Welcome to my blog for people in search of a good book.
My promise to you is, if it's here, it's good.

Thursday, April 30, 2009

House of Spirits and Whispers

If you like true tales of haunted houses, you will enjoy reading Annie Wilder's book House of Spirits and Whispers.  This is the story of a woman who moves her family into a Victorian house in Sibley, Minnesota (an historic Mississippi river town) only to find out it is haunted.

Unlike the baffled mother in Don't Call Them Ghosts, who hadn't a clue what to do, this woman has had experience with ghosts and spirits. She comes from a long line of psychic women and has some mediumistic abilities. She is not particularly surprised to find that she is sharing the house with earlier inhabitants. She is quite willing to share as long as the spirits behave themselves. She is not the only member of the family who has experiences there, but hers are the most vivid, and occasionally scary.

The old house had been turned into 3 apartments by Leon, the former owner, and the Wilders have to make some significant changes to transform it into a house suitable for herself, her two children and occasional house guests. The floor plans in the front of the book are very helpful in orienting oneself and I often referred to them as I read the book.

Leon is still hanging around when Annie and her family move in, and he has strong feelings about the place. After driving off everyone else who showed interest in the place, he appears to consent to her family moving in. As they explore their new home, they discover a treasure of sorts hidden in the basement, a rustic door with an interesting old seed poster on it  (seen on the cover of the book) and discover that Leon is not the only ghost. Several spirits have lingered in the house. The house sits across the street from a funeral home and they suspect that some spirits are attracted to their house and drop in on their way to other places. It all makes for a lively experience, sometimes too lively.

This book is a quick, easy read. The author keeps things moving, and ends every chapter with a teaser that makes you want to find out what happens next. Watch the video to learn more about Annie Wilder and her haunted house.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Zombies on the Brain

Some purists may be annoyed that someone has had the cheek to add zombies to Jane Austen's classic novel of manners, Pride and Prejudice. Other readers may wish the author, Seth Grahame-Smith, had added more of them. He has stayed true to the plot line, while using the zombie threat to inject humor and enhance our understanding of the characters. I particularly enjoyed his exaggeration of the silliness of Mrs. Bennet and the youngest Bennet daughter, Lydia, the additional sarcasm of Mr. Darcy, and the unpleasant fate of some of the more disagreeable characters.

The author sticks close to the script, sometimes just tweaking Austen's words a bit, such as in the opening sentence:

It is a truth universally acknowledged that a zombie in possession of brains must be in want of more brains.

Most of his additions are low-key, gentle reminders of the situation, such as:

Elizabeth most thankfully consented, and a servant was dispatched to Longbourn to acquaint the family with her stay and bring back a supply of clothes, and at Elizabeth's request, her favourite musket.
Battles with the zombies are, of course, an addition to the original tale:
Elizabeth knew that she and her present party were all doomed to slow deaths if the horses should fall into Satan's hands, so she sprang skyward, firing her musket as she flew through the air, her bullets penetrating the heads of several unmentionables. She landed on her feet beside one of the horses, and with her sword, began cutting down the attackers with all the grace of Aphrodite and all the ruthlessness of Herod.
Another gem:
What remained of Charlotte [who has been bitten by a zombie] would have liked to have believed this change the effect of love, and the object of that love her friend Eliza. She watched him [Mr. Darcy] whenever they were at Rosings, and whenever he came to Hunsford; but without much  success, for her thoughts often wandered to other subjects, such as the warm, succulent sensation of biting into a fresh brain.

I particularly enjoyed the Reader's Discussion Guide supplied at the end with questions for not-so-serious contemplation, such as:
•Is Mr. Collins merely too fat and stupid to notice his wife's gradual transformation into a zombie, or could there be another explanation for his failure to acknowledge the problem?

•Some critics have suggested that the zombies represent the author's views toward marriage––an endless curse that sucks the life out of you and just won't die. Do you agree, or do you have another opinion about the unmentionables?

•Vomit plays an important role in Pride and Prejudice and Zombies . . . Do the authors mean for this regurgitation to symbolize something greater, or is it a cheap device to get laughs?

•Some scholars believe that the zombies were a last-minute addition to the novel, requested by the publisher in a shameless attempt to boost sales. Others argue that the hordes of living dead are integral to Jane Austen's plot and social commentary. What do you think? Can you imagine what this novel might be like without the violent zombie mayhem?
Not any more!

What would Jane think? (WWJT)

I think she would be delighted that the independent Elizabeth Bennet is a ferocious fighter capable of killing ninjas and zombies alike with ease, while still retaining good sense and sensibility. Having experienced the repression and limitation of women in British society of the time, Jane may well be delighted at the self-sufficiency of the Bennet women and the further confirmation of the uselessness of silly people in this version of her story.

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies is an amusing read, especially for anyone familiar with the story, and all in good fun. Hopefully, the addition of zombie hordes will attract more readers to this classic tale.

There are 20 illustrations in the book, done in the style of the original illustrations of the original 
Pride and Prejudice (sans zombies).

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