Peter Straub, a writer I have admired for several decades said that Norman Partridge is “probably the most exciting and original voice in horror literature to have appeared in the last decade.” Coming from the man who wrote Floating Dragon and Ghost Story, two books I read with the lights totally on, this is high praise.
An unnamed Midwestern town is cursed. Every Halloween the October Boy (or Ol’ Hacksaw Face or Sawtooth Jack) rises from the cornfields and heads to town where all the eligible teenage boys try to kill him. They’ve been denied food for the past few days and the October Boy has a gut full of candy. This year, Pete McCormick is one of those boys. He’s had a rough few months: his mother has died of cancer, his father’s grief led him to the bottle and that led to the unemployment line. Killing the October Boy is Pete’s way out of town because that’s what the prize is: a way out of the one-horse town he lives in and free everything for his dad and little sister.
What Pete doesn’t know is that the October Boy is on a quest, too. He has to make it to the church by midnight and so he’s every bit as determined as Pete. Neither of them know the town’s dark history or its secrets, though.
I liked Dark Harvest. Was it the scariest book I’ve ever read? Uh, no. It was unusual, though. Creative. And strangely, I sort of felt myself rooting (no pun intended – but you’ll have to read the book to know what I mean) for both Pete and the October Boy. It’s a short book, you could read it in a couple hours if you were so inclined. Save it for Halloween night.
Favorite book from your childhood
I feel as though I’ve talked about favourite books from my childhood several times already: The Bobbsey Twins, Jane Eyre, A Little Princess, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn. (I might at Trixie Beldon and books by Enid Blyton here.) I can’t really remember a time in my life when I wasn’t reading. Getting the Scholastic order forms at school was a happy time for me (still is, truth be told). Receiving books as gifts, equally wonderful.
Just to shake things up I am going to mention the book Miss Happiness and Miss Flower by Rumer Godden. My book has the exact cover seen to the right, but my book has seen better days. I don’t remember who gave me the book, but I adored it. It’s the story of a little girl called Nona who leaves India to live with her aunt and cousins in chilly England. Nona isn’t happy, and then someone sends her two Japanese dolls that Nona feels are as displaced as she is. Published in 1961, this book survived many, many moves and now sits on my daughter’s bookshelf. She loves it as much as I do.
Favourite Romance Book
Yes, it’s true…I am a romantic at heart. A total, card carrying romantic. Love, Actually makes me cry every.single.time.
I am a sucker for the angsty ending. (Hello, Buffy/Angel shipper.) I love the long looks across the crowded room, the single touch that ignites a firestorm of passion, the stolen kisses. The happily-ever-after…when it’s done just right. (I’ve never read the book but the film The Notebook is my idea of the perfect romance…or maybe it’s just that Ryan Gosling is my idea of the perfect man…even though I am old enough to be his mother.)
I used to be a huge LaVyrle Spencer fan. I remember reading her novel, Morning Glory into the wee hours because I just couldn’t put it down. I haven’t read any of her novels for years and I suspect I’d find them too sugary now.
Therefore, my favourite romance novel would have to be The Time Traveler’s Wife. Handsome hero, smart and beautiful heroine, fated and star-crossed…I just loved this book. My advice if you haven’t yet read it…is to ignore the timestamp – it just gets confusing trying to piece it all together. I looked at the ages of Henry and Clare and then read. And wept.
Favorite book turned into a movie
I think the BBC did an excellent job adapting Sarah Waters’ novel Fingersmith. It’s well worth the watch.
I also loved what Robert Redford did with Judith Guest’s novel, Ordinary People. If you haven’t seen this movie, Mary Tyler Moore is a revelation.
I think it would be easier to talk about the botched film adaptations: The Time Traveler’s Wife (so bad), One Day (even though I haven’t seen the movie, Anne Hatheway’s accent – and I adore Anne Hatheway and think she’s a terrific actress – is horrible)
A book that disappointed you
Lots of books disappoint me. Sometimes it’s because they don’t live up to the hype (Eat, Pray Love), sometimes it’s because I’ve slogged through them only to arrive at a mediocre ending (The Elegance of a Hedgehog), a book by an writer I can normally count on that I just didn’t like (Rise and Shine) and sometimes I’ve loved the book only to arrive at an ending that just doesn’t do the book justice (Still Missing).
I find myself abandoning books earlier now than I used to. I have too many books on my to-be-read shelf and not enough time.
Favorite quote(s) from your favorite book(s)
I don’t actually keep track of my favourite quotes, although maybe I should. I am partial to this one fro Thomas H. Cook’s novel Breakheart Hill:
This is the darkest story that I ever heard and all my life I have labored not to tell it.
Breakheart Hill was my first Thomas H. Cook. Those opening lines sparked my interest and the novel certainly delivered on their promise. I have gone on to read several more of Cook’s novels and I really like his writing.
