Short Story Review: The Tell-Tale Heart by Edgar Allen Poe

The Tell-Tale Heart was first published in 1843 and is a short story by the American writer Edgar Allen Poe. It was then subsequently published as part of Poe’s Book – Tales of Mystery and Imagination.

The story is told by an unnamed narrator that tries to convince the reader that he is not mad but provoked and haunted by the ‘evil’ eye of the old man, taunted almost, and to rid himself of the eye, he must murder the old man that he loved very much. It follows him as he walks us through his calculated and cunning plan to commit the murder, all while declaring his sanity.

What I really like about Poe’s works, is that you can expect his narrators to be unreliable, making the reader unable to really know whether to trust him or not. In this case, the narrator is trying to mask his true intentions and feelings by his attempt to prove his sanity by exercising dissimulation. What’s to say he isn’t using dissimulation on us too?

What I think is both a strength and weakness of The Tell-Tale Heart is Poe’s style of writing, it can be quite maddening, with his short sentences leave me with questions as to the meaning, and his longer sentences are precisely worded and descriptive. It is so carefully worded, which highlights Poe’s exquisite talent as a writer, that it highlights the angle of the narrator’s chaotic mind.

I really like Poe’s work, and I have a copy of Tales of Mystery and Imagination. What I will take forth with me from this piece was his narrators’ deception and use of dissimulation, I like that the reader doesn’t know whether to trust what he says as truth or not.

Poe, E.A. (1843). The tell-tale heart. Retrieved from

https://www.poemuseum.org/the-tell-tale-heart

Book Review: Bone Tiki – David Hair

Bone Tiki – Wow. I thoroughly enjoyed it. Have ordered the next book in the series.

The first few pages for me were a little slow, and I was not encouraged, but persisted. 

Using a mixture of culture, heritage, mythology, legends, and historical knowledge, David Hair was able to bring life to those well known mythological/ancient creatures and Maori legends in a way that captivated my imagination and soul, and with a balance of backstory weaved amongst the story to keep it moving forward. 


The aspects I liked were:
1) That David Hair was able to use legends and myths within Maori culture that are established. Based in Taupo, and having spent much time in the Hawkes Bay and Hastings regions as well as further north. Using the taniwha of Lake Taupo/Waikato River coming up over the bridge in Taupo was so real, I could envision it clearly. The legend of HatuPatu, is a place that I always honk at on my way north, but never really knew significance. There were so many. But the author really brought them to life in a whole other way, by not only paying tribute to these Maori legends/mythical creatures/people but ellaborating as to their story and significance to the region and Maori people. The Opepe battle scene is real along the Napier-Taupo Highway, and so that leads me into my second point.

2) I liked the attention to detail with not only the significant locations, and legends, but also the scenery. It was so vivid, the walking along the rivers and through the bush.

3) Whether the ellaborations on existing legends and myths that are brought to life in this book are entirely true or not, is not a hundred percent clear to me. But there was definitely an aspect of realism to this book. It has been cleverly done. I loved the part about riding the Taniwha up the Waikato river and all other (smaller) taniwhas rose their heads.

4) The character of Wiri was captivating, as too was that of the dog. Wiri reminded me of a friend of mine from high school that actually died in a river along the Napier-Taupo Highway. But his presence and character was so familiar, it drew me in. Also, to note, his entrance into the book was powerful. I was like ‘wow – who is this?’ 

5) I liked the character development of all the characters – Mat, Kelly, Wiri, Tama, etc. They kept growing and gaining more depth.

This is definitely a book I would read again, and recommend. Great selection guys.

Two things I picked up on was a catastrophic spelling mistake – only one. And that this book is categorized as a YA.

Book Review: Halfway to the Grave

Frost, J. (2007). Halfway to the grave. New York, USA: Harper Collins Publishers.

Author:

Jeaniene Frost is an American author who has penned New York Times and USA Today bestselling fantasy – The Night Huntress series. Halfway to the Grave is the first book in the series.

Summary: 

The product of a non-consensual tryst, Cat Crawfield is different but not in the way most humans consider. She is born half-vampire, half-human. Filled with a vengeance towards the very undead that ruined her mother’s life, she crosses paths with Bones. Forced into a partnership, Cat trains under Bones, to hone her deadly skills and lure vampires to their death with her beating heat. Then pursued by a ring of human enslaving vampires, Cat and Bones must choose a side.

Analysis:

From the first paragraph, I was hooked. The first three chapters were all action, with backstory interwoven in small increments, so the flow of the story isn’t interrupted.

With all the action sequences, there is a building romance between Cat and Bones. It is fierce and primal. In the early stages, Cat is disgusted at the very thought of him, and plans to kill him the first chance she gets. What struck me most about this romance, was hate turned to love. In the end, she chose to run away, to protect him. The last line of the book, she hopes that Bones will come find her.

