask of Amontillado", involves a man being tricked into going into a room, attacked, and chained to a wall, while his enemy builds a brick wall, sealing him up alive..... And the man remains callously unaffected by the cries of his victim. I can STILL remember the poor man crying out, over, and over, "For the love of God, Montressor!" Well, obviously, this Montressor guy didn't care about God at all.

All of this stuff is totally morbid, totally SICK. But then, Poe was a very sick guy. Perhaps nowadays he would have been a serial  killer. And I have never understood WHY he is such a revered figure in American literature. For that matter, I can't understand King's appeal at all, either.

And now to the prize winner. I don't know WHAT made me read this book.... I guess it was just morbid curiosity, as it was not assigned reading, either. I was in my twenties when I picked it up. Morbid curiosity? Where did it come from? Did I feel I needed to prove something to myself by reading this ton of garbage? I really have NO idea.

The graphic detail in this novel has, thankfully, receded into my subconscious mind. However, it, like King's story, still haunts me. And with good reason: one of the Goodreads synopses  for this book calls it "the most terrifying novel ever written". I believe it. Absolutely. It was a totally terrifying tale. And the worst part......I could NOT put it down. Why, oh, why, did I subject myself to this?! Did this book bring me any positive emotions? Of course not. What it brought me was a fear so great that, during the week I read it, and even weeks afterward, I could not sleep well at night. I had to go to bed with my bedside lamp on at night, as a matter of fact. The images evoked by this novel were just too terrifying.....

In addition to the graphic depiction of evil, I dislike the fact that both of the exorcists involved in the process of trying to get rid of the demon in the story died. Both of them were Jesuit priests. The first one died due to the high stress of dealing with the demon possessing the young girl in the novel. The other one had lost his faith, but regained it at the last moment, after he had ordered the demon to possess HIM instead of the young girl. He had to throw himself out of a window, thus also destroying the demon -- supposedly. This brings up a question in my mind, though. Once this priest was dead, what was to prevent that demon from possessing the young girl again? Demons are spiritual beings. So this is a flaw in the novel, I think.

When I read novels, or watch movies, in which there are monstrously evil villains, I fully expect these villains to be defeated in the end. In horror novels, however, it's very frequently the case that evil, and not good, triumphs in the end. True, in the case of The Exorcist, the second priest sacrificed his life in order to get rid of the demon. However, the fact that he was killed was definitely a triumph for evil. 

This is in fact the most bothersome aspect of this novel for me. The plot includes two Catholic priests, who supposedly have the power of God to back them up. Yet, both of those priests were ultimately powerless against this demon. This was deeply disturbing to me. How can a demon be more powerful than God Himself?

I'm speaking here as a Christian believer. Of course, those who do not come from a Christian background, or who do not profess a belief in a deity, might see this issue differently. But I'm writing about what was toxic for me, what caused me such terrible anguish that I could not sleep well for WEEKS. 

Ultimately, this novel raised questions about the nature of evil, and why a good God would allow it to exist,  that I just wasn't ready to deal with at the time. I don't think I have satisfactorily resolved this issue even  after all these years, either.  

The worst part of this whole thing is that this novel is based on fact. There was an actual exorcism performed on a young boy in 1949, in St. Louis, Missouri, which is the basis of the plot. The second priest's character was based on two real people, too -- the archeologist Gerald Lankester, and the Jesuit priest William S. Bowdem, who also performed an exorcism in real life.

Reading this horrible book certainly took away any 'morbid curiosity' I might have about any other horror novels! I just wish I could get rid of the permanent, unpleasant feeling of existential unease it left in my mind and soul.... This book really shook my faith. It shouldn't have, but it did. And I totally regret having read it. I also regret having read Poe's and King's stories, as they have also had a permanent, and negative, effect on me. 

Evil is very real. Human beings can reach very depraved levels. However, as a believer in Christianity, I must assert that there IS a devil, and this devil can sometimes possess people. This is an uncomfortable fact, as there have been hundreds, if not thousands, of recorded exorcisms in the history of Christianity. (See links below.)

The horror genre is so toxic precisely because it explicitly deals with   the works of the devil. Instead of uplifting the spirit, it poisons it. The proof is in the reading.

