Reviewing the Pages: A Murder of Crows

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A Murder of Crows: Seventeen Tales of Monsters and the Macabre

A collection of short horror, ghost, and dark fantasy stories for adults, woven together by a flock of crows, telling stories to entertain a girl trying to survive a tragedy…

It was we crows who took your daughter, in case you were wondering. She didn’t run away. We had–I had–been watching her for some time, listening to her tell stories in the grass behind the house. She would sit near the chicken coop and watch the white chickens pick at the dirt, pulling up fat worms and clipping grasshoppers out of the air as they jumped toward the fields.

Some of them were good stories. Some of them were bad. But that’s what decided it, even more than any issue of mercy or salvation or anything else. Crows are, for one, possessive of stories. And also by then I had pecked almost all the elders into coming to listen to her at least once, except Facunde, who was then mad and responded to nobody’s pecking, not that I had had the courage to exactly take my beak to her. “She is like a daughter to me,” I had pled with the others. “She listens.” They laughed at me, they rattled their beaks, they came and heard her and were convinced, or at least bullied into pretending they were convinced.

We took her on the same cold winter day that you traded your son to the fairies, the wind blowing in cold gray threads, ruffling our feathers. It had snowed a few days before that, a storm that had killed your husband, or so it was said. The wind had snatched the snow out onto the prairie, hiding it in crevices. It had been a dry year, and even though it was still too cold to melt the snow, the thirsty dirt still found places to tuck it away in case of a thaw.

I stamped my feet on a sleeping branch while the others argued. Some argued that we should wait for spring. So many things are different, in the spring. But old Loyolo insisted: no, if we were to take the child, we would have to take her then and there: there had been at least one death already, and no one had heard the babe’s cry for hours.

We covered the oak trees, thousands of us, so many that the branches creaked and swayed under our weight. I don’t know if you noticed us, before it was too late. You were, it is to be admitted, busy.

The girl played on the swings, rocking herself back and forth in long, mournful creaks. She wore a too-small padded jacket and a dress decorated in small flowers. She was so clean that she still smelled of soap. Her feet were bare under their shoes, the skin scabbed and dry, almost scaly. Her wrists were pricked with gooseflesh, and her hair whipped in thin, colorless threads across her face as the wind caught it. The house had the smell of fresh death, under the peeling paint and the dusty windows, and seemed to murmur with forgotten languages, none of which were languages of love or tenderness. Afternoon was sinking into evening. The girl’s breath smelled like hunger.

“Now!” called old Loyolo, at some signal that not even I could have told you. And thousands of birds swept out of the trees toward her. From the middle of it, I can tell you, it seemed a kind of nightmare. Wings in my face, claws in my feathers. The sun was temporarily snuffed out, it was a myriad of bright slices reflected off black wings…

I’m a fan of short stories. Don’t get me wrong, I love longer novels too. But, the magic is condensed and more pronounced in shorter forms. And the last two reads that I’ve had on my Kindle were short story collections. And, by leaps and bounds, this is a much better version. There are seventeen short stories in total, even though there are sixteen titled stories, the seventeenth story is the one that ties it all together. Which is also something that I like about this collection. I love that there is a story that these stories that are woven into the narrative of this collection. The crows are well done, even if I am a little confused at parts where stuff happens that is not shown through the eyes of our main crow narrator. But, don’t let that distract you from the sixteen unique tales. I will admit, not all of the tales are going to be for you, but you should go check this short story collection out anyway.

So, there are a lot of these short stories in this collection.  And I will say that not all of them will be for you.  For example, “Lord of Pigs” and “The Rock that Takes Off Your Skin” were a pair of tales that I wasn’t a big fan of.  But, that doesn’t take away from my enjoyment of the collection.  There were far more stories that I enjoyed, and had to think on some of them.  Mainly to see if I’ve read that particular plot before.  And some of them, I have to say, I haven’t. I really enjoy that. That, or stories that take an established idea, and rattles it around a little bit to look at it from a fresh perspective.  Like “Treif” and “Inappropriate Gifts” for example.  “Haunted Room” is another very unique tale that I just adored, especially for the little twist to the tale at the very end.  Overall, I am very pleased with this read, and for those of you who like short stories that will grip you with the cold tendrils of suspense, than this collection is for you.

Reviewing the Pages: Carved in Bone

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There is a patch of ground in Tennessee dedicated to the science of death, where human remains lie exposed to be studied for their secrets. The real-life scientist who founded the “Body Farm” has broken cold cases and revolutionized forensics . . . and now he spins an astonishing tale inspired by his own experiences.

