Saturday, January 29, 2011

The Beast With Five Fingers

I have just enjoyed a very good Libravox recording of The Beast with Five Fingers,  a great chilling story by William F Harvey.  It brought back fond memories of watching Peter Lorre dealing with this occult pest!  I used to love those old horror movies late on a Saturday night.  One of the first horror movies I ever saw was The Wolfman vs Frankenstein - it's a wonder it did not put me off horror for life!  I was only about 13 at the time I think and when I first saw the face of Frankenstein I was so frightened that I had to turn the TV over to the soccer game and watch that instead!  I'm a bit more hardier these days and forever in search of a movie that will unsettle me but they are few and far between.  The Beast with Five Fingers was a nice gothic chiller, a little tongue in cheek maybe but only a little.  You have to wonder sometimes what's going on in a person's mind for them to think of writing something like this!

I thoroughly enjoyed Around the World in Eighty Days, so I decided to try another Verne and I can't put this one down either.  The Journey to the Centre of the Earth is just full of anxiety for our protagonist, he's taken this journey against his will to assist his uncle and to prove his manhood to the love of his life. He's almost died of thirst, been knocked unconscious a couple of times, got himself temporarily separated from his uncle and servant and is now sailing an unknown ocean avoiding a duelling plesiosaur and icthyosaur.  What a wonderfully exciting imagination Jules Verne had.

Melmoth the Wanderer is quite an unusual but vey atmospheric novel.  It is told by way of stories within stories with Melmoth the ancestor being painted as a disturbing entity who appears at time of death or disaster.  Melmoth the decendant is learning about his sinister relative by way of manuscripts and passed down stories.  One stormy night not long after his uncle dies a ship is wrecked, and Melmoth the younger with his late uncle's staff go down to the shore to assist with a rescue.  Melmoth the younger is shocked to see his ancestor there laughing and enjoying the spectacle and goes to confront him but slips on the rocks and falls into the ocean; he is rescued by a Spaniard who has survived the shipwreck and now the Spaniard has a strange story to relate once he realises who he has rescued...... this is a pretty good read to end the evening on, I just need some wind and rain to lash my window panes and the atmosphere will be perfect..........

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

A Sinister Spider

I'm not holding up a placard, it is
actually a menu!
We have just had an absolutely scorching Gold Coast day, funny how the weather improves now the holidays are over!  Mind you it was our Australia Day public holiday today so I shouldn't complain.  It was quite nice seeing cars with their Australian flags fluttering, the supermarket had flags flying throughout and the Casino (where we went for lunch) was also in the spirit of things. I actually think the Aussie Spirit has increased ten-fold since the floods, there is a real feeling of mateship in the air.

It's great to be reading in earnest again, routine is a wonderful thing!  I've read a fair bit just in the past few days since going back to work; I picked up 'old faithful' (Stephen King) and started the final story A Good Marriage from Full Dark No Stars.  This story explores a question I have often pondered - how do the families of serial killers feel when they know the truth - how long have they known the truth, and how did they not pick up on the truth?

The protagonist of this story says that she has 'a good marriage'.  She has a loving husband, they have been together a long time, he is a scout leader, a coin collector and they have two great children together. But, everything changes one day when she goes into the garage to find some batteries for the TV remote control whilst her husband is away from  home for a few days.  She inadvertently finds a secret hiding place and in there a drivers licence, library card and a red cross card belong to a woman whose name she recognises.  On Googling this name, it transpires that she had been the latest victim of a serial killer dubbed 'Beadie'.  She is horrified and sickened to say the least, but how is she going to deal with this knowledge?!

I've also read a nice sinister short horror story by Hanns Heinz Ewers called The Spider.  At the beginning the premise reminded me a little of the Roman Polanski movie The Tenant.  Basically there is a room in a hotel where the past three occupants have hung themselves with the curtain cord. Bizarrely their legs are dragging on the ground which would have made it very difficult to keep strangling themselves.

A  young poor medical student is convinced that he can solve the mystery and with the aid of the local police commissioner he is able to stay in the room, complete with meals, free of charge; along with a hotline to the police station.  The story is then told in diary format written by the medical student.  We learn that there is a woman who lives across the road in a room directly opposite the hotel.  She dresses the same every day, in a black dress with purple spots, and sits spinning a very fine thread.

