Hoppin’ On Board that Soul Train

Yep. That’s right. The Back to the Classics Challenge 2012, hosted by Sarah of Sarah Reads Too Much, has been blowing up a number of blogs that I follow religiously regularly, and I’m super stoked to be taking advantage of such a great opportunity to read some classics that have been on that illusive ‘books I’ve been wanted (and secretly feeling like I should) to read’. I’ve lined up a couple of different options for every category, and even those are entirely up to my whims and subject to what’s available at my local library! Without further ado, my list so far:

  • Any 19th Century Classic: The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins, David Copperfield by Charles Dickens, Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte
  • Any 20th Century Classic: One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell, A Prayer for Owen Meany by John Irving
  • Reread a classic of your choice: Little Women by Louisa May Alcott, Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen, Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte
  • A Classic Play: The Crucible by Arthur Miller, Pygmalion by George Bernard Shaw, Twelfth Night by William Shakespeare
  • Classic Mystery/Horror/Crime Fiction: Dracula by Bram Stoker, The Castle of Otranto by Horace Walpole, The Mysteries of Udolpho by Ann Radcliffe
  • Classic Romance: Tristan and Isolde, Lady Chatterly’s Lover by D.H. Lawrence, Rebecca by Daphne Du Maurier
  • Read a Classic that has been translated from its original language to your language: Les Misérables by Victor Hugo, Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy, The House of the Spirits by Isabel Allende
  • Classic Award Winner: American Pastoral by Philip Roth (Pulitzer), The Optimist’s Daughter by Eudora Welty (Pulitzer), Midnight’s Children by Salman Rushdie (Booker)
  • Read a Classic set in a Country that you (realistically speaking) will not visit during your lifetime: Lord of the Rings  by J.R.R. Tolkein (Middle Earth), Out of Africa by Isak Dinesan (Kenya), Schindler’s List by Thomas Keneally (Germany/Poland)

I can’t wait for 2012 to roll around so I can get started! (And for those of you curious, yes I have decided to delay my reading of Little Woman and have plans to read it VERY shortly after the new year!) I’d love for you to participate in the challenge this year, too, or to at least let me know if there is some vital classic I simply must give my attention to this coming up year. Happy reading!

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The R.I.P. VI Challenge: A Wrap-Up

HOLY CRAP IT’S NOVEMBER! Who saw that one coming?! I remember, like, yesterday when I sat down and opened my feed reader and saw that it was time for the R.I.P. VI challenge hosted by Carl V. over at Stainless Steel Droppings – one of my favorite challenges, ideas wise, and also the first challenge I’ve successfully completed in quite some time! I’m sad that it’s over, but as the man himself said, “But while it lasts it is deliciously perilous.” Let’s look at how all that creepiness went down over September and October:

This was the bulk of the challenge for me, I’m afraid – I got to caught up in the group reads to give my own personal-choice novels the love they deserve! But I did manage to read all four of the books Peril the First asked for:

  1. The Shining by Stephen King
  2. Sweetly by Jackson Pearce
  3. A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness
  4. The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern

Oh, group reads! This was my first experience doing a group read, and I have to say that I absolutely adored both of the books we read, although I think I’m slightly more in favor of the way The Lantern discussion was formatted – I seem to operate better with a set of questions as opposed to a more open ‘tell us what you thought’ format. But I loved it either way! Breakdown of each week’s discussion is listed below (you’ll notice I kind of dropped off on the Fragile Things group read, not because I didn’t enjoy it but because life and illness got in the way!

Fragile Things  by Neil Gaiman

The Lantern by Deborah Lawrenson

I was surprised, as someone who doesn’t generally read short stories, that I was able to read so many of them on my own for this challenge (meaning they weren’t in a collection or weren’t part of some other group read or activity)! Most of the ones I read fell flat, but let me tell you – “The Squaw” still pops in to my brain every now and then and scares the bejessus out of me.

  1. “The Yellow Wallpaper” by Charlotte Perkins Gilman
  2. “The Masque of the Red Death”/”The Pit and the Pendulum” by Edgar Allen Poe
  3. “The Squaw” by Bram Stoker
  4. “The Call of Cthulu” by H.P. Lovecraft (didn’t review)

MAN did I watch some awesome movies this R.I.P. season! They weren’t quite as scary as I was hoping they’d be (FBM and I still have yet to come eye to eye on scary movies: he hates them when they’re based on the supernatural, but I can’t stand realistic ‘this could totally happen to you, seriously’ horror, so we’re at an impasse for now) but they were great none the less! I did one big omnibus post here, where I talked about:

  1. Hocus Pocus
  2. The Exorcist
  3. Beetlejuice
  4. Carrie
  5. Criminal Minds (TV show)

That’s it! That’s my R.I.P. reading in a nutshell! It feels so weird looking at it laid out in list format like that – so much of R.I.P. is the sharing and the atmosphere that just the reading doesn’t seem to quite embody that! I had a great time, and I guess now it’s just a matter of looking forward to spring and the Once Upon a Time challenge (that’s a link to last years challenge page). Happy fall reading!

