The Blind Owl

Written by Sadegh Hedayat

Peel: Following the narrator’s descent into madness, a dark tale examining the human condition.

This is quite bluntly, an amazing piece of work. Hedayat certainly isn’t named as the father of modern Iranian prose for nothing. At only a hundred and thirty pages the book can be read in an afternoon, and merits plenty of rereads to attempt to understand the novel. Hedayat’s language and imagery is stunning. Hedayat is like a cross between Poe and Marquez, with emphasis on Poe. This is one of the better accounts of an insane mind that I’ve read; for example, the narrator will repeat certain images without connecting them to other identical instances.

If you like knowing exactly what’s going on all the time, then I certainly wouldn’t recommend this book to you. Between the magical realism, insane mind, and the narration switching to earlier in his life for the second part, it isn’t always strictly following a predictive arc- but is very enjoyable if you don’t mind that.

Nibble: “His face was ravaged and old, and his hair- the terror aroused by the sound of the cobra’s body as it slid across the floor, by its furious hissing, by its gleaming eyes, by the thought of its poisonous fangs and of its loathsome body shaped like a long neck terminating in a spoon-shaped protuberance and a tiny head, the horror of all this had changed my uncle, by the time he walked out of the room, into a white-haired old man.”

I would recommend this to anyone who enjoys magical realism.

My Rating: 10 out of 10 ethereal and shadowed apples

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The New Death and others

Written by James Hutchings

Peel: Forty-four stories and nineteen poems are in this collection.

The content of this collection ranges from satire to horror to the fantastic, and many of the stories end with little twists. The author is unapologetically opinionated in matters of politics, religion, and morals but I didn’t find that off-putting. The first story that opens up the collection is one of all the gods picking dominions, but no one wants to be the God of the Poor. Throughout the collection, the author’s uniqueness and creativity becomes pretty apparent. There’s quite a bit of lovely dark whimsical poetry that tended to read like a song. The stories read rather honestly regardless of however fantastic they were. This collection could also be reread, and if in print, I’d say it’d make a lovely little coffee table book.

The collection wasn’t organized in any way which makes it easy to start reading at random, but not so great for reading larger chunks. Such jumps, like from an amusing little poem to heavy political matter, could have been avoided with sectioning. I wouldn’t be able to pick a favorite from the collection, but I preferred the shorter clever pieces of flash fiction and poetry best. The longer stories were good, but they lacked the snappy humor that characterized the others.

Nibble: “It was strange, Fame thought, that Death was not more popular. She was so cheerful, and so fond of children.”

I would heavily recommend this collection to anyone who enjoys witty twisted works.

My Rating: 9 out of 10 dark Bramley apples

I received a free electronic copy of this book from the author via LibraryThing.

James Hutchings’s Site

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The Wolf Gift

Written by Anne Rice

Peel: Set in present day California, the story begins with a young reporter is sent to cover a story on an old house for sale. The reporter, Reuben, is enchanted by the house, its history, and its current inhabitant. One bite shifts Reuben’s life, character, and interactions with his family and friends.

This novel was very slow moving and built up a thorough storyline. It didn’t read like a fast-paced crazy paranormal story, and I enjoyed that. After a few chapters, the story hooked me in; the characters, dialog, and reactions all felt very realistic. Rice’s language was light and pretty, and rather conducive to lovely imagery. The book flitted between feeling historical to erotic to violent.

There is a bit of religious preachiness at times. Especially towards the end, the book goes into the explicit origin story, and potential philosophical and religious ramifications. I would have preferred more moral ambiguity in the character’s view of himself. One of the powers he develops is to smell the difference between innocence, evil, and being neutral. This made it far too easy to establish the moral standing of any character. He does bring up some interesting questions in a few of the articles he writes on werewolves, but we never see him grapple with them. Instead, the main character is a nice handsome guy who takes everything in stride. As a warning there is quasi-bestiality and lots of violence.

All in all, she’s a wonderful storyteller and it was an interesting take on the werewolf tale.

Nibble: “As for his father, he saw death in the falling leaves.”

I would recommend this to anyone with a love for werewolves.

My Rating: 8 out of 10 bitten apples

I received an advanced copy from the publisher, Knopf Doubleday, via NetGalley.

Anne Rice’s Site

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Up in the Attic and Other Stories

Written by Amanda Lawrence Auverigne

This is a collection of holiday themed short stories, described as horror or dark fantasy. I would classify it only as dark fantasy as it’s simply not scary. I found the stories felt melodramatic as the author tended to write very choppy descriptions, and use many one or two sentence paragraphs in a row. A lot of the language Auverigne uses throughout the seven stories is very similar, and reading them all at once is a bit much. I found the sheer amount of references to various sites and gadgets a bit annoying, as were the often unnecessary mundane conversations between characters. I really wanted to like something about this collection as idea-wise it sounded promising, but it just wasn’t my cup of tea.

I would recommend this to anyone who likes mixing high school drama with a touch of dark fantasy.

Nibble: ” ‘No, I love you the best when you’re eating because that’s the only time when you’re conscious and quiet.’ ”

My Rating: 1 out of 10 chopped up apples

I received a free electronic copy of this book from the author via LibraryThing.

Enchantress of Rurne

By Chris Turner

In this short story a warrior sets out to slay his master’s killers, but is waylaid by a seductress who has her own plans for him. Turner creates rather descriptive scenes for his characters to operate in. He also tends to use very pretty and visual language. The first part of the story has a feeling of impending doom as the tension steadily builds. We’re quickly given a complete-feeling profile of the protagonist, which makes the story easy to jump into. An early inn scene displays some excellent natural dialog, even if the situation is a bit cliche. Suddenly, a flurry of action occurs, and the tension dissipates as the story comes to a close.

I found that the tension dropped off a little too quickly. I would have liked the action scenes, mainly the fight to avenge his master’s killers, to be fleshed out a little more. I also would have liked to see the protagonist develop in some way, or have some reason to empathize with him. I found the seductress a much more interesting character, with a curious backstory.

I would recommend this story to someone wanting to briefly be emerged in a fantasy hero adventure.

Nibble: “Taar’s sudden-spawned desire for her flesh flared again and her seductive aura was a promise of rapture, to which he was drawn like a burning magnet, feeling a lover’s overpowering ache for the warm, inviting woman-ness lurking beneath that soft leather.”

My Rating: 5 out of 10 dark red apples

I received a free electronic copy of this book from the author via LibraryThing.