The complexity of their bond and the distaste between Bones and Cat at the beginning, reminds me of Jay and Stone. The moment Stone is attacked, Jay still hides his feelings for her from Velkan. From the relationship of Cat and Bones, I am going to rewrite the scenes following the attack, to insert Jay’s inability to hide his feelings anymore. Velkan will become aware of them, Stone will not. It will add conflict between the two men.

The language used, for the intimate scenes wasn’t explicit. I find it hard to write intimate scenes, but reading one is catapulting for me. Frost was able to enact scenes and movements, in a way that wasn’t crass. I will put the intimate scenes between Velkan and Stone, under the microscope. Tightening their touches, and intimate interactions, but keeping within my own voice. Forcing an intimate scene, is not what I feel comfortable with. It will bring the characters of Stone and Velkan closer together, and readers get a better sense of Velkan’s character.

The use of non-explicit language to lift the tension between Stone and Jay, when they fall on the couch together, by describing what Stone is feeling using touch sensory, the context could become electric. 

It would change the entire dynamic between Jay and Stone; Stone and Velkan; Jay and Velkan; attributing to a building tension.

Book Review: The Awakening by L.J. Smith

The Awakening is the first book in The Vampire Dairies series. The main plot follows main character, Elena Gilbert, who is a doppelganger for a centuries old vampire who caused romantic havoc between a pair of brothers, Stefan and Damon; whilst she tries to readjust to normal life after losing both parents in an accident.

The subplot follows Elena and her encounters with a black crow, unaware it’s Stefan’s brother Damon. The crow appears at the most harrowing times, causing unease. The subplot is crucial to moving the story forward because it lays the foundation for Damon’s entrance, his fascination with Elena, and shows us that his character is darker and more dangerous than Stefan’s.

I applied an interwoven subplot to my story by the lingering strangers following Danielle, i.e. “standing at the edge of a darkened alleyway, was a man. His eyes were locked on me, even as the sea of people crossed his path continuously. I stared back at his eyes for what felt like a minute, he did not look away or falter…and as I looked back to the man, he was gone.” This intertwines with the main plot by letting the reader know everything is not as it seems, it adds to the external conflict when all is revealed to Danielle.

Smith, L.J. (2007). The vampire diaries: the awakening and the struggle (1st ed.). New York City: HarperCollins Publishers

Short Story Review: Arrangement in Black and White by Dorothy Parker

Dorothy Parker is an American short-story writer and poet and became one of the greatest humourists of her generation. Arrangement in Black and White was published in 1927.

This short story follows the story of the main character – a woman, and her dialogue with the host of the party, and an African-American musician. The dialogue between the characters is how the author helps reveal the woman’s character as she socialises at a predominately white party. It raises the issue of racial discrimination that African-American people suffered in the first half of the twentieth century in America.

I think this short story is brilliant, and its use of dialogue to show the undertones of the self-appointed racial superiority is brilliant. It is what is meant by her twisted words that is more revealing than her waffling on contradicting herself every few sentences. I like how the author lets the woman talk way too much, and through conversation her gossipy and white judgemental side is apparent, allowing for the realism of racism between whites and coloured people to shine through. It is a clever use of words and tone that helps sets this story.

What I didn’t like about this story, to be honest, was the main character. I just wanted to tell her to shut up, so it was humorous to me that she sabotaged herself.

This was one of my favourites to review because I learnt that allowing a character to unapologetically be themselves, and not holding their tongue, it makes for a rather wicked way of telling a story and shows the readers her true nature and story by her actions and dialogue. Parker, D. (1927). Arrangement in black and white. New Yorker. Retrieved from https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/1927/10/08/arrangement-in-black-and-white

Book Review: Safari by Tony Park

Based in Zimbabwe for the most part Safari follows Canadian researcher Michelle Parker, her interactions withFletcher Reynolds, a lodge owner in the safari business. She jumps at an opportunity to visit the mountain gorillas, but the head of Reynold’s anti-poaching unit makes her start to rethink her decision.

I liked Park’s first-hand knowledge of places and wildlife, making the descriptions vivid, and using sound to compliment visual imagery. I applied this idea of combining senses in a sentence to my own writing, to bring vivid imagery to mind: “The odd cat knocking over trash cans, vagabonds sleeping along the walls wrapped with cardboard.”

Park balanced the pace of the fast-paced novel by using short sentences to break up the long descriptive sentences. It felt balanced, it kept the flow moving. Following long sentences, I placed shorter sentences before or after, to keep the story moving forward, i.e. short, short, long – “Spine tingling, heart pounding, I broke into a run. It wasn’t far to my building, only about one hundred metres. My black-laced boots pounded the pavement as I raced past a few late shoppers, listening keenly for the sound of someone trying to catch up to me”

Book Review: The Young King by Doug Wilson

The third and final installment of this trilogy, and it didn’t disappoint. The final battle between good and evil. I loved that the characters had now matured into young adults (teenagers), and had developed their abilities. Peter and Siobhan explore the depths of their friendship in a lighthearted manner and that was awesome. Siobhan is a fierce character and a natural fighter.
In this book we see the ancient societies, such as the Roman legions and commanders – which is such a neat inclusion.
I personally liked the dynamics of one of the villains, Wulfric.
This book is a great ending and closure for the trilogy. I recommend this book to all aged eleven and older.