Review: The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern

I found Erin Morgenstern’s The Night Circus to be an absolutely enchanting read. By this I mean that, while I wasn’t exactly in love with every part of the book, it was still able to carry me far, far away from the mundane bus rides and never-ending emails of my own world! I’ll go ahead and say now what I wish someone had told me going in to reading this book, a sentiment that seems to be cropping up more and more among the bloggers I read: try and not believe the hype that surrounds this book like a big glittery cloud. Yes, this book does have fantastic stripey end papers.  Yes, the descriptions of the circus are magical, and the characters that Morgenstern has created are more than loveable. But, as it always does, the hype machine will let you down. If you go in to this book believing it will be THE BEST BOOK YOU’VE EVER READ AND IT WILL TURN THAT FROWN UPSIDE DOWN AND CURE CANCER AND BRING JOHN LENNON BACK FROM THE GRAVE WITH ITS POWER OF IMAGINATION…well, you’ll be let down. But if you let this book work its magic on you without expecting it to be anything but a great story…well, that’s where the real magic of The Night Circus lies. For those of you who have somehow missed the plot summary of this book, here’s the Goodreads for you:

The circus arrives without warning. No announcements precede it. It is simply there, when yesterday it was not. Within the black-and-white striped canvas tents is an utterly unique experience full of breathtaking amazements. It is called Le Cirque des Rêves, and it is only open at night.

But behind the scenes, a fierce competition is underway—a duel between two young magicians, Celia and Marco, who have been trained since childhood expressly for this purpose by their mercurial instructors. Unbeknownst to them, this is a game in which only one can be left standing, and the circus is but the stage for a remarkable battle of imagination and will. Despite themselves, however, Celia and Marco tumble headfirst into love—a deep, magical love that makes the lights flicker and the room grow warm whenever they so much as brush hands.

True love or not, the game must play out, and the fates of everyone involved, from the cast of extraordinary circus per­formers to the patrons, hang in the balance, suspended as precariously as the daring acrobats overhead.

But here’s the thing you might find surprising about this book: I really couldn’t give two figs for the romance part of this story. I mean, yes, it’s important because it ultimately ends up driving the entire ending of the book (I’ll give major props to Morgenstern for finding a way to keep the circus going, as for a while there I was as afraid as everyone else that this beautiful creation would have to die!) but, for the most part, these were the parts I was actually the least happy with. When the circus begins, Marco knows that Celia is his competitor, but Celia doesn’t possess this same information. Because of this, we actually get about half way through the book before the two really even get to be in one anothers solitary company, and it’s not until after that that the romance even begins to flourish. The reader is, of course, given that whole line about how it was love at first sight, Marco has known all along, blah blah blah. But honestly? None of that ever works for me if there isn’t the development within the relationship, and this time that part just wasn’t there. I found myself wanting to leave Marco and Celia and get back to the circus, and to Widget and Poppet and Bailey.

Now that I’ve expressed the things that irked me about the book (and I feel like my treatment of this may not have gotten across quite fully enough – I REALLY didn’t care for the relationship part. AT ALL. If it had been removed completely, I wouldn’t have cared at all) I can get to the thing that drove this book for me, and kept me reading to the last page: the circus. The circus, much like it is for all the characters, is the thing that keeps this book together. And it’s pure fracking magic. Let me tell you, Erin Morgenstern just got added to the list of people who’s imagination I would love to play around in for a day (other authors include: Salman Rushdie, Neil Gaiman, and J.K. Rowling). In case the book jacket isn’t enough, here’s a taste. Describing the clock that sits at the main gate:

The face of the clock becomes a darker grey, and then black, with the twinkling stars where the numbers had been previously. The body of the clock, which as been methodically turning itself inside out and expanding, is not entirely subtle shades of white and grey. And it is not just pieces, it is figures and objects, perfectly carved flowers and planets and tiny books with actual paper pages that turn. There is a silver dragon that curls around part of the now visible clockwork, a tiny princess in a carved tower who paces in distress, awaiting an absent prince. Teapots that pour into teacups and minuscule curls of steam that rise from them as the seconds tick. Wrapped presents open. Small cats chase small dogs. An entire game of chess is played (69).

