Friday, October 31, 2008

The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson

A doctor with a very analytical, scientific mind decides to study a haunted house using a tape measurer, thermometer, and careful notetaking. He invites three guests to spend the summer with him in the house to help make observations.

One young woman, Eleanor, jumps at the chance to have an adventure and leave the confines of her sister's house. She drives slowly to Hill House, drinking in all the new scenery and imagining herself living a carefree life.

I loved the banter back and forth between the houseguests and their reactions to the stoic housekeeper who only seems to be able to say three things, "I clear the table at 10." "I will not come if you scream in the night." "That's not what I was hired to do."

Eleanor slowly loses her mind during her stay in the house and the story gets creepier every time you turn the page.

Oh, and now my future daughter must have a cup of stars to drink her milk in. There's just no other way.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Booking Through Thursday

Are you a spine breaker? Or a dog-earer? Do you expect to keep your books in pristine condition even after you have read them? Does watching other readers bend the cover all the way round make you flinch or squeal in pain?

That's the best part about reading library books - they already come equipped with the torn pages, chocolate smudges, bent corners, and frayed spines. If the book is new, then I have a lot of work to do! The only thing I won't do to a book is write anything in it - notes in the margins, underlining words, correcting grammatical errors, and even *cringe* highlighting stuff. It's the author's story, not mine! What they said is what they said and you shouldn't add to it or take away from it. That kind of annoys me while I'm reading and takes away my concentration from the book. Especially when the passages that they are underlining are mild parts that there is no reason to be underlining.

I read a book once where the person wrote questions to themselves all throughout the book - "What is the author saying? What does this word mean?" Translating words into another language and crossing out grammatical errors. And underlining passages that were so puzzling to me - why in the world did that person underline that when the next passage is so much more interesting? The actual story of the book faded into the background while I was dwelling on the person's inane comments. It was almost like reading two books at once.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

The Heretic's Daughter by Kathleen Kent

Sarah and her brothers must turn against their mother and accuse her of being a witch, in order to save themselves. This is based on the true story of Martha Carrier, of which the author is a descendant.

I thought it was pretty good. Not as great as I was expecting. The imagery from times past was very nice - churning butter and swishing skirts and all that kind of stuff.

My favorite part: Tom and his father are working in the fields and the boy looks out on the endless fields he has plowed and the endless fields still before him. He quietly walks back to the house and lays down on his bed. His father goes to him and sits on the bed beside him. He tells his son that he knows what he is thinking and that he needs to think of a reason for living, something to make all that toil worth it. His wife is his reason for getting up and finding the strength every day to keep going. He asks his son to find a reason for living and the answer the boy gives makes the whole book worth it.

How they could tell if someone was a witch: Throw them in the water and if they drown, they are innocent. If they float, they are guilty and must be executed. Uhhhh... did people back then not have a logical bone in their bodies?

Also, I hate Cotton Mather after reading this book. At least his father, Increase Mather ("It were better that Ten Suspected Witches should escape, than that one Innocent Person should be Condemned"), worked to stop all of the witch trial hysteria. Although to be fair, I looked up Cotton Mather on Wikipedia and some people believe he actually worked to stop the Salem witch trials from happening, so who knows what the truth is. Just shows how easily people can be whipped up into hysteria and can be led to go along with almost anything.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

I Am Legend by Richard Matheson

Uhhhh.... okay... I don't really know what to think. I read to the middle of the book where Robert is in trouble and turned the page figuring he'd get out of it somehow. The next chapter was a story about a guy playing carnival games and the next chapter was about a guy planning his wife's funeral and the next chapter... wait a minute, what happened to Robert? Is that it? I flipped the book over and it says


The complete novel, plus several more unforgettable tales.

