Personal book reviews and recommendations

The Dunwich Horror and other stories, H.P.Lovecraft.

Despite the reputation of this author who died in the first half of the 20th. century I have only just discovered his work. Following many recommendations I decided this would be a good introduction. A collection of short stories, all of which in the horror/science fiction or fantasy genre.The author bases his stories in rural America and he uses cliched characters from the time he was writing. The stories are mainly concerned with characters who, by the use of spells and incantations manage to jeopardise the future of the planet by unleashing ancient horrors, dwellers of other dimensions who would seem intent on destroying mankind. The author uses a  self-invented language for the names of his Alister Crowleyesque books and spells which are very long and unpronounceable. The action throughout each story is rather tiring and shows little element of surprise or tension. On the whole a disappointing collection.

Magic, edited by Jonathan Oliver

An anthology comprising fifteen stories of the sorcerers arts. A fine collection of odd tales with the same theme, the use or misuse of magic. At the end is a chapter devoted to the authors, telling you more about each, with a brief bibliography enabling you to follow up on the ones who most impressed you. Personally I enjoyed “Buttons,” by Gail Martin and feel this could be turned into a fine series of novellas, keeping the same central characters. On the whole this book was a fine read for those of us who like to savour small, tasty bites of spine-tingling fun.

Deeply Odd, Dean Koontz

A book I noticed in a library sale. I was unsure as to whether this was by Dean R.  Koontz, a writer I used to follow in my James Herbert, Stephen King days, when I was somewhat more avid. I still don’t know the answer. This is one of a series of about six, “Odd Thomas,” stories. An interesting concept but rather marred by references to past life and love. I did not find myself reluctant to put the book down or eager to return to the story which rather says it all. I will try another in the series but fear I may be further disappointed. Three out of a possible five.

Luke & Jon, Robert Williams

Chosen primarily for the name of the author, admittedly unknown to me but of interest to a close friend, I decided to try a book with no hint of the genre or category. Written from the perspective of a young boy who has suffered a great loss it reads well as an autobiography. Many obstacles have to be faced, truths uncovered and strength tested during a period of change which is well documented and compelling. Short on sentimentality, high on emotion this is a treat to read.

The ravens head, Karen Maitland 

A dark medieval tale of intrigue, sorcery, religion and myth. A long, atmospheric tale giving a glimpse of how life in medieval England may have been as opposed to seen through the glamour of the film set. Believable characters help to carry this rather rambling story through to its satisfying conclusion. The short chapters are finely crafted to explain the frequent change of pace and setting. The author provides a useful glossary of the thinly sprinkled archaic terms and a brief history lesson to add context. Although longer than I prefer I was left with a feeling of satisfaction. Well recommended read.