Thursday, November 30, 2017

Brimstone by Cherie Priest and My November Fails

I've said it before, and I'll say it again:  I love Cherie Priest novels. She's a fantasy writer with a touch of paranormal creepiness that is just right for someone like me.  I don't care much for horror novels, and her writing comes right up to the edge but doesn't tip over.  I think she's hitting her stride, and more readers are discovering her novels in the science fiction/fantasy sections of their libraries and bookstores. 

In Brimstone, Cherie takes us to 1920 Cassadaga, Florida.  There are two main characters:  Alice Dartle, a young woman from Virginia who has come to Cassadaga to share her clairvoyant talents, and Tomas Cordero, a World War I vet who lives in Ybor City, Florida.  He is haunted by the task he was given as a solider:  to be part of a small force of men who used a flamethrower to kill enemy soldiers.  He returns home to find his wife has died of influenza while he was gone, and he's a broken man. He is desperate to communicate with her. But something strange is happening:  small fires are appearing out of nowhere, and the local police are suspicious that Tomas is setting them himself.  But he's not.  

Cassadaga is a small community built to welcome people who have a variety of talents: mediums, clairvoyants, tarot readers; anyone who has a legitimate talent to see to the other side.  Folks travel to Cassadaga from all over the United States and the world to stay at the hotel, attend lectures, and have readings.  It's one place people like Alice can come to live and feel welcome and develop their talents with like minded people.  At her first outing to conduct live readings, she zeros in on something dark, hulking, and evil.  It calls itself The Hammer.  Not understanding what it is, and overwhelmed by the ferocity of this malignant "thing", Alice is shaken and takes awhile to recover.  She's also dreaming about a solider wearing a strange mask, and surrounded by flames and a battlefield. 

Tomas, meanwhile, has increasingly frightening episodes of fires erupting at his home, but also tragically elsewhere in his neighborhood and business.  People are starting to die in these fires, which are horribly fierce and leave nothing standing.  He has written to Alice (after seeing her profiled in a newspaper) and decides after the worst fire to flee Ybor City and travel to Cassadaga for help. 

Alice and Tomas finally meet in Cassadaga, but Tomas has brought something terribly dark, evil, and bent on destruction with him.  Now the evil has set its sights on Cassadaga and all who live there.  Will Alice be able to figure out what The Hammer is, and stop it before it destroys Cassadaga?

It took me awhile to get through this novel; not because it wasn't interesting, but just because I was easily distracted this month.  When I finally dialed in and focused, I was sucked in and soon I could smell the smoke, feel the heat, and taste the soot.  I could feel myself becoming a little paranoid about smelling fire, too.  As the tension ramped up, I felt myself urging Alice and Tomas to figure it out, quickly!  When the identity of The Hammer is revealed; well, I thought heck, that was a pretty cool plot twist.  Cherie Priest also explores grief, and how sometimes we so desperately want to hear from our loved ones that we'll accept anything as a sign they are near, even if it is so clearly not a good sign-and perhaps even a deadly sign.  Maybe it's not your loved one, but something dark from the other side...

If you haven't tried a Cherie Priest novel, give her a try.  She's written a few stand alone, but also a few series and they are all very different.  There is sure to be something there to interest you! Here's a link to her list of books on her blog: http://www.cheriepriest.com .  

Rating:  4/6 for an unusual plot and a fascinating look at Cassadaga (which does exist!), grief, and what haunts us.  Available in paperback and ebook. 

My November fails.  There were a few, I'm sad to say.  Time got away from me, and I didn't get to read nearly enough of what I'd planned.  Tomorrow is December 1st, and I've already started on my pile of Christmas reads.  I'm ready for the comfort and entertainment they will bring me.  Here's what I started, but didn't finish in November:

I thought I would be able to read this YA novel based on the amazing life of Dita Kraus, and her time spent at Auschwitz as a teenager.  I was wrong.  I made it to about 100 pages, and then just couldn't read anymore.  It was a fascinating story, but the horrible, palpable evil of Auschwitz and the suffering that occurred there is still too much for me to read.  Maybe someday I'll try again.  The evil people are capable of inflicting on other people is something I will never be able to understand. 

Dang it, I was so excited about this novel!  I'll be frank:  it is a big, hefty tome.  It is full of all sorts of bits of journals, history lessons, and other interesting tidbits.  It deserves a lot of time and energy, and those were lacking this month.  It's not a straightforward tale.  I'll have to return it to the library, but I will try again.  I think there's something very interesting here. 

 I have heard so much buzz about this, that I finally decided to try it and checked it out of the library.  I started it late, but within the first few pages, I was hooked.  Unfortunately, I ran out of time, and it's due back to the library for the next person on the holds list--darn it!  I may end up buying this one, because I really, really want to read it.  

One reason I was less than my usual reading self this month was because I decided to attempt NaNoWriMo, which is National Novel Writing Month.  It runs from midnight of November 1 through midnight of November 30th.  Your goal: write a 50,000 word novel in that time.  If you stick to a plan and write every day, you'll easily achieve your goal before the deadline.  No editing, no rewriting: just get your idea down on paper.  The rewriting and editing comes in January, or in my case, never.  For me it's all about getting the creative juices flowing, and trying something just to see if I can do it.  So, I started out doing well, and keeping up with the pace.  But then life happened, and there were a few days where I wrote nothing at all.  Yikes.  I fell behind, and thought I'd catch up over Thanksgiving weekend.  Well, plans changed, and I ended up not being home for most of the four days of the holiday weekend.  No writing done. I did some fancy early morning and late evening work, drinking lots of coffee and listening to classical music to help my brain work.  And I'm happy to say, I did finish two days before the deadline.  I got my 50,000 words (and 89 pages) in and verified on Tuesday night.  Now I won't be looking at what I wrote for a very long time, if ever.  I'm just happy I set a goal and achieved it.  

So now, onto December.  Yay!  Baking cookies and breads, decorating the house, and spending my evenings reading holiday books.  I can't wait.  Egg nog is on the grocery list for this weekend. 

What are you reading in December to combat holiday stress? Share it in the comments!

1 comment :

  1. Thanks for reminding me to check out Cherie Priest. I had trouble getting much reading done in November as well, but I sure can't blame it on time spent writing. Congrats on meeting your word count goal. Very impressive.