The Rose and the Beast: Fairy Tales Retold by Francesca Lia Block

The fairy tales consisted of stories we all know and love; Snow White, Sleeping Beauty, Little Red Riding Hood, and others. Block took these familiar stories and set them in modern day, complete with drug use, promiscuous sex, abuse and murder. At first, the “retellings” striked me as odd but the longer I thought about it, the more appropriate it seemed to me. The original fairy tales, before they were “Disneyized” were just as shocking, violent, and odd as Block’s retellings are. I found it to be very different but I enjoyed it. Iwouldn’t go recommending it to everyone, just to those I think would like it.

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince by JK Rowling

It was a long, hard wait but well worth it. I was so excited, I was afraid I wouldn’t be able to read it. No reason to fear though, I devoured it like I thought I would. And it was amazing. I don’t want to say any more for fear of giving anything away. I will only say I rode an amazing range of emotions and came out a wet, sobbing, slobbering heap of sniffles. It was an amazing ride.

Septimus Heap Book One: Magyk by Angie Sage

I really enjoyed this. I hate it when they put titles like this in the “Read this if you like Harry Potter” genre. This was nothing like Harry Potter. Well, it has magic, bogarts (which are totally different in the book), and the good vs evil plot but the writing style is completely different. I would almost venture to say that I like Sage’s writing style a little bit better. I know, sacrilege.

At birth, Septimus Heap, the seventh son of the seventh son, is carried away and thought dead, and his father Silas is given a baby girl to raise as his own…all in the space of a day. 10 years later, the new ruler (or dictator) tries to assassinate Jenna, the girl, leading the Heap family to flee their home with the help of the ExtraOrdinary Wizard and a young army guard Boy 412. The family is pursued by servants of the Necromancer and ExtraOrdinary Wizard usurper DomDaniel, a frightening character (but not quite as frightening as Lord Voldemort). I don’t want to say too much more because I hate to give away anything. Watch out for Amazon, there are spoilers in their reviews of this book. Just know that, yes, if you like Harry Potter, you will probably like this book. But really, think of it more as, if you like adventure stories, you will like this book.

I’m looking forward to the next book in this trilogy; Flyte.

The Woman in Black: A Ghost Story by Susan Hill

This ghost story starts out so slowly, I almost thought it wasn’t going to go anywhere. But that was part of it’s charm. It’s so peaceful, with the elderly protagonist looking back on one terrible, terrifying week of his life and telling his story for his family, and for himself, to finally lay the past to rest. It is simply one of the most readable, simple, yet disturbing stories of fear and malevolence. A fright that lasts a man’s lifetime, continues to haunt him throughout his life, and on many levels. The prose is wonderful in its simplicity and the climax is bone-chilling.

A fellow Book-A-Weeker read this and it sounded interesting so I decided to check it out. I’m so glad I did. This is a classic hairs-on-the-back-of-your-neck-stand-up ghost story. Great stuff!

A True Story

It was a crisp October day, the kind of day that makes you think of leaves of golden, red, and brown, wicked pumpkins with their eyes all aglow, and fall apples swimming in caramel sauce. My grandparents and I were out in the back yard setting up Halloween decorations; jack-o-lanterns, ghosts, and old cornstalks littered the yard as we got prepared for our scary scenes. I was 10-years-old, when Halloween still meant getting sick on candy and getting to dress up as ghosts or gypsies or witches.

Earlier that day I had attended church services. Sunday school was interesting as usual. Our lesson was about Genesis. And the LORD God said unto the serpent, Because thou hast done this, thou art cursed above all cattle, and above every beast of the field; upon thy belly shalt thou go, and dust shalt thou eat all the days of thy life: And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel. (KJV, Genesis 3:14-15)

Later after the sermon, I had finally made public to the church that I accepted Jesus Christ as my savior and believed Him to be the son of God and joined the church I had attended since I birth. My little family was delighted and it added a merry glow to our work. It was also my aunt’s 40th birthday and we would be having a party later to celebrate.

After a quick lunch I was changed into a pair of shorts and a t-shirt. I wore no shoes. I was outside, having a great time dragging around old, dry, and rustling cornstalks that needed binding together and spending time with my grandparents, who had raised me since I was 8-years-old. I was looking forward to later, when I would get to carve pumpkins and toast their seeds to eat. I was just walking back towards our picnic table to grab another bunch of stalks when a voice, a voice I didn’t know, told me to jump.