The student plays games with 'Clarimonde' (which he has named her) by using various movements in the window which she copies.  Hysteria sets in when he decides to use a set of movements in quick succession to see how fast she can copy him.  When he finishes the game he realises that he didn't use any of the sets he had planned.  He wasn't playing with Clarimonde, SHE was playing with him.  At one point she picks up a telephone and cuts the cord, and despite fighting the urge to do the same the student finally succumbs and breaks his link with safety.  It has quite a nasty little ending and was very eerie.  I liked it.

I'm about half way through Around The World in Eighty Days.  Isn't memory a funny thing?  I was sure that I had seen the  movie and that they did the whole thing in a hot air balloon.  Well, it's not like that at all, so far it's been by steamer, train, elephant etc with the odd adventure thrown in along the way.  There is also a subplot whereby Phileas Fogg bears an uncanny resemblance to the description of a bank robber who has stolen 55, 000 pounds from the Bank of England.  This results in Fogg being tracked across the globe by an assidous Inspector Fix who has a warrant for his arrest.  It's quite amazing to learn that Verne never travelled, and this book was the result of careful research.  It's very light hearted with the comic relief being in the form of Fogg's French manservant Passepartout.  I like it.

I've also started Melmoth The Wander but it's a little hard going :)  Basically the family of Melmoth have a dark history and the latest descendant who has inherited the family estate from his recently deceased uncle learns of it via a manuscript which has been hidden away with a painting of one of his ancestors.  The servants claim that the man depicted in the 17th Century painting is still alive and has not aged.  This is interesting when you consider Oscar Wilde is Maturin's great nephew and he wrote a story about a painting and ageing (The Picture of Dorian Gray).

So now the sun is beginning to set and the temperature is slowly dropping by degrees, I might curl up with Stephen King for another hour with a cuppa.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

My Reading is Back on Track!

After struggling with Adam Bede I finally reached  a stage of not being able to put it down.  Hetty did not kill herself, but she does commit an unforgivable crime and is sentenced to death.  Her seducer Arthur Donnithorne is able to obtain a stay of execution at the eleventh hour, but the result is that she is then 'transported'.  Poor Adam is devastated but, as is the human will, he must carry on and in the end he realises that he is in love with Dinah the Methodist (the once object of his brother's love).  But, will she have him?  

Looking back on this novel now I can appreciate it a bit more.  You get to know and like the inhabitants of Hayslope and though it was long winded it was a nice gentle story of rural folks in 1799, with warning overtones of the consequences of flirting outside your station (as in Hardy's Tess of The D'Urbevilles - though the circumstances of her relationship were not so nice).

After finishing Adam Bede I listened to On Beauty by Zadie Smith and I was really disappointed with it.  The story focuses on two families, one is black and the other mixed (the philandering father being white), and centres on their friendships and relationships.  It was described as a comedy but really it was more of a tragedy, I didn't see anything funny in it at all.  However, with all that aside it was well written, and I guess it did like the character of Kiki.

So, now I have started two new books: the gothic novel Melmoth The Wanderer by Charles Maturin and Jules Verne's Around The World in 80 Days.  Melmoth The Wanderer has been a title that has really stuck out on the 1001 list, and the author is quite interesting.  Maturin was actually Ocar Wilde's Great Uncle by marriage and when Wilde moved to Dieppe in France to live out his days he changed his name to Sebastian Melmoth; and I've never read Jules Verne so it's time to start I think.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

It's a Bit Rummy, What?

Designated Holiday Reading
So, that’s that.  I’m now on the penultimate day of my holiday.  At least the sun peeked out for a couple of days so that I could wash my windows and pot up some tomatoes and corn.  After an absolute scorcher this morning, the clouds are rolling in backed up by thunder (it was just too good to be true).

I feel ready to go back to work, and the upside is that I should get more reading done when I do.  Now that sounds odd I know, but  so far my days have been so unstructured that I just can't get any decent reading done. Mind you I have been busy sewing too (Tanya, the curtains and the Raphael  mask will be posted to you tomorrow J).  I haven't touch the pile of books next to my bed which was my designated holiday reading and books to be finished off so I'll have to think of some good themes for my book club to suit them.

