by Cynthia Sellers
I received this book for free in exchange for an honest review. The opinion in this review is unbiased and reflects my honest judgment of the book.
I enjoyed the major characters in this book. Michael, Jessica and Poole remind me of people I know. Their dialogue is witty, friends and rivals are made on the set, and each character has a distinct voice that comes through loud and clear. The setting is well realized: It's easy to visualize the valley, the abandoned house and the little town down the road. While there is some illicit drug use, it works as a plot device. The mysterious past of the valley and its former residents has a lot of ground to explore. It’s a setup that’s full of creepy potential for both the film, and the people who are there to make it.
Soul of Stones had a good beginning, but I got lost in the confusing jumble of subjective narration in the middle. I had problems with continuity--a potentially important item mentioned early in the book is completely ignored when it's needed the most. A few incidents strain credibility but could be explained away by the fact that everyone's high. For me, the biggest stumbling block was the head-hopping from character to character. I was abruptly jarred out of the story several times because I was trying to figure out what was going on. For example: I began a chapter that began in Neils' point of view, then it suddenly shifted to Michael’s, then back to Neils. then to Jessica’s, then back to Neils. Much of the plot is either revealed or foreshadowed in these mental asides so it was confusing. I had to go back and read carefully to figure out who was thinking and planning what, at any given time.
The book ends with a short, sharp bite of madness that leaves me wondering if there will be a sequel. There's something very unsettling going on in that little valley in North Carolina. It would be a shame not to see where it goes from here, but perhaps some mysteries were meant to be unsolved.
I gave, Soul of Stones two stars, because it was an OK read. It has strong characters, it's a quick read, but it can be confusing in places. As people say of old houses, this book has "good bones."
The Bookie Monster's Rating:
In a remote valley that was the site of the largest mass suicide in history, wealthy local playboy, Michel Gloster, invests the last of his inheritance making a B-movie horror flick that will capitalize on all the free publicity caused by the infamous tragic event. He's assembled a small film crew, even charmed two promising actors into slumming this film as a personal favor to him. It seems their venture can't go wrong. Yet as the first day on the set passes into night, Michel can't shake the feeling that they're not alone in the valley nor in the ancient house that resides there. Add in some magic mushrooms and he's fascinated and convinced there's something ineffable there — a mystery, an elusive emotion, a belonging... If you get too close to something, don't be surprised when it notices you back.
Her family--forced to choose between layoff and continued employment in a new area of the country--left behind the nucleus of several generations rooted in the Toledo area, to relocate to the wilderness of rural Virginia. This isolation from roots and family support, friends and community, combined with pressures from corporate culture, led her parents to a meltdown that ended in divorce. CJ later lost her closest family members to illnesses of the brain.
Loss of identity/self, family, and place were the impetus for CJ's decision to lampoon the dynamics of society and family gone off the rails through means of the horror genre.
That said, no family history plays out in her fiction, no characters literally resemble any persons living or deceased. Situations presented are metaphors for how life feels at times of great emotional disturbance and loss--normal life warps into the surreal.
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