Who wouldn’t want a clock like that to exist, let alone to be able to see it in real life. In the book, the followers of the circus are referred to as rêveurs and I think it goes without saying that, were Le Cirque des Rêves real, I would be one of these followers, going to any lengths possible to track it down and spend all my nights in it’s magic. Not only are the tents and features of the circus itself fantastic (I’ll get to those in a minute) but the characters that possess the circus – truly possess it – are unforgettable.

There is a character here for practically everyone. The ambitious and creative Chandresh Christophe Lefèvre. His close family friend, a genius with theatrics and costumes, Madame Padva. The kind clockmaker Friedrick Thiessen and the mysterious contortionist Tsukiko. Much like the circus, none of Morgenstern’s characters are exactly what they appear to be, and her subtle writing when discussing how each of them is mentally and physically affected by the circus are some of the best bits of writing throughout. However, I think I have to say that hands down the best characters in the book are Bailey, the non-magic boy who, in the end, basically gets adopted by the circus and ends up it’s manager, Poppet, and Widget, the two red-headed twins born as the circus opened it’s doors for the first time.

These three, let me tell you, are the kind of characters you get scenes of, but wish the whole book could revolve around. Not only are the twins red-headed and in love with kittens (their act involves tumbling mini-felines), but they’re fantastic siblings to one another, and are just so endearing. They are attached to the circus as no one else is, as they were born at the exact moment that the circus opened, and to spend time with children who’s whole world has been magic and mystery and imagination…it’s refreshing and endearing and inspiring all at once. When the two meet Bailey, and the fledgling romance between Bailey and Poppet begins to blossom, it’s those two for whom I was cheering, as they were the characters who seemed to love and need the circus more than any of the others.

And, finally, we get to the circus. There would be no reason for me to write about the circus, when Morgenstern did just a great job just writing it to begin with. So, to leave this post, I simply leave you with my personal favorite bits of the circus itself (these labels go in order of the quotes below: the ice room, the rêveurs, Widget’s stories, the enchanted human statues, the tent of bedtime stories, and the pool of tears):

It is exactly what the sign described. But it is so much more than that. There are no stripes visible on the walls, everything is sparking and white. She cannot tell how far it stretches, the size of the tent obscured by cascading willows and twisting vines. The air itself is magical. Crisp and sweet in her lungs as she breathes, sending a shiver down to her toes that is caused by more that the fore-warned drop in temperature. There are no patrons in the tent as she explores, circling alone around trellises covered in pale roses and a softly bubbling, elaborately carved fountain. And everything, save for occasional lengths of white ribbon strung like garlands, is made of ice (119).

The seek each other out, these people of such specific like mind. They tell how they found the circus, how those first few steps were like magic. Like stepping into a fairy tale under a curtain of stars. The pontificate upon the fluffiness of the popcorn, the sweetness of the chocolate. They spend hours discussing the quality of the light, the heat of the bonfire. They sit over drinks smiling like children and they relish being surrounded by kindred spirits, if only for an evening (143).

“Secrets have power,” Widget begins. “And that power diminishes when they are shared, so they are best kept and kept well. Sharing secrets, real secrets, important ones, with even one other person, will change them…This is, in part, why there is less magic in the world today. Magic is secrets and secrets are magic, after all.” (173)

The woman wears a dress something akin to a bridal gown constructed for a ballerina, white and frothy and laced with black ribbons that flutter in the night air. Her legs are encased in striped stockings, her feet in tall black button-up boots. Her dark hair is piled in waves upon her head, adorned with sprays of white feathers. Her companion is a handsome man, somewhat taller than she, in an impeccably tailored black pinstriped suit. His shirt is a crisp white, his tie black and pristinely knotted. A black bowler hat sits upon his head. They stand entwined but not touching, their heads tilted toward each other. Lips frozen in the moment before (or after) the kiss. Though you watch them for some time, they do not move…Each of them always gravitating toward the other. Yet still they do not touch (225).

He recalls what the tag said about opening things, wondering what could possibly be inside all of these jars. Most of the clear-glass ones look empty. As he reaches the opposite side of the table, he picks one at random, a small round ceramic jar, glazed in black with a high shine and a lid topped with a round curl of a handle. He pulls the lid off and looks inside. A small wisp of smoke escapes, but other than that it is empty. As he peers inside he smells the smoke of a roaring fire, and a hint of snow and roasting chestnuts. Curious, he inhales deeply. There is the aroma of mulled wine and sugared candy, peppermint and pipe smoke. The crisp pine scent of a fir tree. The wax of dripping candles. He can almost feel the snow, the excitement, and the anticipation, the sugary taste of a striped candy (238).