Although it might seem paradoxical, I do like paranormal novels. However, these novels do not deal primarily with the fear factor. And many of the characters in these novels are really not evil. I'm thinking here, of course, of my beloved Twilight Saga. 

Reading should be a pleasant activity. It can at times be exciting, suspenseful, romantic, awe-inspiring, and totally fascinating. I do not ever want it to be terrifying. We have enough terrifying and totally horrible events in real life already. Why would I want to voluntarily subject myself to reading about such things as well?




Online Links
WIkipedia Articles


 
What are your thoughts on
this topic?
Please leave a comment!
If you're participating in this meme,
I'll go comment on your 
own BBH post.
If not, I will then comment on one 
of your blog posts!
Thanks for visiting!!! 








Sunday, July 16, 2017

Shelf Candy Saturday No. 219: Spinning Thorns, by Anna Sheehan



Welcome to Shelf Candy Saturday!


*Late Edition*
This is my weekly feature
showcasing beautiful covers!
It also provides information, 
if available, on their 
very talented creators!


Here's my choice for this week!!



Spinning Thorns
Anna Sheehan
Trade Paperback, 354 pages
Gollancz
(Imprint of Orion Publishing Group)
December 10, 2015
   Fairy Tale Retellings, Fantasy,
Young Adult Fiction
 
https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/25707492-spinning-thorns




My Thoughts About This Cover


I have once again fallen in love with another Gollancz cover! I don't know how this publisher does it, but they actually manage to get the BEST cover artists, and these very talented people produce totally memorable book covers!

The cover I'm featuring today is magical, mysterious, slightly creepy.....and it DEFINITELY has a very obvious Disney vibe. This last quality is what has me LOVING it!! I LOVE Disney art, and have been a fan since I was a child who dreamed of one day visiting Disneyland! (I got my wish, but Disneyland came to me -- in Orlanddo, Florida, and it is called Disneyworld, as everyone know.) And yes, I have been there, although it was quite a while back, and I want to return SO badly!!)

Of course, the very first thing that caught my attention was that most beautiful of all colors -- BLUE!! There just isn't any other color in the universe that can give me the visual delight that blue can! And I LOVE how it's used here! It's not only in the sky, which is also softly shaded in lilac, but on the steep mountain on top of which is perched that very mysterious castle. I also LOVE that the zigzagging road that leads to the castle is a lighter shade of this same blue. The cover has a very harmonious look, and it's because of those  different shades of blue.

The twisting, menacing thorns are what give this cover that sinister vibe. They form a barrier at the bottom of the cover, as if daring the reader to get through them. These thorns also climb up the sides of the cover, very effectively framing the castle, leading the eye right to it. Then there are more thorns, and gigantic ones, too, standing like sentinels to the left and right of the castle, which looks menacing, as well. 

That font is SO lovely! It is in stark contrast to the rest of the cover, too, and yet, it goes very well with it. I love the "tendrils" that trail off the letters in the word "thorns". This gives a feminine, delicate air to these letters. I also like the very pale yellow tone of the letters, which is also a contrast to the colors in the rest of the cover. Perhaps this is symbolic of the one ray of hope and sunshine in this story. It also helps to relieve the overall dark tones of the cover.

In short, this brilliant cover artist has definitely succeeded in creating a very atmospheric cover that pulls the reader right into the story! At least, it did so for THIS reader, although I'm sureI'm not the only potential reader ever to have felt attracted to this cover.

I was unable to get much information about the artist. For some strange reason, Gollancz doesn't give enough (or any) credit to its cover artists, despite being known as a publisher that consistently releases books with GORGEOUS covers. 

What I WAS able to find out about this artist was that her name is Laura B., she's an illustrator and book cover designer based in London, and is also a student at The Oatley Academy of Visual Storytelling. I don't know why her last name is not given, to be honest. Her cover for Spinning Thorns was nominated for The Ravenheart Award in 2016. This award is one of several established in memory of David Gemell, a British author of heroic fantasy whose best-known work is his debut novel, Legend. Gemell passed away in 2006.

The Ravenheart Award is given for Best Fantasy Cover Art in a given year. The award is named after one of Gemell's novels.

So Laura B., whose future DEFINITELY looks VERY promising, is yet another addition to my list of favorite cover artists!
 


Online Links

What do you think of 
this week's cover?
Do you agree or disagree with me?
Please leave a comment
and let me know!