Renowned anthropologist Dr. Bill Brockton has spent his career surrounded by death at the Body Farm. Now he’s being called upon to help solve a baffling puzzle in a remote mountain community. The mummified corpse of a young woman dead for thirty years has been discovered in a cave, the body bizarrely preserved and transformed by the environment’s unique chemistry. But Brockton’s investigation is threatening to open old wounds among an insular people who won’t forget or forgive. And a long-buried secret prematurely exposed could inflame Brockton’s own guilt—and the dangerous hostility of bitter enemies determined to see him fail . . . by any means necessary.

With Fascinating Insider Information on the Body Farm!

Jon Jefferson and Dr. Bill Bass do an amazing job of giving us some insight into the world of forensic anthropology. As Dr. Bass starts out with in the acknowledgements: “Some novels are pure fiction; others are fiction that is built on a foundation of facts. This book is of the latter type.” When my eye first looked at this book, I was intrigued. And as I dived into the pages the first time around, I was intrigued. Spellbound actually. Not only that, but I learned. And that’s a good thing for a book that is heavily steeped in science. I learned a lot about many different things about the human anatomy. And the book never makes you feel dumb about not knowing about certain things either. It comes out and explains it to you, almost as if you were sitting in with Dr. Brockton examining these bones in the middle of the Smoky Mountains in Tennessee. What the book also does is impart a fair amount of humor into the grim and macabre subject matter. Whether it’s in the form of Dr. Brockton’s incredibly lame jokes, or the humorous interactions that Dr. Brockton has, it definitely lightens the mood and keeps it from being entirely dark. The characters are well established, and they do leave a lot of growth for later on down the line.

For those of you who want to learn more about the human anatomy (after all, there is a wonderful chart of the human skeleton at the back of the paperback I read), or forensic anthropology, or just want a different than normal tale, then I recommend this read to you. I’m looking forward to getting to the next book in the series.

Ok, there’s not much more I want to expand upon my Goodreads’ review.  Each of the characters have their own unique charm about them, and I rather enjoyed diving into the mystery of Cooke County (at least, the novel version).  I stated in one of my updates on Goodreads that I enjoyed the three different plot lines that were going on.  All three of them ended up with some sort of resolution, though the bigger of the two minor plots (the one we get introduced to Dr. Brockton on), kind of leaves things hanging.

Now, I do recommend reading not only this book, but the entire series in general.  But, you don’t have to start with this book.  You can pick up any one of these books, and minus a couple of things here and there, you won’t be missing much in terms of overall character development.  Each one of the books acts independently of each other, while tying little points together here and there.  But, go out of your way to at least get introduced to Dr. Brockton, Art, Miranda, and the other cast of characters in Tennessee.

Stacking the Shelves 4: A Light Affair

Hello everyone, and welcome back to another edition of “Stacking the Shelves”.

Stacking The Shelves is all about sharing the books you are adding to your shelves, may it be physical or virtual. This means you can include books you buy in physical store or online, books you borrow from friends or the library, review books, gifts and of course ebooks!

Now, I get a lot of books through instaFreebie, which is quite alright.  Though, I wonder if I should take a break from the fantasy and sci-fi sections for a bit.  I seem to keep seeing either the same books that I’ve passed over, or have already added to my collection.  Or, maybe things will change up later on.  Either way, here are my book grabs from this week.

FROM INSTAFREEBIE

25823783

17184050

34036937

34229180

FROM AMAZON (THANKS BETH!)

16056461

Reviewing the Pages: Horror Girls

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Get ready for a non-stop thrill-ride through the forgotten, lonely places of the world: Cemeteries, Swamps, Forests, and Haunted Houses… perhaps even your house! Meet the monsters who dwell within: Demons, Ghosts, Mutants, Psychos, and Vampires. All the hungry beasts who lurk just out of sight, waiting to devour and destroy.

You get 8 great stories, including an H.P. Lovecraft-inspired Cthulhu Mythos shocker, plus grisly poems like, “These Teeth Will Love You,” and “Black Gloves, Sharp Knife.”

If you love horror, you don’t dare miss these demented stories of Demons, Ghosts, Vampires and more…

Ok. Now, I’m a horror fan. I love me some scares. And this book…doesn’t quite scratch that itch. Well, I should say collection of short stories. Some of them are rather short, while others aren’t nearly as short. Now, while I don’t mind the use of teenagers as protagonist, I also felt like there needed to be something…different about some of the characters. All of them, save one, had a severe lack of depth to them. These girls have some sort of problem, whether it’s with a boy, or because their lives aren’t what they want them to be. I don’t know. Except for the last story, I wasn’t very thrilled with this as a whole. If you enjoy brief snippets of horror, then this read is for you.