I reacted quickly and jumped up onto our old cement picnic table. As I was in the air, to my great surprise I felt a sharp, stabbing sensation on my heel that quickly started burning. Looking down, I saw in horror a tiny snake, curled up with its head bobbing in the air. A trickle of blood was running down my foot and dripping onto the cement below.

Well, of course, I screamed.

My grandmother, then 60-years-old, reacted quickly. My grandfather had gone to the barn to get some more twine and she called down to him to bring a hoe. He shouted “Why?” and even in my panic I had to giggle as my usually differing grandmother shouted in return, “Never mind why, just bring the damn hoe!”

He came running with it and my grandmother, my tiny grandmother, grabbed and cut that snakes head clean off. Grabbing it up, she said, “Heather’s been bit!” and took off for the house.

Once inside, she called my aunt and uncle who were eating lunch with his parents. My uncle left so fast that my aunt was left behind. When he arrived, he grabbed me up, still sobbing, still thinking I was about to die, and thrust me to his truck. My aunt pulled up then with my uncle’s step-father and jumped in the truck with me.

I had to laugh again, as my uncle’s step-father, who served a tour of duty in Vietnam, offered to suck the poison out. My uncle gave him a horrified look and said no. We were going to the hospital. My uncle sped off, leaving my grandparents to follow behind us in their car.

Once we arrived at the hospital, in record time, the nurses rushed me into the ER. A doctor was called and he came at once.

“Did you catch the snake,” he asked my grandfather. Wordlessly, my grandmother held up a plastic bag. She had thought to bring the snake.

The doctor examined it closely. “It’s a baby,” he said softly, turning the bag around and around. “Looks like a copperhead.”

“Yes,” said my grandfather, looking slightly sick with worried. “That’s what I thought too.”

“Am I going to die?” I whispered to my grandmother, who was clutching my hand tightly. My heart was thumping madly.

“No,” she whispered back and patted my hand softly. My grandfather and the doctor continued to converse quietly, with their backs turned to me. I couldn’t hear what they were saying, but they looked worried.

“Put some ice on her foot,” the doctor told a nurse. “You make sure it stays on there,” he told me, and then he walked out to the room.

A few minutes later he came back with a syringe. “This is a tetanus shot,” he told my grandparents. “It will stop the venom from spreading. We’ll keep her for a few hours to make sure she doesn’t get sick. If she doesn’t, you can go home then.”

They wheeled me out into the waiting room in a wheelchair. “Keep your foot elevated,” the nurse told me.

So, we waited. And waited. And waited some more. During that time we watched TV, read magazines, and talked. I had finally begun to calm down when it appeared that I would in fact, not die. Finally, the doctor reappeared. He examined my foot again, then looked at me.

“You must have moved fast, only one fang got you.”

I remembered the voice that had told me to jump, but didn’t say anything about that to the doctor. I just nodded and said with a tremble to my voice I couldn’t hide, “So will I be okay?”

“Yes,” he said with a smile. “Just keep your foot elevated for the rest of the day. Your foot will bruise where the venom had spread, but that will disappear with time. Your arm will be sore from the shot, but that will go away in about a week.” He glanced at my grandparents, “You’re free to go.” Looking back at me he said, “And you might want to wear shoes next time you’re outside.”

I smiled and nodded weakly, just glad to be going home. And the doctor was right, my foot turned a million shades of purple, blue and green. Later I remembered our Sunday school lesson fondly. And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel. And I always wondered whose voice I heard, telling me to jump and saving me from the venom of that snake. Funny how God chooses to get some of His lessons across.

Lighthousekeeping by Jeanette Winterson

This was my first Winterson. I didn’t love it, didn’t hate it. I expected more from it. I’m just blah. There were parts I really liked, but on the whole, the story felt choppy and hacked together and I felt she was trying to say things without really saying anything, which always gets on my nerves. I guess I’m a reader who likes stories that tell stories and don’t try to say more than that. I’ve never been one to like or even catch symbolism. It just goes right over my head. I guess I should avoid novels like this one. I did enjoy parts of it though and felt it was worth my time. I don’t know when I’ll read more by her though.