Book Review: National Geographic Guide to the World’s Supernatural Places

National Geographic Guide to the World’s Supernatural Places, published in 2014, is one of twenty non-fiction books written by Sarah Bartlett. Based in London, Bartlett is a regular contributor to BBC Radio 2, has a Diploma in Psychological Astrology, and spent three years studying a range of fields including astrology and mythology.

In the book, Bartlett goes beyond identifying infamous haunted hotspots and tales of supernatural beings. It is clear she has done in-depth research in order to present all the facts to the reader – history of each; cross-references to various sources; and other literature that has been written due to each. Along with illustrations and photographs, this creates a convincing believability to each haunted location and the story behind the story.

At the beginning of the book, Bartlett gives a thorough introduction to the history of supernatural sightings. Her research has gone back thousands of years, from ancient times to modern-day, she provides continuing evidence of civilisations believing in the supernatural. This is critical to the book, as many of the ancient monuments mentioned in the book, their original purpose has been lost. Categorised by type of supernatural occurrence, the book then breaks each into geographic locations for easy reference.

One thing that struck me was her use of dramatic language to convey the grim and mystery when reading it – some of the stories gave me goosebumps. Every word leaves me on tenterhooks, terrified but wanting to finish reading, for example, ‘a bloodsucking woman will sniff you out and disembowel you’. Even with the use of dramatic language, the writing is tight and is direct. This makes it faster, and easier to read.

Reading this book gave me the notion that there must be a reason for a supernatural being to exist – there is always a back story. The why and how of how a person became supernatural or came to be. It brought a clearer perspective of the how and why of Gabriel and Jamie, who are two different supernatural beings – gargoyle and werewolf. For Gabriel, his back story needed to be focused and clear. He has been alive for millennia, but age is not an indicator as to the why he acts the way he does. Spending time working on his story, I was able to find the reason why he acts the way he does and gave him a ‘how he came to be’ story.

The back story is important for depth to a character but just as important as how it is told. In this book, Bartlett keeps it short and sharp; just enough detail to inform the reader not bore them. I went back to my own writing and rewrote the entire back story scenes, for instance, the book was going to start with Gran’s back story, her sighting, but from reading this book, it is now in chapter six, with snippets placed throughout interactions between Danielle and Gran.

Bartlett, S. (2014). National Geographic guide to the world’s supernatural places. Washington DC, USA: National Geographic Partners, LLC.

Short Story Review: The Gift of the Magi by O. Henry

O. Henry is the pen name for the American short story writer, William Sydney Porter, who was born in 1862.  His stories are well known for their surprise endings. This short story was originally published n Dec 10, 905 in The New York Sunday World, and was subsequently published in O. Henry’s 1906 short story collection The Four Million.

It falls into the genre of fictional short story as well as the sub-genre of dramatic irony.

Jim and Della Dillingham are a poor, young married couple who don’t have enough money to buy Christmas presents for each other. Both sell their prized possessions to pay for a gift for the other at Christmas time.

I like how O. Henry uses similes throughout the short story like when he compares Della’s hair to ‘rippling and shining like a cascade of brown waters’. He does the same when he describes Jim as well, ‘as immovable as a setter at the scent of quail’. While some use of the language is hard to grasp understanding, I am sure for the places and time period it was written, it made perfect sense.

I liked how the reader learns a secret that the main characters are unaware of yet, it creates a unique personability towards the story, as a reader, I just wanted to tell them. I will be reading more of his works as to see how his famous pattern of surprise endings are worded and use that to help my own surprise endings.

Henry, O. (1906). The gift of the magi. Retrieved from https://www.eastoftheweb.com/short-stories/UBooks/GifMag.shtml

Book Review: The Time Road by Doug Wilson.

This is the second book in ‘The Changeling Warriors’ Trilogy. Doug further expands the adventure of Siobhan and Peter into further realms of fantasy and myth. The characters have grown and developed. Here we see them set off on a wild adventure to save Meriline, a druid, from evil, and they meet some colourful and beloved characters along their way. Robin Hood and a great Knight of old, a pirate captain, and many other characters.
I loved the concept of the ‘time road’ in this book. Walking a road back through time, and visiting different eras and the people within those realms, was really fantastic imagery. I loved the dragons, and goblins, bears, and vikings. It really was a fantastic book that kept me entertained and wanting to read more.