The sign outside this tent is accompanied by a small box full of smooth black stones. The text instructs you to take one with you as you enter…Inside, the tent is dark, the ceiling covered with open black umbrellas, the curving handles hanging down like icicles. In the center of the room there is a pool. A pond enclosed within a black stone wall that is surrounded by white gravel…Reflections ripple around the room, making it appear as though the entire tent is underwater. You sit on the wall, turning your black stone over and over in your fingers. The stillness of the tent becomes a quiet melancholy. Memories begin to creep forward from hidden corners of your mind. Passing disappointments. Lost chances and lost causes. Heartbreaks and pain and desolate, horrible loneliness. Sorrows you thought long forgotten mingle with still-fresh wounds. The stone feels heavier in your hand. When you drop it in the pool to join the rest of the stones, you feel lighter. As though you have released something more than a smooth polished piece of rock (283).

If that won’t make you read The Night Circus, I don’t know what will. Happy reading!

A R.I.P. Movie-Pallooza

I can’t believe Halloween is basically here and October is almost over! Not only does this mean my other two favorite holidays are just around the corner (Thanksgiving and then HELLO, Christmas!) but it also means I’m down to the wire to finish all those great R.I.P reviews! Seeing as how I haven’t watched nearly as many scary movies as I would have liked to, and the fact that I’ve been watching them rather sporadically, I figured I’d just do one mega-post of the 5 screen-y things I’ve made sure to watch to get myself in the Halloween mood!

There are 5 movies (well, 4 movies and 1 TV show) that I’ve included in this year’s go-round of Peril on the Screen. This is for a couple of reasons: 1.) I think I left most of my good movies at my parents house last Halloween, when I was home housesitting, as I can’t seem to find almost any of them. 2.) FBM is not exactly a scary-movie kind of guy, so it’s either watching them alone (clearly not always the best idea) or finding something in the common ground. So, keeping those two things in mind, here’s what the past month or so has been all about, film wise.

1.) Hocus Pocus – This has been one of my favorite Halloween movies since I was a little girl! My dad and I actually went to see this one as one of our first father-daughter dates (other hits include Anastasia and a crap-ton of Pizza Hut individual pizzas) and every year I wait for just the right mix of cloudy night and cooler temperatures top pop in this classic! I think the reason I love this movie so much, besides the fact that the lovely Bette Midler is one of the idols of the women in my family, is that it’s really a great blend of scary, sad, and funny for kids (and adults that think they’re kids). The scary scenes never get too scary, and the sad scenes end up having pretty much happy endings. Plus, the two ‘evil’ kids in the story, Ice-Man and Jay, crack me up every time I watch. They’re this hilarious mix of, like, white ghetto kids with nothing to do but steal candy from kids and make lame jokes. They’re not intimidating at all, which is what makes them so much more hilarious as ‘bullies’! This movie also inspired me to ‘fly’ around my house singing the song that Sarah Jessica Parker sings to lure all the children of Salem to her (“Come little children, I’ll take thee away/into my garden of magic). If you have no idea what this movie is about, or what I’m prattling on about, do you, your kids, and/or your inner child a favor and  go check it out!

2.) The Exorcist. Or, what my mom still calls ‘the scariest movie ever made’. She told me this when I was 14 and saw the movie for the first time  and I watched it and was just, like…”really? scariest movie ever? really?” (NOT a recommended viewing age, by the way. Not because of the scare factor but because watching a ‘possessed’ girl stab herself in the naughties with a crucifix is too disturbing on too many levels). Even now I don’t necessarily consider this movie “scary”. I mean, don’t get me wrong. The concept of demons and possession and exorcism freaks the hell out of me. But the dialouge is stilted, the guy who plays Dimi (the junior priest helping with the exorcism and dealing with his own metaphorical demons at the same time) is like a bad Marlon Brando, and the special effects are anything but. But all of that isn’t necessarily the point. This movie has a GREAT scary soundtrack, and some of those cold and blustery shots of Georgetown really do set a fantastic horror-movie mood. I think the thing that will always stick out to me about this movie, though, and what has kept me watching pretty much every Halloween, is the fact that so many other people have been scared out of their wits by this movie, my mom included. I mean, there are reports of people having strokes and heart attacks and believing in their own possesssion after they saw this movie in theatres! Plus, the actress who plays the little girl, Reagan, never worked on or in another movie – CRAZY!!! It’s kind of like the curse with Poltergeist and all the unfortunate things that happened to that cast (no idea? check out this wikipedia). Definitely a must see, and not a scary movie to be particularly worried about. At least, not for me!

