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Missives from Allison Lee & #Bookreview Time


haunted house


Howdy,


Good luck to all those participating in NaNoWriMo. For my part, I continue editing book two in The Allison Lee Chronicles. I'm at that point in editing when the manuscript expands and contracts daily. In the end, the book's waistline needs to shrink considerably.


Also, I recently received some exciting and validating news...Dragons Walk Among Us is on the long list for an award. My fingers and toes are crossed the novel makes the shortlist!


Now, for a couple of book reviews. Today, I have two spooky tales featuring creepy, dare I say haunted, houses for those of us who just can't get enough of Halloween.



The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson


Synopsis

Can Dr. Montague and his assistants gather proof of the occult at Hill House while not succumbing to the mansion's supernatural spite?


My Thoughts

When I picked up this classic tale, I knew that it has a Netflix series based on it and that the author has an award named in her honor. Still, I was skeptical I would find the story dated and not particularly enjoyable. I couldn't have been more wrong.


Unlike some of the sci-fi I've read from the 1950s/60s, The Haunting of Hill House doesn't feel dated. I suspect this is due to the author being a woman and much of the story being told in Eleanor's narrative voice. I think these factors eliminate much of the casual sexism that sometimes exists in the works from this era. Much of the writing and, indeed, the story feel timeless. The yarn is, at times, terrifying. Hill House is very much the central character of the story, and it is malevolent.


What can the aspiring author learn? (mild spoilers)

First off, how Jackson makes Hill House menacing and truly a multidimensional character are worth studying. But that's not all that she does brilliantly in this novel. What makes the novel horrifying is watching Eleanor slowly unravel and ultimately become possessed by the mansion. Her story arc embodies the lyrics of the Eagles' Hotel California, to paraphrase: she can check out whenever she wants, but the house won't let her leave. How Jackson accomplishes this is worth studying for anyone interested in creating psychological terror in their writing.



Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-García


Synopsis

Can Neomi rescue her cousin from a remote mansion deep in the Mexican countryside?


My Thoughts (mild spoilers)

I cracked open this novel without high expectations of enjoying it. First off, I don't typically read horror, and I had never heard of the author. So why did I bother picking it up? Well, I think I saw a post referring to it on Facebook, and I found the woman on the cover intriguing, reminiscent in my eyes to self-portraits by Frida.


It's fitting that this book has an intriguing cover because from very early on the tale arouses curiosity. In fact, the desire to discover what exactly was going on kept me engaged in this slow burn of a novel. From early on, it's obvious the fungus inhabiting every nook and cranny of the mansion plays an essential role in what is going on. Still, the precise nature of that role is kept in obscurity until near the end of the story. When all is revealed, everything makes horrifyingly perfect sense.


Personally, it took me a little while to get into this book. Neomi is a debutante in 1950s Mexico City. Her life is one of privilege and flirtation. At first blush, the reader might doubt her ability to be of much aid to her cousin, but she proves steel-willed. In the end, I found Neomi a believable and likable hero for this odd tale of fungal absurdity.


What can the aspiring author learn?

Moreno-García does an excellent job piquing the reader's interest. Personally, I didn't find the story particularly exciting or horrifying, but I kept reading because I was curious about what was going on. The mansion and the people living in it are a little off, somewhat eccentric, and downright strange at every turn. Hence, I wanted to know why the house and people were weird and if Neomi could snatch her cousin from their clutches. How the author accomplishes this is worth studying for any writer of speculative fiction.


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