Come & Sit For A Spell

The hour is upon us.

This week’s theme, my dear bookworms, is:

Many years ago one of my college roommates who was/is also a good friend handed me her copy of The Witching Hour by Anne Rice. She is a huge Rice fan and was reading through all of her vampire books at the time. I had never read anything by Rice and I can’t remember why she recommended TWH to me, other than the fact that she loved that book.

I took that chunk of a book and started reading. The mass market edition, which is the edition I had, is over a thousand pages.

TWH was not only my first novel by Anne Rice, but it was my first novel about witches. Obviously I didn’t have any other witch novel to compare it to, but after reading it I can’t imagine a better book about witches to start with.

TWH begins the saga of The Mayfair witches. The story opens in present day San Francisco and effortlessly glides between 17th-century France, the coffee plantations of Port-such-Prince, New Orleans, and the Civil War South.

In present-day San Francisco, a neurosurgeon named Rowan Mayfair, rescues a man who has drowned. Aware she has some type of power, but unaware this power comes from being a descendant of an ancient line of witches, she brings him back to life (this isn’t a cheesy bring-back-to-life-romance story, I promise). This man, Michael Curry, having had a brief experience with death acquires a sensory power of sorts (also not cheesy) is drawn to Rowan.

Michael and Rowan’s story is followed as easily and as intensely as the one of the Mayfair Witch history. Ultimately the stories intertwine. If you like historical family sagas, I think you will greatly enjoy this book. Rice draws you in with such hypnotic visuals- at times they seem almost larger than life. As you learn more about each generation of witches, it becomes harder and harder to step away from this story and their world. Her words might just pull you right from where you are and into her world of witchcraft, spells and the sometimes seductive destruction of four centuries of witches.

It’s only when a story is accompanied with a delectable richness like that of velveteen that you know someone is truly a master at their craft.

Anne Rice is one such master.

The Mayfair witches and their story have stuck with me for over twenty years. Never would I have guessed that a book such as this would’ve entranced me so fully.

“I feel the darkness near me; I feel the light shining. And more keenly I feel the contrast between the two.“

Anne Rice, The Witching Hour

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Where Do Monsters Lurk?

My interest in true crime books goes way back. I’m thinking I was in junior high when I was introduced to this genre via a book written by Ann Rule.

To this day I have read all of her books or close to it. Sadly she passed away a few years ago so there will not be any new books. Ann Rule was a policewoman before she became an author, which only added to the authenticity of her writing. Although the subjects and associated people she wrote about were horrifying, her books were not gratuitously disgusting or over the top. Her books are well thought out and well researched. Rule’s presence within this genre is sadly missed.

Thinking about this week I wanted to cover a good variety of true crime books for you. Typically murder comes to mind when I think about this genre, but the word crime covers a multitude of acts. Learning about the inner-workings of the minds of criminals is fascinating to me. The age-old debate of nature vs. nurture will only continue to be examined. Are people born with certain genes that allow them to be more susceptible to committing these acts-or does an experience cause them to snap? Personally, I believe it’s both.

What do you think?

Today’s Book:

I read The Monster of Florence by Douglas Preston and Mario Spezi a few years back. I can’t remember if it was recommended or if I just picked it up because it sounded interesting.

This story is an incredible one.

Imagine getting the chance to live in another country that you has always dreamed of. This is exactly the chance that Douglas Preston and his family were able to do when they moved from the U.S.A. to Florence, Italy.

After getting settled in their farmhouse in Florence, Preston gets the chance to meet up with the famous journalist, Mario Spezi.

As the two get to know each other Spezi shares some interesting information with Preston. The olive grove next to Preston’s new home was the scene of a horrible double murder. These murders were committed by the “most infamous figure in Italian history-the Monster of Florence (back cover).”

Preston is fascinated by this information. Of all places he and his family could have found a house- the one they choose has such a terrible story right next door.

He and Spezi begin their own investigation in to this monster who killed fourteen people, but was never caught.

This is the true story of their search to find and confront the man they believe is responsible for these crimes.

In the midst of their search, you learn about the city’s own bloody history. As the two men become more and more involved in this hunt, they actually become targets of a crazy police investigation.

If you enjoy true crime or even just have an interest in history, I think you will enjoy this book. It’s a little over three hundred pages, but is quite fast-paced.

This is a book I’ve kept after finishing for two reasons. I not only found it to be such a great read, but also I wanted to be reminded to recommend it to others who like this genre.

Oh-to answer the question asked in the title:

Where do monsters lurk?

Everywhere, my dears. So watch your step.

More to come this week!

“We all have a monster within; the difference is in degree, not in kind.”

-Douglas Preston and Mario Spezi, The Monster of Florence

American Horror Stories: Part I

Happy October 1st!