Alright fans of the horror genre, this is a very tame foray into the spooky.  There’s just not enough here to grasp my insides and chill them with fear and dread.  The only two stories I liked were about the house doing the possessing, which is something that you don’t necessarily see all that often in stories.  The other was a tale that skirts the very outer edges of the Cthulhu Mythos, but I can actually see fitting in a little bit (since I’m only really familiar with some of Lovecraft’s major works, I’m not sure what sort of powers the other Older Gods have).

Other than that, I just wasn’t thrilled that the primary character type was teenage girl that had some sort of issue, and ended up getting taken with the supernatural to solve it.  Whether it took getting turned into a vampire, or getting possessed by the devil, they just didn’t work for me.   Yes, there isn’t much room for plot development for some of these characters, but they could be so much more motivation and drive for these characters if the author didn’t also focus on a very specific character typing.  One story in particular really bugged me because the “horror” aspect of it was a last second addition that seemed very hokey.

The other thing that bugged me about this is that some of these stories are a bit too short.  Just when I got into them, they ended.  But, don’t let my hatred of certain aspects of this collection deter you from reading it.  If you are a fan of horror, and want to have a quick read, then you should check out this collection.

Reviewing the Pages: Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire

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Lord Voldemort, the dark wizard responsible for the deaths of Harry’s parents, is growing stronger. At the Quidditch World Cup, Voldemort’s signature Dark Mark appears in the sky over the stadium, causing pandemonium. The lightning-bolt-shaped scar on Harry’s forehead is sporadically causing him agonizing pain, and he is also hearing disturbing voices. Harry realizes that all this is the result of a strong connection between himself and the Dark Lord, one that is putting him in grave danger.

Back at Hogwarts, the students are getting ready for the upcoming Triwizard Tournament. Witches and wizards from two other schools are coming to Hogwarts for the year to compete in a series of grueling contests. The tournament is open only to students age 17 and above, but when someone secretly enters Harry’s name, he is forced to compete. How can a 14-year-old possibly pass tests that might be fatal to an advanced wizard? And with the threat of Lord Voldemort looming, will he be able to focus on the tournament at all?

For Harry, his friends, and everyone in the Wizarding world, the stakes are about to become much higher. This fourth installment, with a heart-pounding and emotional climax, serves as a turning point in the series, for the reader and for Harry himself.

The bridging of the ways, as it were. While Prisoner of Azkaban seemed to keep itself apart from the story, minus a few intersecting plot lines to keep the book tied into saga of Harry Potter, Goblet of Fire does the exact opposite. Goblet is our bridge between the first third of the series, with Harry learning about the magical world he suddenly finds himself in, and the second, and much darker half, in which fights to save the world. Characters come and go, grow in positive ways, and decline in spectacular fashion. Rowling does a phenomenal job of strengthening our core trio’s relationships with more fights and arguments than meets the eye, but those only serve to strengthen the bond with the other character more. If you’ve stuck around with the series up to this point, it is in your best interest to read this book, to give yourself a small case of dread as the book wraps up, and prepare yourself for much darker portions to come.

First off, if you haven’t read the series yet, OR read the books in the first place…then why in the heck are you here?

[grump]

Anyway, as I said in my Goodreads review, this is a book that serves as a bridge.  The book tests the darker waters for just a moment with the death of Cedric Diggory, and the subsequence aftermath with the duel against Voldemort.  I do feel like, for the most part, J.K. Rowling captures the shock afterwards with Harry pretty well, using a bit of magic to get Harry through the worst of it; watching someone that you know, at least somewhat well, get killed right in front of your eyes…so to speak anyway.

Another thing that Rowling did well here is strengthen the bonds of the trio by testing that very strength.  With the fight with Ron over how Harry (didn’t) put his name into the Goblet of Fire, thus seeking more attention, the boys manage to make up in a quick fashion and get back to being good friends again.  Which, kinda works that way in real life sometimes.  I can relate to striking out and testing the strength of a bond, only to look back at it again and find it stronger than it was when I tested it.  And for Harry, at 14, having this sort of complex and unbreakable bond with his two closest friends will serve him well.

