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Book Reviews

Neil Olson-The Black Painting Book Review

“A riveting psychological thriller, a serious dissection of a dysfunctional family and an exploration of the power of art to change lives.” —Associated Press
“A fast-paced psychological thriller with a fascinating set of characters. … A real page-turner.” -B.A. Shapiro, author of The Art Forger


An atmospheric literary mystery about an infamous painting rumored to be cursed—and the family torn apart by its disappearance.
There are four cousins in the Morse family: perfect Kenny, the preppy West Coast lawyer; James, the shy but brilliant medical student; his seductive, hard-drinking sister Audrey; and Teresa, youngest and most fragile, haunted by the fear that she has inherited the madness that possessed her father.


I love books dealing with art and I have to say, books dealing with art collectors are a strange lot. New York writer Neil Olson’s The Black Painting discusses a very spooky work by Francisco Goya that supposedly exerts powers that drive viewers bonkers — in this instance, various members of a wealthy East Coast family. “Black Painting” purportedly belongs to a series of gruesome works created by the Spanish genius near the end of his life.

  • The Black Paintings stand out in art history for their dark composition and themes.
  • The biggest mystery, though, is that Goya painted them directly onto the walls of his home and never told anybody about them.
  • By 1819, the painter Francisco Goya had been through quite a bit. He had witnessed the chaos of war when Napoleon invaded Spain and the chaos in Spain as its government bounced back and forth between a constitutional monarchy and an absolute monarchy. He had become deathly ill a number of times, occasionally fearing he was going mad. One of these illnesses had left him deaf. Increasingly bitter about humanity, afraid of death and madness, Goya withdrew into a villa outside of Madrid called la Quinta del Sordo, or the Deaf Man’s House.

Back to the book. Before its theft years earlier, the Goya painting had hung, shrouded, behind the desk of elderly collector Alfred Arthur Morse. When the four Morse cousins are unexpectedly summoned by their grandfather, they all show up: Kenny, the successful lawyer; James, the psychologically fragile medical student; Audrey, the wild divorcée; and Teresa, the shy art student subject to seizures. Complementing the cast are foggy pines, rocky cliffs, a crumbling estate and the ghost of a vanished painting.

 “Last night she dreamed of the house on Owl’s Point,” reads the first line, echoing Daphne du Maurier’s timeless thriller, Rebecca. “Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again.” Make way for strange happenings in a mansion on the sea, managed by a cold housekeeper with an agenda of her own.

Kenny tells Teresa about his meeting with their grandfather: “Go to the place that’s most private to you. Most humiliating. You know what I mean? That tender spot. That’s right where he would have put his finger.” Only Grandpa didn’t have the chance, since Teresa discovered his corpse when she arrived at Owl’s Point.

So, we have grandfather in the study, but who did it and why? If death came naturally, how to explain his horrified expression? Motives abound: money, family secrets, simmering hatreds. Luckily gloom takes a lighter turn with the arrival of P.I. Dave Webster, a latter-day Philip Marlowe. Hints that all will be resolved appear when Dave is hired to resume the poking around he began years before with the original theft. Get ready for a thrilling ride through the worlds of the unhappy rich, whose acquisitions can prove very dangerous indeed.

3/5

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Book Reviews

A Head Full of Ghosts – Paul Tremblay Book Review

Other jackasses have tried to argue that it’s John Barrett, not Marjorie Barrett, who becomes The Possession ’s true tragic figure, and that the show is really about his descent into madness, his being possessed by the ugliness of hatred and zealotry. His daughter’s illness, his family’s dysfunction, his unemployed status, and his beloved Catholic church abandoning him post-exorcism, are the aforementioned catalysts to his own psychotic break (see the Howard Journal of Criminal Justice and their breakdown of the four types of men who kill their families), and blah, blah, blah. Fuck that bullshit.

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Book Reviews

The Pretty Ones – Ania Ahlborn Book Review

I don’t think I’ve read such a lovely and creepy story about a woman and her brother since The Visitors – Catherine Burns.

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Book Reviews

Shutter Island by Dennis Lehane Book Review

I’ve seen the DiCaprio movie ages ago and when I saw the book that inspired the movie during my charity shop runs, I decided to give it a go.

While I vaguely remembered the plot, I thought the book had a good premise and interesting characters, enough to keep me entertained for a few hours.

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Unfortunately, these is one of those rare occasions where the movie was actually better than the book and I could not wait to put it down and start another read.