3.) Beetlejuice – This is one of those movies that, when it’s mentioned, everyone around nods their heads and goes ‘oh, yeah! I forgot about that one…’ At least, that’s what happened when I mentioned to a bunch of co-workers that I was excited to watch another one of my mostly-funny Halloween movies. Be warned, though, that this one is a little bit creepier than Hocus Pocus (and possible The Exorcist, depending on what you find scary). Michael Keaton does a FANTASTIC job as the ghost-with-the-most, hell-raising bioexorcist Beetlejuice, who does nothing but plague Alec Baldwin and Geena Davis after they die in a car accident. And yes, these characters have names in the movie that aren’t Alec Baldwin and Geena Davis, but whatever. Anyway, Winona Rider actually gives one of her least-annoying performances here, too, as the dark and depressed Lydia Deetz, a step that doesn’t seem too far removed from the real Winona. This movie sprung from the mind of one Mr. Tim Burton, who I have often believed should share his DNA with one Mr. Neil Gaiman and one Mrs. Helena Bonham Carter (who Burton is technically already married to) in order to produce a super-genuis child of twisted creativity. If the name Tim Burton isn’t ringing a bell, he also did Edward Scissor Hands, The Corpse Bride, and Ed Wood, just to name a few. Oh, and the most recent version of Sweeney Todd, the one with Johnny Depp. Oh, and The Nightmare before Christmas (another great classic that works for both Halloween and Christmas!) Wow…apparently he’s done more of my favorites than I thought. But yes, you can see the style that Burton works in, and Beetlejuice is no different!

4.) Carrie – A great movie based on a GREAT Stephen King novel (I mean, honestly, The Shining is probably a better movie, but Carrie is a far better book) about a girl with telekinetic powers who gets pigs blood dumped on her at the prom and then goes APE SHIT WITH HER MIND POWERS and kills everyone she knows. Like, pretty much literally. Not to mention the fact that her mom is a religious wack-job, she gets tampons thrown at her in the school shower when she starts her period, and she’s asked/taken out to prom by the most popular boy in school just to be humiliated…yeah, I’d be pretty pissed too. In all fairness to the popular boy and his girlfriend – they’re good people, they were just trying to help, and really didn’t know about the pig’s blood. Sissy Spacek does an amazing job in this movie, striking just the right balance between scared and shy and really, really damn mad when the time calls for it. The movie as a whole might by more jumpy or freaky than scary, but if you can watch those last ten minutes without jumping out of your own skin, than you’re doing way better than I am! It’s best not to have one of those guys or groups of guys who think it’s really funny to wait for an obviously tense moment to grab your shoulder and shout intelligibly, laughing when you jump and spill popcorn and Diet Coke everywhere. Not that I’ve had that happen…I’m just saying. There are a number of  ‘gotcha’ moments that will make you jump, and having a group like that around could very quickly ruin your upholstery. Of all the movies posted here so far, this one is probably the scariest for me, and a lot of that has to do with the fact that Carrie’s mom is not only crazy, but crazy religious and there is just something about mixing fanatic Christianity with insanity, possible schizophrenia, and a daughter with mind powers that gets under my skin.

5.) Criminal Minds – Yes, this is a TV show. But Carl said we could do that, so hah! *blows raspberry*. Sorry about that. I’m done being, like, six now. Promise. Anyway, this show is fantastic. So fantastic that I’m thinking about  doing a Nerdgasm volume on it. For those of you out of the loop (or who watch things on TV that aren’t crime-solving, procedural cop or courtroom shows), Criminal Minds follows a team of profilers who work for the FBI’s B.A.U (Behavioral Analysis Unit, got to give it up for the federal love for acronyms). These guys and  girls basically profile different suspects, victims, and locations in order to learn who killed whoever died on this week’s episode. Basically, it’s a show about the brains of sociopaths, murderes, rapists, pedophilists, and other various real-life baddies (and the people who make it their work to understand these brains). I know by now you’re probably what makes this R.I.P. worthy – which it is. It’s all-year-round worthy. The answer you’re looking for is that, if you’ve been following any of my R.I.P. reviews, you know that I often think that the horrible things human beings do to each other is more scary than any monster, werewolf, or vampire out there. And this show if chock-full of real life monsters, on top of witty dialogue and characters I just dare you not to fall in love with (Reid! Garcia and Morgan! I just love you all so much!). If you’re looking for a 45 minute fictional glimpse in to the kinds of horrors man can do to each other (where the bad guy actually gets caught in the end, unlike, say, the news), this is most definitely the show for you!

