Two short-n-cranky reviews:
Julia is a weak, easily-led heiress (always a good combo) who falls under Magnus’s spell, marries him, and endures a semi-abusive marriage for about 10 years. They both love their daughter, who dies tragically, leaving Julia to run away from the shambles of her life. She buys a house that’s haunted by the spirit of a little girl, and bad things start happening. Magnus’s family is terrible – his brother and sister try to stay on Julia’s good side to stay close to her money. The brother tries to sleep with her, the sister tries to talk her into going back to Magnus. The build-up is great. Things start swirling around, getting more eerie and more dangerous, Julia finally convinced that she’s not losing her mind and there really are spirits in the house. I kept waiting for her to triumph, to stop Magnus, to put the ghosts to rest, to solve the puzzle. Instead, she gets drugged and raped by Magnus’s brother, killed by the ghost, and the in-laws get all her money. WHAT. Peter Straub, I think I have tried to like you enough times. Done now!
Four dumbass college roommates find an old manuscript that says they can achieve eternal life. One of them must sacrifice himself, two of the others must kill a third, and then the remaining two will live forever. They go on a spring break road trip to get to the Temple of the Skulls to see if any of it is for real. We get a loooooong road trip to see how despicable all four of them are. It’s all in first person; it just jumps from character to character. So we know well and truly that they’re all terrible. A sample from the rich kid:
“Out beyond the campus was a world full of blacks and Jews and spastics and neurotics and homosexuals and other misfits, but I had come up three cherries on the great slot machine of life and I was proud of my luck.”
Oh yes, and they’re all terribly flat characters. The rich kid, the farmboy, the gay one, the Jewish one. These four characteristics are mentioned every other page. Oh, Ned’s gay! Did we mention that? And Eli’s Jewish. Did you know that Eli’s Jewish? And that Timothy’s quite wealthy? And Ned has a crush on Oliver, in case we haven’t heard that in two whole paragraphs.
So this obviously has to go terribly wrong, right? I waited the whole book for these idjits to die horribly in the skull temple. But no. One commits suicide, one tries to escape and the others kill him, and the last two get eternal life (maybe – the ending just kind of trails off). But since the ending is ambiguous, I’m going to invent monstrous deaths for the last two morons.
So one book where the main character should have lived, and one book where EVERYONE should have died. Urf.