Friday, July 14, 2017

Book Blogger Hop No. 100: Eating & Drinking While Reading


Welcome to the Book Blogger Hop,
hosted by Billy @


For more information, and 
to find out the topic of next week's question, click HERE.


This Week's Question

What is your go-to drink and/or 
snack while reading?

(Submitted  by Kristin @ 






My Answer

To be honest, I don't usually drink or snack on anything while I'm reading. I tend to do that more when I'm blogging. Why the difference? Well, blogging doesn't usually require me to get lost in whatever post I'm creating. If I'm writing comments, the same thing is true. Reading, though, is another matter entirely! When I'm having a GREAT reading "session", I'm SO totally into the book I'm reading that I really have no clue as to what's going on "in the real world". Lol. If I were to break my concentration in order to reach over to my drink or snack, then I wouldn't enjoy my time with a totally fascinating book. 

However, occasionally I will drink something while immersed in a book. But only VERY occasionally. When I do so, it will depend on the season. During the winter (if you can call our South Florida weather in December "winter".....) I do enjoy curling up with a book and a cup of hot chocolate, ESPECIALLY if I'm reading a Christmas-themed romance novel. Of course, I only do this when the temps fall into the 60s or, better yet, 50s. That's about as cold as it gets down here during the day! Lol. Sometimes we're lucky enough to get into the 40s, but only at night. Since I'm a TOTAL night owl, I LOVE to do my reading late at night. (And I mean LATE, folks! I frequently go to bed around 4:00 AM. And I get up around noon. YAAAAAAAY!!!!! ) So reading and sipping hot chocolate on a "cold" winter night is just PERFECT for me!


And there's eggnog, of course. That's a GREAT alternate to hot chocolate. (But only if it's spiked, and only during the Christmas season.)This an EXTREMELY rare thing for me to do, though, as eggnog is VERY fattening! Lol.

Another alternate to hot chocolate (especially when it's not THAT cold) is hot tea. I will drink mostly herb tea, but sometimes I drink either black tea (such as English Breakfast Tea), sweetened with honey and a little bit of Half and Half, or green tea, with the same treatment. Of course, at night I prefer herb tea, because black tea will make it too hard for me to get to sleep.


In the summer (which we actually have pretty much year-round, BOO-HOO!!) I will go with something cold, naturally. I NEVER drink iced tea, though. I just don't like tea except when it's hot.


Sometimes, especially when I want to feel like a sophisticated bon vivant, for example, I will indulge in a glass of Merlot, which is my favorite wine. But this is very rare, really. And I like it cold, too. When I get into "a wine mood", I LOVE to drink wine while reading late at night. It's just so....bohemian. It also makes me feel like I'm in Paris. Lol.


Do I ever eat anything while either reading or blogging? Well, sometimes I will eat peanuts (Cocktail Peanuts, by Planters, ONLY) in the middle of blogging. But I don't actually eat them with one hand, while pecking away with the other. No, instead, I stop whatever I'm doing on the blog, and take a little break to eat the peanuts. I just don't want to get the oily residue on the keys.

I NEVER eat any food while reading. AT ALL. I just don't want any crumbs or little pieces of peanut skin, or pieces of any type of food, falling onto my open book. Plus, any food that has a bit of oil in it (like the Planters peanuts) will get on my hands, and then God forbid I turn pages with those oily hands!! No. Absolutely NOT. When I do get hungry in the middle of reading, I will close the book (with a bookmark in it, of course, as I DO NOT fold pages over; that's a bookish SIN, for goodness' sake), get up, go into the kitchen, and get myself a little snack. 


Again, I tend to avoid snacking while reading for the reasons stated above. I don't like having to break my concentration if a book REALLY has me on a roll. (Pun intended.) I can't say I'm truly enjoying a book if I interrupt myself with food (drinks, though, are less disruptive than food). So snacking and books? Not my thing, actually. My brain just doesn't like that, lol.

Writing all of the above is making me VERY nostalgic for some 50-degree temps, with a Christmas romance novel and my cup of hot chocolate..... Sigh.....
  
 
What are your thoughts on
this topic?
Please leave a comment!
If you're participating in this meme,
I'll go comment on your 
own BBH post.
If not, I will then comment on one 
of your blog posts!
Thanks for visiting!!!