I did listen to a couple of Jeeves and Woosters by PG Wodehouse - The Code of the Woosters and The Inimitable Jeeves.  They were nice and light for a bit of fun, and it WAS fun, I really love the humour.  The dialogue is so catchy that I find my own internal dialogue is saying things like - "It's a bit rummy, what?" or "What-ho" and "Great Scott!"  It's just delightful.

Adam Bede has been a bit of a tester for me, I really struggled with it for the first half as I just couldn't see where it was going and the dialogue is a bit hard going, being written in the local accent.  Again, I am finding that the title of the novel is a little misleading.  I'm 3/4 of the way through it now and Adam hasn't featured in it a great deal, the focus has been on Dinah the Methodist, Hetty the dairy maid and Arthur Donnithorne.  Arthur has seduced Hetty unaware that Adam is in love with her and has plans to marry her.  Dinah was the main focus at the beginning of the novel but after the death of Adam's father she has been placed into the background.  Adam is a great character though, he's strong, hard working, caring and loving; though the object of his love is not deserving of him.  He must see much in Hetty as we are only shown her selfishness.  Tragedy is about to strike, however, as Hetty has run away in search of Arthur who is with the Militia.  Unfortunately she finds out that he has left Windsor so now she is planning on killing herself.

Another novel I am struggling with is Opposing Energies by J W Collier.  I don't mind some teen literature - I quite like Scott Westerfield etc but I just can't place this one.  It's reading a little like a male teen fantasy, which is okay but I guess as I'm not a male teen I just can't relate to it.  I am of the Magnus Magnussun ilk however ("I've started so I'll finish") and will continue with it once I get my work-life balance back on track.  It may improve as I go along but one thing that is really annoying me are the printing errors in this.  Misspellings, grammatical errors and even an 'a' was missing on the last page I read.  I know that there will always be the odd mistake in printing but I've only read a few pages and they really should have been picked up when proofed.  

My next audio is On Beauty by Zadie Smith, this is a 1001 read.  I did a bit of it last night and the narrator is American or Canadian and a bit over the top with the dialogue so I'm not enjoying it terribly.  I'm a bit funny with my narrators as they can make or break the book.  I like them to be English if possible, though the narrator for The End of Mr Y was too English and I found the bad language more shocking because of this!!  I loved the narrator for Shalimar The Clown, he was Indian and was excellent and the female narrators for Rebecca and Memoirs of a Geisha were fantastic.

It's 3.00pm and so dark I need to put on the lights to finish this so will sign off now and close my windows before the storm hits us good and proper!

Thursday, January 13, 2011

A Dedication to Queensland

West End, Brisbane -
Photo from
What a shocking week this week has been, to watch the devastation in my beautiful state of Queensland is overwhelming, and the fact that only last week I was driving through Toowoomba and Chinchilla is a very sobering thought for me indeed.

I continually have tears rolling down my cheeks as I watch the news reports, and listen to the Premier's updates. I now really appreciate how fortunate I am to live in what appears to be a protected corner of Queensland as there is flooding to the north of us and now flooding to the south in NSW.  It felt very surreal this morning as I was driving to the shopping centre to meet a friend for coffee - the sun was shining and all the locals, myself included, were going about their daily lives when an hour up the road a different story was unfolding. I am very lucky indeed.

Ipswich - West of Brisbane
Photo from ABC On-Line
There will be much work and heartache ahead, many families will be displaced for some time, and some have lost loved ones and their beloved pets.  But, the human spirit is a wonderful thing, and stories of bravery will emerge and Queensland will continue on, and through all this we can be so proud of Premier Anna Bligh and her government for the way that they have handled the situation.

For those of us not directly affected by the flooding it has certainly put minor problems into perspective and if you have not done so already, please give generously to the Premier's Flood Relief Appeal at and help our state get back on it's feet. 

Thank you.

Friday, January 7, 2011

A Horror Trip

Heading back to Toowoomba

I’m back safe and sound after a horror trip west of Brisbane.  The trip was to run in the new car and I christened it well and truly - it’s a wonder I still have any suspension left and that my tyre’s weren’t shredded - the roads were atrocious.  Do Australians know how to build roads?  I have a new respect for our truckies who have to use the Warrego Highway, it’s a disgrace, loaded with pot holes and in the rain (which we’re getting plenty of this summer unfortunately) there's water all over the road.  I’ve never felt so stressed in  my life than when driving to Chinchilla and back from Toowoomba.

