Monday, November 19, 2012

Review -- Dungeon Brain by Benjamin Kane Etheridge

Summary (courtesy of GoodReads): From Bram Stoker Award winning author Benjamin Kane Ethridge.

June Nilman is a woman with thousands of personalities in her head and none of them are her own. Stricken with amnesia and trapped in a room in an abandoned hospital, her caretaker, Nurse Maggie, wants her to remain captive forever. At night June hears creatures patrolling in and out of the hospital, and in time discovers Maggie has mental control over them. In planning her escape, June has an extensive catalogue of minds to probe for help, but dipping into the minds of her mental prisoners is often a practice in psychological endurance. Escape seems impossible until June discovers a rat hole in the wall-- the starting point of her freedom.

But freedom in this war-torn world may be more dreadful than she ever imagined.

Dungeon Brain is a locked room mystery of the body and mind that expands across the realms of science fiction and horror.

And here's what I thought:  I had read and reviewed Black & Orange by this author a while back, so when I was contacted about reading his newest book, Dungeon Brain, I thought I'd give it a try. And though I did try, I just had a hard time getting into this book.

Etheridge does a great job of crafting a story that has lots of unpredictable and scary characters, and lots of dark corners for your mind to explore (and then recoil from).   Etheridge also has an uncanny knack for putting the reader smack in the middle of the main character's head ..... and it's not a comfortable place to be.   And I think this is where I lost my feeling of being connected to the book.

The pacing in the story is slow, and while it does build up as it goes along, I think I was looking for something with a faster pace.  I found I frequently wasn't sure of what was happening in the story, had to stop, go back, try to get my footing again .....   and while this is sometimes something I relish in a story, I felt so unbalanced in this one that I had a hard time getting my footing.  After a while, I gave up, and just tried to follow the storyline, and then it was easier.  However, I never really felt like I was quite connecting to the characters --- I never felt like I had a firm grasp on June, and frankly, Maggie scared the heck out of me.

I think this is a story that might resonate with the right reader at the right time, especially if they like dark, psychological horror.   Right now, I'm not that reader ---- it just didn't resonate with me, and instead, I found the book to be disturbing in a way that was unappealing (instead of fascinating).  I don't think this is the fault of the author --- I just think that right now, with what I have going on my life, this kind of story isn't what's appealing to me.   I feel in a way like I failed this book --- maybe I'll give it another try in the future and see how I do with it.

If the synopsis above sounds interesting, I'd encourage you to look at the other reviews on GoodReads, where the book really resonated with readers, and who have some well-written comments on the book.

First lines:  I remembered dying.   But now I was here, in this dingy hospital room.  The artillery fire softened outside and I drew closer to the window.  The woman reflected in the glass looked back, tonguing her upper lip.  Dark cherry hair and black eyes.  That wasn't my reflection.  Who the hell?

Friday, November 16, 2012

Review: The Girl on the Mountain by Carol Ervin

Summary (courtesy of GoodReads):   When her husband disappears, young May Rose is stranded in a rough town owned by a company logging the last of West Virginia’s virgin forest. It’s 1899, and a woman alone has few options. As she struggles to sustain herself, she discovers people are not what they seem--not the husband who wooed her with stories and songs, not the wild, dirty child, the sullen cook, nor the stiff boardinghouse proprietor, and certainly not the company manager, pillar of the town. But May Rose is also not the obedient woman she once was. She’s been scorned as the girl on the mountain, the subject of shocking stories, yet there’s more to her than anyone expected. To survive, she must distinguish friend from foe, defend herself from predatory men and boys, and prove herself a person of value. Most important, she must believe that love is never wasted.

And here's what I thought:     From the first sentences (below), you might think this is a love story, and Jamie's a nice guy, and May Rose just can't wait to see him every time he comes home from work.    Uh ..... not so much, actually.

However, I wasn't disappointed by this, because I was more satisfied with what the story was actually about: a resourceful woman who faces challenges head-on.   Carol Ervin does a really good job of painting not only the setting, but also in creating the realistic character of May Rose.

When we begin the story, she's 20, and already feeling the wearing-down effects of living on the mountain, outside of the logging camp.  When Jamie doesn't come home one day, she's faced with having to make decisions about where she's going to live, and how she's going to get money.  She's also faced with the very real, and very frightening, issue of being a single woman with no one around to protect her.     There were times in this story that I was really worried for her, which shows just how well crafted of a character she is.   Ervin also gives us supporting characters who are varied and interesting, which I appreciated.   I also appreciated that the author doesn't make things really easy for May Rose, which is reflective of what real life would be like for a woman in her situation.   Reading her story, and imagining the real lives of women in this setting during this time period is interesting (at least, to me).

I liked that the author obviously did her research, as there are a lot of details about not only what life was like in 1899, but also about what logging was like.   Logging was (and still is) a dangerous occupation, and logging camps were rough places (not just in the nature of the work, but in the nature of the men who lived in them).   The pace of the story is steady, so I found I was turning the pages at a consistent rate --- and I got caught up in the story.

First sentences:   When Jamie was home, May Rose felt safe.  Saturday afternoons he jumped from the log train as it slowed down the grade in front of their cabin.  Sunday evenings he caught the train back to Logging Camp Number Six, where he lived though the week.

Note:  You can read more about the author by visiting her on GoodReads.   I appreciate that she contacted me about reading and reviewing her book!    She did give me information when she emailed me, so I wanted to share this bit:

My first inspiration was the mountain wilderness, because West Virginia's terrain and flora have always challenged and tested those who live here.  Second, I was inspired by the history of industry and everyday life in the 19th century, forerunners of today’s technology and culture. When I read Roy B. Clarkson’s non-fiction account of lumbering in West Virginia, (Tumult on the Mountain, 1964, McClain Printing Co., Parsons, WV), with more than 250 photos of giant trees, loggers, sawmills, trains, and towns, I found the setting for this story.  Finally, I was inspired by men and women of previous generations who faced difficulties unknown today. Researching and writing this novel, I felt closer to the lives of grandparents I never knew.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Why yes ..... I am still alive and will be getting back to posting

Not that my posts have necessarily been missed too much, but I'll be getting back on my blogging feet shortly, and back onto a regular posting schedule.  
Surprise, surprise!

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