Goblet of Fire is definitely not lacking in action, from each of the three tasks to the events of the Quiddich World Cup, and these tie into nicely with Harry trying to figure out what the heck to do with his clues to complete the tasks, as well as the ever increasing (re)introduction of Voldemort into the Wizarding World.  Though, while I wasn’t too keen on Fudge, I outright loathed him as a character at the very end, with his denial of the return of Voldemort.  One could liken it to a scandal-involved politician.  Or those too blinded with power to see, or want to acknowledge, the very problem that threatens them.

There’s one thing that bugs me…did they ever retrieve Barty Crouch Sr.’s body from under Hagrid’s yard? One can only assume that they did.  After all, perish the thought that Crouch Sr. could possibly be a chew toy for one very large dog.

I know I plan on continuing the series rather soon, and looking forward to continuing the saga of Harry Potter, right to it’s very end.

Stacking the Shelves 3: The Not-So-Final-Chapter

Stacking The Shelves is all about sharing the books you are adding to your shelves, may it be physical or virtual. This means you can include books you buy in physical store or online, books you borrow from friends or the library, review books, gifts and of course ebooks!

Hello everyone, and welcome back to another edition of Stacking the Shelves! Are you excited for another list of e-books? I know I sure am.  As I told Beth, “you’ve turned me into an instafreebie monster”.  So, without delay, here are my additions to my ever-growing library! Remember to click on the cover to go to the Goodreads page.

FROM INSTAFREEBIE

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28958640

29962346

25651905

30244642

Arena

25353939

33519654

28042090

34226713

28178101

21420009

23343036

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Well, that’s all I’ve got for you on this round folks! Find something that you might be interested in reading! Got any book recommendations for me? Let me know in the comments! Until next time, I am the Baumeister, and I have been, obediently yours.

Reviewing the Pages: ‘Salem’s Lot

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Something strange is going on in Jerusalem’s Lot … but no one dares to talk about it. By day, ‘Salem’s Lot is a typical modest New England town; but when the sun goes down, evil roams the earth. The devilishly sweet insistent laughter of a child can be heard echoing through the fields, and the presence of silent looming spirits can be felt lurking right outside your window. Stephen King brings his gruesome imagination to life in this tale of spine-tingling horror.

King went and took a shot at one of the oldest horror monsters, and hit it out of the ballpark. King’s vampires have a lot of evil going for them, especially with Barlow being as ancient a vampire as he says he is. King takes a small-town setting in a rural area, and he plunges it into darkness and taints it with evil. There are plenty of characters that get a lot of growth, whether it’s in a positive direction, or get a sudden stop in their living growth, and start their undead growth. There were plenty of times in this tale where I went “now, why do I remember this? I certainly remember this, but can’t remember if this is important.” I’m glad I came back to this read after being away from it a very long time. For those of you who like vampires, or horror in general, you should check this book out.

First off, if I didn’t spoil enough for you in my review on Goodreads, then you should probably stop right here.

This is the first book (granted, yes, this is only the second book that King actually published) that King branches out and gives us a full world view.  In this case, we get what is happening in the town when the core group of characters are either incapacitated or doing something else.  And it works in this story.  We get a lot of minor characters that meet an untimely end, and we do get some focus on the secondary characters that get tied into the tale in one way or another, whether it’s interaction with the core characters, or working out their own side stories that eventually lead up to the main tale.

One of the funniest things in this story that sticks out to me (yes, I know I’m slightly macabre, but let’s get real here) is the one intimate scene in the story.  There’s not a lot of description in it…at all.  Besides some light pawing, all we get is “-‘There,’ he said. ‘Oh, Susan.'”.  And that’s it.  I don’t know why I find it so…unintentionally funny, but I do.  I know there are a lot of you that are looking at me weird right now, and that’s ok.  I’m used to it.

Moving right along, King builds up to the climax, with a lot of small reveals and revelations that lead us to one final, climactic moment, that seems rather anti-climatic in terms of the story.  We don’t get one final battle between good and evil. Instead, we get good finishing off “evil”.  However, the epilogue seems to bring not necessarily closure, but at least a hint that the battle with our stake-wielding duo is to continue.

One final note. As far as I can think back, this is the first Stephen King novel that connects back to his Multiverse, and in more specific terms, ties into the Dark Tower.  I am referring to Father Callahan, who appears in latter half of the Tower series.  There are other references to ‘Salem’s Lot later on down the road, and I’m sure I’ll be catching those along the way.

For those who enjoy a good vampire tale, or just like enjoying suspense creeping down your spine, then you should check out this read.