When I began thinking about what I wanted to post for the month of October, my mind of course thought of creepy books.

I enjoy the strange and mysterious. If a story gets a little (or a lot) dark along the way, count me in. I do like books like Frankenstein or Dracula- but those do not scare me. Nor do witches, werewolves, or anything typically bloody and gruesome.

What gets under my skin and makes it crawl is the seemingly normal and ordinary. The everyday nuances that when twisted can terrorize the mind. When a story about the normal neighbor who has been keeping people locked in a basement, yet cheerily says hello every morning- that’s what creeps me out.

The majority of books that I plan to post about this month will have those types of characteristics. Subjects and stories that are true or could very likely take place are way scarier than fiction (usually). Stories that grab you on a psychological level are so much scarier than ghosts and goblin types. Our brains are often the biggest source of what we fear.

The mind can be a scary place, remember that and tread carefully.

On the complete flip side of books that scare me on a psychological level are the books I am going to talk about this week.

These books scare me on such a profound level that at times I had to stop reading and return months later to them. It took me several years to read all five of these books because they terrify me and I needed to space them apart.

Lisa Genova has written five fiction novels. All of her books center around disease, sickness, and loss. Another author, Jodi Picoult also writes novels with medical issues front center. However, Picoult’s novels also usually present a medical-ethical dilemma as well. Her books are good and I recommend her as an author. Genova, on the other hand, presents each of her books (centering on an ailment) as open and raw as I feel is possible. The disease or sickness in question is just right there staring you in the face.

Her books are true horror stories.

Watching a disease ravage the body and/or mind of someone you love is sickening.

Aside from being an author, Lisa Genova is a neuroscientist. She researches and works with those who are afflicted with the particular diseases she has written about. Her knowledge on these subjects is vast, yet her books are written for the layman, which only makes them more frightening in my opinion.

In this post I am going to write about two of her books. Over the next few days I will cover all five. On Thursday, I will feature the one that scared me out the most. On Friday, since I will have covered all of her books, I am going to feature a book (also of the medical horror variety) by another author.

Left Neglected :

This story follows Sarah Nickerson.

Sarah is a mom like any other. Multi-tasking, trying to be as efficient as possible, all while driving her kids from one place to the next.

During one such drive she is distracted by her cell phone, looks away a second too long, and poof, her life and all of the million details it entails abruptly comes to a stop.

She isn’t killed. Instead she suffers a traumatic brain injury resulting in a diagnosis of Left Neglect.

Left Neglect means nothing in your left hemisphere exists to you. It’s a hard scenario to grasp. Although logically Sarah knows what she’s been through and what the doctors have told her, she struggles with it.

There’s a part that stands out in my mind that quickly put it in to perspective for me. Sarah, thinking she’s doing ok wants to go for a drive. Someone is with her in the car and they slowly begin to head down the street. After a minute, her friend asks her why she is driving with her (left side) door open? That door no longer exists to Sarah and she had no idea it was open.

I can’t imagine.

Just as the brain can be a scary place psychologically speaking, it can also be scary due to its size and capabilities. When those capability’s are lost, there are no prerequisites for specific healing times, if in fact they ever completely heal.

Sarah’s story is one I have thought about so much over the years since I have read it. Cell phones are everywhere and we all have used them at times when we shouldn’t have. I’m not judging because I am including myself.

I highly recommend this scary book to you. Just another reminder to be safe while you and your loved ones are in cars -surrounded by a million other people in cars who might be texting that quick little note to grab an extra gallon of milk on the way home.

Love Anthony :

This story follows two women and the power of friendship in light of horrific tragedy.

Beth and Jimmy’s fourteen year marriage ends when he has an affair. Olivia and David have a non-verbal son with Autism named Anthony. Just when they are learning to to navigate the often rough waters of his diagnosis, Anthony dies at the age of eight.

Instead of drawing closer together in the time of tragedy, Olivia and David divorce.

Both women take up different hobbies to try and understand their recent life upheavals. Beth begins to write and Olivia turns to photography. These two women and their stories do tie together.

I don’t want to write much about this story, because I want you to read it.

I cannot imagine the loss of child and I hope to God I never have to know that pain and suffering.

The books of today’s post are scary and heavy. I’ve not meant to write gratuitously, but rather to make you think. Genova writes about subjects that 100% scare the socks off me. But- at the same time I feel after reading her stories I have become a little more educated in those areas. Knowledge can be scary, but it can also be the force that propels us to push forward and advance rather than living in fear.

“Have you lost your mind?”

“No,” I say, insulted. Well, I actually have lost some of my right mind, but now’s probably not the best time to be literal.

Lisa Genova, Left Neglected