And there you have it, ghosts and ghouls! With Halloween weekend upon us, I hope you’re doing whatever it is (tricking or treating) that puts you and your family in to that delicious, candy-apple-and-wood-smoke fall feeling we all love about this time of year! I’m off to the twisty alleys of Erin Morgenstern’s The Night Cirucs, but I wish you all happy reading!

The Lantern by Deborah Lawrenson, Read-a-Long Week 3

I felt horrible to miss last week’s read-a-long post for The Lantern, but as my last post mentioned, I was just deep in the middle of a funk! But I’ve worked my way out of it,  and I can’t wait to share the rest of my thoughts on this wonderful, beautiful fall-time book! On to the questions, sent to us this week by the lovely Heather! As always, you can find the other participants’ answers here!

1. Now that it’s all said and done; what did you think of the book? Did you see the ending coming?

Yes and no. I mean, not in the detail-y way. More in the whole, you know, I began to think about 75% of the way through that things were going to end up working out between Dom and Eve – she was just too damn in love with him throughout the rest of the novel. I did not, however, see Benedicte’s blindness coming, and almost felt that it was a bit of a let-down on Lawrenson’s part that the ghosts could be explained away medically, in essence. It would have been much more interesting, in my book, if she had just left them up as visions (then again, I did kind of like the circularity that the blindness theme presented, so who knows…). I also don’t know how I feel about them choosing to stay in the house – I don’t think I could handle that, in the same situation!

Reading that paragraph makes it sounds like a I had a whole host of problems with the end/whole of the book, but I didn’t. I LOVED the twists with Pierre and the dead bodies, and I thought the whole thing was just the kind of sensory overload I was looking for! I guess I just have a few things still niggling me.

2. What do you think of the characters? Lawrenson took us on a twisty little ride there, I had trouble deciding who was good and who wasn’t for a while there! What do you think of Dom? Of Sabine? Rachel?

I think the only person I was really ever iffy about was Sabine. Don’t get me wrong – I was flat out wrong about Dom. I totally had him pegged as the creepy murdering type, and was actually pleasantly surprised by how well-done Lawrenson was able to work out that twist in the story, especially as it did ‘excuse’ some of Dom’s more moody behavior as well as some of the guilt he was feeling.

However, with Sabine I just couldn’t figure out where she was coming from. Of course, that was revealed by the end of reading, but for the rest of the novel I just couldn’t decide where she was coming from or what she was doing there. I was never really concerned about Rachel, as she was dead and there wasn’t much the story was going to do to change that, but I did like the way Eve and Rachel ‘interacted’ throughout the story. I also think I’m kind of glad that Eve and Dom ended up together, even thought I DON’T EVEN KNOW HOW SHE STAYED THAT LONG. See my last read-a-long post for my quibbles with Eve and this whole part of the story.

3. Pierre was such a conflicted character. In the end, do you think he killed Marthe and Annette, or did the fall to their deaths because of their blindness?

To be honest, I never gave credit to the fact that Marthe and Annette fell to their deaths. I mean, true, it could have happened, but then why would Pierre have buried the bodies and not just left them? And how ‘convenient’ was it that, after the visit, Marthe suddenly changed her tune and started talking about how much she wanted to sell and how much she hated Benedicte? Nope, I never bought it – I always believed, and still do, that Pierre is such a thoroughly bad guy that he killed them both, cut Benedicte and Marthe’s ties post-mortem, and disappeared to die drunk, old, and alone.

Pierre is the perfect example of a character who I LOVE to hate, who is so evil that it makes me want to yell, makes my skin crawl, but he was so well-written that I just couldn’t get enough of him!

4. The book is being compared to Rebecca and Daphne du Maurier’s writing. Do you think the book lives up to that description?

If nothing else, I think the books both share such beautiful prose that the rest doesn’t even matter to me. I mean, yes, obviously there are other similarities – a creepy house with a deep history, a young man tortured by his past lover, deceit and lies and mistrust and all those other fun themes. But Lawrenson definitely wrote her own book, though, so I think that the deepest connection the two share is that they both create, so vividly in the mind of the reader, a world and a relationship full of dark corners and dusty secrets, using sights and smells and touches and a deep knowledge of humans to create a world where the reader loves to live almost as much as the characters themselves. If only we could get more and more books like that!

5. Did you have any problems with the book? Narration? Plot? The back and forth between two different characters and times?

See: problems with Eve, the disease causing the ghostly apparitions, staying at Les Genevriers.

6. Do you think Lawrenson tied both stories together well in the end? Is there anything she could/should have done differently?