Then, to top it off, the day that we left Toowoomba to head back to the Coast we got stuck in a convoy of trucks, waiting for the road that heads down the range to re-open thanks to a landslide, and our other road out was under water thanks to the flooding.  I’m so happy to be back home in familiar territory and on fairly decent roads. But, I’m not happy about the stone chip on my bonnet thanks to a truck racing past me on the way home.  I’ve only had the car a week!

I didn’t do any reading whilst I was away, but I did take my Kindle and browsed the Kindle Store for a whole evening and downloaded twenty or so books and collections ready for this years 25 reads from the 1001 list.  Thanks Tanya, I really enjoyed spending my voucher!

Today, though, I read another short horror story which I really enjoyed.  It was called Green Fingers by R C Cook.  Basically it is about a widow who is surprised to find that whatever she plants in her garden grows without too much trouble; even clippings of hot house plants take over and grow amazingly just planted in the ground.  The widow is very pleased with herself and believes that she must have ‘green fingers’.  One day after eating rabbit she throws a bone out into the garden, but when tidying up the garden one days she sees that it has taken root, it is pulsating and has started to grow fur.  She finds this a little alarming to say the least, but she feels herself compelled to grow other strange things, like hair and a piece of wood that grows into a tree.  When the ‘rabbit’ plant disappears from her garden with what looks like paw prints in the snow, she decides that it would be best to go back to growing normal plants and to tidy up the jungle growth that has taken over.  The garden, however, has other ideas and she starts to experience various accidents culminating in losing a finger whilst trying to chop down the tree. On returning from hospital the widow finds her finger and against her better judgment she plants it…..

Vera (Cruze) parked up in Chinchilla
Honestly this was written in a light hearted manner but the sinister undertones were creepy and had me thinking that maybe she had murdered her husband and that the ground was bewitched like in Stephen King’s Pet Cemetary.  But, it wasn’t like that; it was just a disturbing story of an innocent elderly lady who keeps a clean house and has ‘green fingers’. And what a nasty little ending it has – very much of the bodysnatcher variety.   I think this one will stay with me for a little while J

Anyway, I bought a mobile wifi device today, so going to have a play with that now... so until next time......

Monday, January 3, 2011

A Dismal Start to January's Reading

So much for getting a lot of reading done over the Christmas break.  I feel like I have spent most of this week in an aimless haze! I just can't seem to settle down with a book, and today when I thought I would spend an hour with Adam Bede, the heat is making me so lethargic I can barely keep my eyes open. We've gone from cool wet weather to sweltering heat - I'm seriously missing the aircon at work.

So have I read anything at all?  I've managed a few short stories from Mary Danby's 65 Great Tales of Horror and a few pages of Opposing Energies by J W Collier and a little bit of Adam Bede by George Eliot.  Which is putting the stack of 'Christmas Reading' next to my bed to shame!!

Wilkie Collins had a nice little story in the Mary Danby collection called A Terribly Strange Bed, in which he relates the events of a night in a gambling house and his protagonist's near brush with death after he broke the bank.  It was really nicely written and felt sinister from start to finish.  Collins is a wierd sort of writer, he's either great or he's awful.  This one I really liked.

Not sure how I'm going to go with Opposing Energies.  The writing style needs a bit of polishing but I have only read a few pages so it's hard to comment at the moment.  At the beginning it reminded me of House of Leaves - ie the structure of the mansion with corridors being longer than should be possible and the strong love between Trevor and Stephanie.  There are some spelling and punctuations errors in the typeset which is a pet annoyance of mine.  I'm not feeling the urge to pick it up though I will try and read a few more chapters tonight.

Adam Bede.............Adam, Adam, Adam....... I just don't know with this novel.  I'm 37% of the way through it according to my Kindle and really nothing is happening.  Adam has buried his father and Hetty is upset that Captain Donithorne wasn't at the funeral.  He had gone away fishing or something to keep away from Hetty, but Adam thinks that she was upset for him and his loss.  I really want to get this read to see where the story will be heading, but again it's just not grabbing me.  My Stephen King has made it's way back to the top of the pile next to my bed (I still have two stories to finish from Full Dark, No Stars) and it's looking mighty attractive I must say.