I also really love the opening lines of John Burnham Schwartz’s novel Claire Marvel:
There was before her and now there is after her, and that is the difference in my life.
I didn’t love this book as much as I thought I would, but I did love those lines.
Favourite book of your favourite writer.
Oops. I skipped this question, which should have come immediately after I wrote about my favourite writer: Carolyn Slaughter.
I’d have a hard time naming my favourite book by Ms. Slaughter. The Banquet was the novel I discovered first and the book that sent my scurrying to find more of her work.
I am waiting for them to come. I’m not frightened at all. Their coming is the only certainty, so I hold to it.
Thus begins Harold’s story of his relationship with Blossom, a young Marks and Spencer shop girl.
But I also love her novel The Story of the Weasel (also called Relations). And her book Magdalene. Whatever she turns her hand to, the result is always sublime for me.
Veronica Bennett reimagines the life of Mary Shelley, author of the novel Frankenstein, in her novel AngelMonster. It is 1814 and Mary is a smart but dreamy 16 year old. She and her sister, Jane, often imagine finding true love with a poet because as Mary remarks, “a poet is the only acceptable sort of lover these days.”
Jane and I had often discussed the possibility of falling in love with a poet. If poetry was any measure of a man, we had observed, everything we longed for in a lover – romance, desire, spirit, soul – was clearly contained in it.
Into Mary’s life (well, her father’s bookshop) walks Percy Shelley. Not yet the super-star poet he was to become he is nevertheless known as someone to watch and certainly meets Mary’s criteria for a lover. And lovers they become, even though Shelley is already (at the tender age of 20) married with children.
AngelMonster is a thoroughly modern tale. It’s kind of like reading a memoir from a current celebrity. It drops names ( Lord Byron and Polidori are companions of Shelley’s) and is full of dalliances and intrigues and twisted love triangles. Young readers, especially those who dismiss poetry and classic fiction as boring, might be intrigued by the flesh and blood people who actually lived and wrote these works that have endured.
Mary herself is an interesting character. Her mother, Mary Wollstonecraft, was one of the first feminists and author of A Vindication of the Rights of Women. (Wollstonecraft died a few days after Mary was born.) Her father was the writer and political journalist, William Godwin. Mary herself is clearly intelligent, but youth makes her romantic and dreamy. Still, she wrote Frankenstein when she was just 21. As Bennett writes her, she is young but determined. Her affair with Percy is ill-advised, but she loves him and sticks with him even when he doesn’t deserve it. She is a thoroughly modern creation.
I think AngelMonster would be a great companion to a young adult’s study of the works of Byron, and both Percy and Mary Shelley.
Favourite female character.
I loved the characters, Sue and Maude, in Sarah Waters’ phenomenal novel Fingersmith. The story is told, first from Sue’s point of view and then from Maude’s and it’s hard to imagine loving either of them given the nasty business they’re messed up in. But Waters’ Victorian-era novel is so layered and rich and exciting and the characters so fully-realized and compelling…it’s almost impossible not to empathize with and root for both girls.
I also love Sara Crewe from Frances Hodgson Burnett’s A Little Princes.
Of course the greatest power Sara possessed, and the one which gained her even more followers than her luxuries and the fact that she was ‘the show pupil’, the power that Lavinia and certain other girls were most envious of, and at the same time most fascinated by in spite of themselves, was her power of telling stories and making everything she talked about seem like a story, whether it was one or not.
It is Sara’s imagination which sustains her when hope is lost. I admired that quality so much when I was a child, and I still do.
Other female characters I admired: Jo from Little Woman; Francie from A Tree Grows in Brooklyn; Jane Eyre from Jane Eyre; Anne from Anne of Green Gables
The girls from my youth. Girls with spirit and full-hearts and hope.
Favourite male character
What can I say, I love the bad boys. The Heathcliffs and the Rochesters
Jesse from Kristin McCloy’s Velocity:
…he wants me and he is so sure of himself, all I have to do is respond, and I can’t help but respond, he calls everything I am up beneath his fingertips…Your mother wouldn’t like me, huh. I can tell he’s proud of this, that he likes to be considered dangerous. I almost tell him that my mother is dead, but then I don’t. I look at him wondering what my mother would think…surely she would be struck by those eyes. Any woman would. Even a dead woman.
but I also adored Henry from Audrey Niffenegger’s novel The Time Traveler’s Wife. He is so beautifully, tragically, romantic.
I hate to be where she is not, when she is not. And yet, I am always going, and she cannot follow.
I also admired Jack, the narrator of Frederick Busch’s book Girls. Damaged, ironic, tough and sometimes so funny, Jack is a character who seemed very real to me.
I am not unintelligent. “You are not an unintelligent writer,” my professor wrote on my paper about Nathaniel Hawthorne…He ran into me at dusk one time, when I answered a call about a dead battery and found out it was him… You are not an unintelligent driver, I said.”