I don’t think so! I feel like I’m being so repetitive, but honestly, the only thing I really couldn’t accept at the end was the fact that they decided to stay in that house! I mean, yeah, I guess since everything spooky was ‘explained’ – another problem I had with the story – it wouldn’t necessarily matter, but I really don’t know if I could handle staying in a place where there were skeletons found in my pool and a whole host of angry memories locked up in the walls. I also think it would have been far more interesting to see where that whole buried treasure plot line led, as it didn’t really go anywhere and felt like that was kind of an unnecessary plot addition (stop me if I missed something too huge!)

7. One problem I had with the novel is the reliability of the narrators. Do you think any of them were telling the truth? Which ones?

I think part of the thing that worked so well for The Lantern was that the narrators were kind of all unreliable – Benedicte never really knew the truth about what happened to her sister (or her brother) and so everything she tells us is inherently unreliable. And Eve is too preoccupied with Rachel to know/tell the full truth about Dom. However, it works in this story because the truth comes fully to light at the end, and the secrets along the way are just what keep the tension going, stringing the reader along behind!

Well, folks, there you have it! I’m super stoked that I was able to play a bit of catch up this week (I’m now two weeks behind on the Fragile Things read-a-long, but by God I will be there next week to finish up the discussion) and expect to see a few more reviews throughout the week, as well as a new vlog if things go well (this one may NOT be Library Loot, if you can believe it, as I love the vlogging format and would like to see how it goes to use it as a way to review books as well!) Hope that your autumn is as beautiful there as it is here, and happy reading to all!

Here We Go Again!

This time, I’m doing it, dang it! I’ve set myself I don’t know how many goals, tried to join I don’t know how many contests and read-a-longs and challenges — all with the hope of reading more Jane Austen! Or, I should truthfully say, reading all that Jane Austen I was supposed to read when I took a class specifically on her works a few years ago: it’s amazing how much you can b.s. in class when you’ve seen the Gwyneth Paltrow Emma and the Emma Thompson Sense and Sensibility about a dozen times each. For whatever reason, though, I just never seem to be able to. It could be for a number of the following reasons:

1.) Reading them again would be admitting to myself and all of you that I really haven’t ever read anything beyond Pride and Prejudice. Which I just did, but still. I don’t really like having to say (or type) it out loud.

2.) I’m not sure I entirely like Austen all that much. Her stories, I love. Her writing? Eh… *every bookish person reading drops dead of a heart attack/shuns me from the League of the Literati)

3.) There are just so many wonderful other books out there!

BUT HERE THIS – I’M TIRED OF IT!!! I’m going to do it! And I’m going to do it with Advent with Austen! In the words of the lovely Yvann from Reading Fueled by Tea, here’s how the whole she-bang works:

So Alex over at The Sleepless Reader had the brilliant idea of reading Sense and Sensibility this year, to celebrate 200 years since its publication. I jumped all over her idea and came up with Advent with Austen, my very first themed reading event! My beautiful co-hosts (Nymeth, Iris on Books, Teadevotee and Alex) and I have agreed on the following rules:

1. Advent with Austen runs for all of Advent, starting on the first Sunday of Advent, 27 Nov (which incidentally, is the earliest that Advent can start – which means that my birthday on 23 Nov is never quite in Advent… I digress) and ending on Christmas Eve. Let’s face it, on Christmas Day we’re all going to be nose-deep in the books our nearest and dearest have bought for us to do any actual blogging.

2. During this time, to participate, you must read or watch Austen-related items. Books and films can be anything: by her, about her (non-fiction), modern reimaginings (e.g. Captain Wentworth’s Diary; Becoming Jane), even Sense & Sensibility & Sea Monsters.

There are points awarded along the following scale for every Austen-esque book read/TV show and/or movie watched, as follows:

(1 book = 1 point, 1 film = 1 point, 1 TV adaptation (much longer than a film) = 2 points, 1 blog post about an Austen-related experience, e.g. visits to Chawton = 1 point)

And the points add up to associate with a different Jane Austen character! I have to say, I think that this idea is totally to-die-for, and it really does allow for the freedom that I think I need if Jane and I are every really going to see eye-to-eye. I’ll probably be shooting for being Captain Wentworth (5-6 points), so that I can give a fair number of the books a read/re-watch a couple of my favorite movies. And, I can’t believe I’m going to say this, but I’m actually really looking forward to spending my Christmas with Jane and all of her lovely readers! Happy reading!

For full info on the Advent, as well as the schedule that Yvonn is proposing, you can find the deets here!

