I posted a few days ago about my favorite places to buy books and I mentioned that I had pretty good luck in the past at my local Dollar Tree. Everything in the store is a dollar (just $1!) so finding cool books there is amazing, but because it’s a bargain store and not a book store, the chances of finding something that I’ve heard of or want are really slim. Sometimes, though, I find some treasures! Today, I’m going to share purchases from my two most recent runs. I haven’t read any of the books I’m about to show you, so I’ll include a link to their Goodreads page so we can see how they stack up! It’s a pretty wide array of genres so let’s get going!
HAUL No. 1
First up is The Secret of Crickley Hall by James Herbert. I picked it up because it sounded like a haunted house story, which is probably my favorite genre of novel right now. I fell in love with them when I read Shirley Jackson’s The Haunting of Hill House, and from there I got really interested in the genre and read a lot of Susan Hill. Herbert’s novel seemed to promise a good old-fashioned haunted house story so I snagged it up. I started to read it but things got in the way and I put it down. Let’s see what Goodreads has to say…
The overall rating is a 3.9/5, with nearly 6,000 ratings and almost 500 reviews. The top review from Apatt, with 30 likes, gave it 5 stars, and had this to say:
“The Secret Of Crickley Hall was published in 2006 when Herbert was 63, I would say age has mellowed him over the years. That said, “Crickley” still pretty damn gruesome in places and not for the faint of heart. However, in addition to the Herbertian patented ew! factor this book is also quite compassionate, poignant and even sentimental. A lot of care and attention has been put into developing the characters.”
Interestingly, the second highest rating gave it 1 star. Aileen’s review in it’s entirety was kind of hot and cold, and it seems her biggest complaint is that the book didn’t live up to the back cover’s promises:
“The synopsis mentioned ghost story, hence the expectations. So, did I quake in my boots then? FARKING NO! Not even a tiniest shake happened to me. You know what had scared me more? It was when I took my driving test many moons ago!
Look, there were ghosts in the story all right but they were nowhere scary. Very tame and others were just plain disgusting but NOT SCARY.”
So, reading a few reviews and taking that all into account, I’m kind of divided about the success of the this purchase. It seems this author is pretty well known and respected in the horror community, especially in the United Kingdom, but it also seems like Herbert is into ick-horror instead of the gothic thrill that I like. I might give it a chance, but since I only spent a dollar on it, if it gets too revolting I won’t feel bad about putting it down!
The second purchase of this run was The Lady of Magick by Sylvia Izzo Hunter. Unbeknownst to me, this novel is a sequel (sad horns). Maybe I’ll snoop around Thriftbooks and see if I can find the first one. I picked it up because of my favorite words: ‘MAGIC’ and ‘SCHOOL’. Checking in with Goodreads…
This novel has a 3.75/5 on Goodreads, with almost 400 ratings and roughly 70 reviews. It seems this novel is a little less well known than the last. I also peeked over at the first novel’s ratings and reviews. The Midnight Queen has a 3.5/5 from 1,300 ratings and 278 reviews. It’s interesting that the sequel is higher rated than the first installment, but not so strange that the first has more attention. The top review from Mogsy says about The Midnight Queen:
“This book would be perfect for readers looking for a well-balanced blend of fantasy with a historical fiction-type setting, overlaid with a story laced with a heavy dose of the kind of chaste, slow-burn romance one might find in a traditional Regency novel.”
The top review from Darque Dreamer for The Lady of Magick says:
“Lady of Magick started off really slow for me! I felt like it didn’t pick up pace until about half way through. I had really enjoyed the first one, and was looking forward to this one. Once it picked up, I had found myself caught in a web of mystery, betrayal, and a coup against a kingdom, but it took way too long to get there.”
So, I think I’ll go find the first one and give this series a shot! The review for the first book sounds right up my alley!
HAUL No. 2
First up is an Arthurian tale about Lancelot, which I love, called The Lance Thrower by Jack Whyte. I took a course on King Arthur in undergraduate and I loved reading all the medieval texts which sometimes are even stranger than the modern tales we read today. I loved reading King Arthur stories as a kid, with my favorite being Sword of the Rightful King by Jane Yolen which I vividly remember reading it in elementary school, and even now as an adult I still love these classic tales, so clearly, I couldn’t resist this one! I skimmed the first page and its full of that high fantasy language reminiscent of Tolkien so I’m eager to check it out! Popping over to Goodreads…
RATS!! This book is apparently the LAST in a series of 8 novels! Oh well. Maybe I can wade through… if not, Thriftbooks here I come!
This novel has a 4.13/5 rating (Wow!) from 2,000 ratings and about 60 reviews. Here’s a promising review from Benjamin Thomas:
“This overall series has become one of my all-time favorites (of all genres) and so it is with some reluctance that I “only” give this volume four stars. There is nothing particularly “wrong” with it but to my mind much of it seemed somewhat unnecessary to the series. In essence it is very much a stand-alone novel within the larger series, and can be read as such…but the most satisfying parts are where it does intersect with the rest of the series and beloved characters. Alas these parts are few and I confess I was hoping for more of that, and sooner. However, it does a great job of setting up the important character of Clothar and letting us see how he developed his approach to life, and provide some insightful teasers, all of which will ultimately pay off in the concluding volume, I’m sure.”
Ah! Good news! So I think I’ll try to read it, and if I like it I can find the rest of the series and if not — no harm, no foul.
Finally, the last one I picked up (out of a half opened box on the floor of a separate aisle — The Dollar Tree is a disaster during the holidays) is The Book of Heaven by Patricia Storace. The cover caught my eye, and the inside flap was all about feminism so Yes, please! Specifically, this bit sunk me: “a stunningly original novel of heartrending lyricism about four women who invite us to enter into a new and powerful imagination of the divine: what if “a woman’s point of view” were also God’s?” Interested? Thought so. Here’s the Goodreads report…
The Book of Heaven has 3.74/5, from only about 80 ratings and 20 reviews. This novel doesn’t appear to be widely read, but that doesn’t always have relevance. The reviews, being few, are kind of split. Some people liked it, some didn’t. There is one concerning comment regarding the author’s view of her own work, which reviewer Margaret notes:
I listened to a podcast with the author in hopes of understanding the novel better, but if anything, it made me like the novel less. In the interview, Storace said she dislikes the word feminist, and would never call her novel feminist. Yet, the novel is steeped in misogyny and the telling of women’s stories; there’s no way to view it as anything but feminist. She also said she deliberately left the women faceless because once you describe how a woman looks, she becomes the stereotype. But how is that different than how the bible portrays women? Isn’t part of the act of recreating biblical stories from a female perspective giving them faces? Making them into people?
While it was frustrating that I couldn’t make the biblical connections I feel I was supposed to make, that’s not what made the novel fail for me. Each part had a lot of potential, but the protagonists lacked character development and personalities. The stories were so rich, the worlds so complex, they needed a novel to themselves. Instead, each section is a massive info dump, and the women never come alive in their worlds.
I’m still going to give this novel a try. I’m a sucker for lyricism and it seems that everyone who read it liked he poetic quality of the stories. Plus, the premise is so amazing that I just can’t help giving it a shot. Still, it sounds like we’ll have to Roland Barthes this one, and utilize “the death of the author” concepts…
So that’s my Dollar Tree haul! My TBR pile keeps growing….
What’s on your To Be Read pile? have you read any of these books? What did you think of them? Which ones would you be interested in?