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Book Reviews

Twisted – Andrew E. Kaufman Book Review

What a thrill this book has been! I started reading and I couldn’t put it down. It was like a book on anti-gravity. All jokes aside, this book is a hell of a roller-coaster. What is worse than losing your mind? Is knowing it’s happened before to one member of your family and knowing it’s now happening to you and now you are the one who presents a danger to others.

The plains of human suffering are slippery slopes. Every traveller is so frail and unsteady, vulnerable to even the slightest threat of doubt or uncertainty. The goal here is to change his emotional climate. To normalise the feelings he has about his past trauma so that he’s able to talk about them.

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Book Reviews

Symptoms of being human * by Jeff Garvin

Ever wanted to read a novel about a genderfluid teen suffering from dysphoria?

“The world isn’t binary. Everything isn’t black or white, yes or no. Sometimes it’s not a switch, it’s a dial. And it’s not even a dial you can get your hands on; it turns without your permission or approval” -Riley”

This book is filled with tons of information about the daily struggles of being genderfluid. The issues with being androgynous in a society where you have to be a boy or a girl. Riley is sometimes a feminine boy or a very tomboyish girl. He/she is a sympathetic character and the bullying Riley endures will surely speak to readers.

Riley explains over and over what gender fluidity means, how it makes them feel every day, what it was like being a child in a gendered toy store. It’s so repetitive that I started skipping through the chapters looking for some sort of a plot – a story..  Perhaps it would have made a better short story, rather than a full-length novel. Perhaps it will work for readers who have never heard of gender fluidity and are prepared to read lots of information. For those already open-minded and somewhat informed – it’s a little boring.

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Book Reviews

Shooting Stars 01 Cinnamon – V. C. Andrews Book Review

For Cinnamon, dreaming of imaginary worlds and characters is her only escape from her mother’s breakdowns. Her grandmother’s overbearing control. Her family’s turmoil. But Cinnamon is discovering something special about herself, a gift from deep within that sets her apart: a talent for the theater that would finally give her a chance…to truly escape.

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Book Reviews

Little Girl Gone by Alexandra Burt Book Review

I had a busy weekend!  I devoured Leave Me Novel by Gayle Forman * Book Review and then I decided to pick the book next to it to see how it goes. The subjects were so similar that I had trouble writing my reviews as I kept on mixing them up. One deals with a mother leaving her children in order to escape and find herself, the other with another mother going through a severe case of post-partum depression whose girl goes missing and she is the prime suspect in a case of possible murder.

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Book Reviews

Leave Me Novel by Gayle Forman * Book Review

So this was how it was. People entered your life. Some would stay. Some would not. Some would drift but would return to you

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I started picking up some books from my ever-expanding bookshelf and I had the pleasure of hitting one of my favourite authors: Gayle Forman – who wrote If I Stay (Gayle Forman)

Meet Maribeth Klein. A harried working mother who’s so busy taking care of her husband and twins, she doesn’t even realize she’s had a heart attack.

Afterwards, surprised to discover that her recuperation seems to be an imposition on those who rely on her, Maribeth does the unthinkable: She packs a bag and leaves. But, as is so often the case, once we get to where we’re going, we see our lives from a different perspective. Far from the demands of family and career and with the help of liberating new friendships, Maribeth is finally able to own up to secrets she has been keeping from those she loves and from herself.

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Book Reviews

One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest by Ken Kesey

After having read some really bad books recently, I decided to pick up a classic. Ken Kesey. The book which inspired so many movies and my favourite play in Cluj-Napoca (sorry Shakespeare).

“But like always when I try to place my thoughts in the past and hide there, the fear close at hand seeps in through the memory.” 

Having re-read it, I noticed loads and loads of racist terms (especially about the three black attendants) and some misogynistic undertones which escaped me on my first read (about 10 years ago). I must say I still like it. It’s a product of its time and if it means it has to be racist, so be it.

“Man, when you lose your laugh you lose your footing.”

50f66698d703f38e4347241ca50dec13“Cuckoo’s Nest” tells the same story as the most popular novels of the last century,” it focuses on the modern paradox of trying to be human in the well-oiled machine of a capitalist democracy, where you must be either a savior or a slave. There is also a third option:

“You can create and live in a new system…not rebelling against or carving into your culture, but creating a vision of your own and working to make that option real.” (Chuck Palahniuk)