Fragile Things by Neil Gaiman: Read-a-Long Week Three

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I can’t believe we’re already to the third week of the read-a-long! Even though it’s only a once a week post, I feel like the book is just flying by! This week’s stories are “Going Wodwo”, “Bitter Grounds”, “Other People”, and “Keepsakes and Treasures”. All in all, while this wasn’t my favorite week, I had more hits than misses.

“Going Wodwo”

I loved thus piece of poetry! DEFINITELY more than “The Hidden Chamber” and slightly more than “The Fairy Reel”. First and foremost, the poem totally appeals to my love for nature, and the fact that I love sensuous language and imagery in a piece of poetry. I mean, I was literally lingering in images like “I’ll tell the wind my name, and no one else./True madness takes us or leaves us in the wood/half-way through all our lives”. The introduction says that Neil wrote this one for a collection on The Green Man, and while I don’t actually know about that character specifically, Gaiman made magic for me in this poem!

I also think that the poem made some important claims about the importance of nature versus civilization. The fact that, discarding everything from his civilized life (“Shedding my shirt, my book, me coat, my life”) he is able to find the place where he belongs (“I’ll find a tree as wide as ten fat men/Clear water rilling over it’s grey roots/Berries I’ll find, and crabapples and nuts,/And call it home.”) is an incredibly important and an incredibly message to me. Not only do I think that God gave us all the answers and hope we need in the world around us, but I believe it’s up to us to protect and be stewards of our planet. Needless to say, Gaiman got major points from me for this one!! 😀

“Bitter Grounds”

For as much as I was totally enamored with “Going Wodwo”, I was equally as disappointed with “Bitter Grounds”. This, I think, was for multiple reasons. One, I don’t think I understand it. I read it three times and still. I mean, I understand the progression if the plot, but I just don’t get it. Zombies, right? Like, that’s the whole thing with all of it in the end – he runs off and joins the land of the zombies? Or he was a zombie the whole time? See? No idea. The second reason most likely largely pertains to the fact that I was just not jiving with any of the characters. And I mean, like, any of them. It makes it much harder to invest in understanding the story when you don’t care to spend any more time with your protagonist.

That being said, I do think that there were the occasional scary moments throughout the story. When the fake Jackson Anderton returns to the site of the tow truck and finds the car door open, the back window open, and no one in sight, I will admit that I got a little freaked out. And hearing the story of the little zombie girls was a bit…off. But, do those two moments balance out the difficulty of the rest of the story? No way. This one was definitely a thumbs-down for me.

“Other People”

OH. MY. GOODNESS. This story packed so much punch in to it’s three and a half pages was ridiculous. It sucked me in from it’s first line: “‘Time is fluid here,’ said the demon.” I mean, dang y’all. This story was intense. Gaiman’s progression from physical to mental torture, followed by the ultimate transformation into the demon himself is an example of prime narrative structure. I can’t express enough how much I love the concept behind this story, too.

Anyone who has been following my R.I.P. reviews knows that I think that the scariest thugs in the world aren’t supernatural. They’re the things human beings can do to one another. I feel like Gaiman hits this nail so firmly on the head, it hurts:

“Everything he had ever done that had been better left undone. Every lie he had ever told – told to himself, or told to others. Every little hurt, and all the great hurts. Each one was pulled out of him, detail by detail, inch by inch. The demon stripped away the cover of forgetfulness, stripped everything down to truth, and it hurt more than anything.”

All I know is that that sounds like a pretty apt description of hell to me. Another win for Gaiman!

“Keepsakes and Treasures”

I’m not sure how many of those in the read-a-long are going to like this story. But I liked it. I won’t say I love it, because it’s hard to love something so…graphic and, ultimately, sad. But I do think that Gaiman did a great job creating an unlikeable character who I actually kind of liked!

I guess ‘liked’ shouldn’t be the word I use. I don’t really like Mr. Smith, per say, but I think part of me can understand why he is the way he is, given the past and history he comes from. I can sympathize, I guess. And, as disgusting and sad as their work is, I’m glad that these two despicable men were able to find a kind of home and family in one another. Plus, who doesn’t love the idea of a culture made of all women and few men, even if the goal is inky to shelter this one man into perfect, beautiful adulthood! Gaiman also says we’re going to see both Mr. Smith and Mr. Alice again in a later story, so I can’t wait to see how that one might change my opinion if these characters and their story!

Well, folks, that’s all for this leg of the read-a-long! If you’re reading along as well, I hope you were able to enjoy these stories as much as I did. If you’re not, I hope that whatever you’re reading is keeping you up at night with it’s brilliance! Now, I’m off with FBM to our new church home for a good time of food and fellowship (PS: we finally found a new church home! Yay! Hehe) so, I leave you all with peasant reading wishes and autumn dreams!

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