Sooo...I think this is the only instance where I've ever thought that the movie was better than the book.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Bitsy's Bait & BBQ by Pamela Morsi

I went to the library after work Friday night as I always do and pulled my holds off the shelf and then walked upstairs to peruse the fiction section. The sapphire blue of this book caught my eye and I flipped through it for a minute and then put it down and continued looking. Alofasudden, a voice over the intercom says, "The library will be closing in 5 minutes. All computers will shut down promptly at six p.m. Please gather your books, blahblah." Wha??? It always closes at EIGHT on Friday! This is my Friday THING - filling my bag with new books to arrange and admire and gobble up over the weekend. They changed the hours! Noooo! All is lost! I looked up and saw the panic on everyone else's faces as well. Better get what we can and get to the self-checkout machines because it sounds like they mean business!

So of course I went back to this sapphire gem that I was planning on going back to for a reconsider if no other books spoke to me.

But all is not lost. It's a good book.

Two sisters, Katy and Emma, mistakenly buy a Bait & BBQ shop on Ebay thinking it's a Bed & Breakfast. With no other options, they stick it out and learn how to smoke meat and handle nightcrawlers. They grow to love the little Ozark town and all its quirky inhabitants and all is well until Katy's ex-husband goes after her for full custody of their 5-yr-old son. The ex and his mother show up for the summer so they can collect evidence for the court trial, but they are also forever changed by the town, the people, and Bitsy. Made for a very easy and entertaining story. A++++ would do business with again.

Reading Challenge: Peril the Second

Stainless Steel Droppings is hosting a frightening reading challenge for Halloween.

Peril the Second: Read Two books of any length, from any subgenre of scary stories that you choose.

Here are my picks for the challenge. I have three books to choose from and I'll probably end up reading all three, but at least there's some wiggle room if one of them doesn't keep my interest.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

A River Runs Through It by Norman Maclean

The author of the book, Norman, writes about his brother and their shared love of fly fishing.

What most stands out in this story is the beautiful imagery and the relationship between the brothers. Norman is looking at the foam from the waterfall and thinking that "the speckled foam was eggnog with nutmeg sprinkled on it." But then Norman says the giant fish frolicking around in that foam was a "lucky son of a bitch" that Norman was the one fishing and not the more talented Paul. There's enough of this guy-speak in the story to remind you that this is a story about brothers and not Walden Pond.

... "One of life's quiet excitements is to stand somewhat apart from yourself and watch yourself softly becoming the author of something beautiful." (p. 47)

And later... Norman and Paul go fishing together and they have to drag along Norman's brother-in-law, Neal, who brings a girl with him. The two brothers bury their beers in the bed of the icy cold river and then stand in the hot sun all day fishing. Parched with thirst at the end of the day, they go to retrieve their beers, but the bottles are missing. They walk back to the direction of the car in search of their beers and spot Neal and his girl passed out drunk face down in the sand, completely naked, their skin bright red from sunburn. The girl has a tattoo on her tush : (LO/VE)

And on his last day fishing, Paul is about the catch a whopper when his Presbyterian minister of a father lugs a giant stone into the water, scaring all the fish away. Paul smirks and goes to the other side to try again.

It's a novella and there are two other stories in the book. The second one is about Norman's experiences as a lumberjack and I skipped the third. This title caught my eye because I vaguely remember my parents watching the movie when I was a kid.

It's Tuesday. Where are you?

I'm fly-fishing with my brother in Montana. (A River Runs Through It by Norman Maclean)

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood

Snowman is a guy who lives in a tree.

His only clothing is a sheet that he wraps around himself and he lives off of energy bars, canned meat, and the occasional fish.

The world Snowman grew up in was taken over by scientists who biologically-engineered or modified everything they could get their hands on - food, animals, babies.

Eventually, one scientist created a whole new race of humans who had all of the undesirable human behavior programmed out of them. These new humans, called the Children of Crake, are pretty naive about the dangers in the world and it is Snowman's job to protect them. Snowman is also one of few surviving humans left in the world.

The book seems to go nowhere at first, with the backstory unfolding slowly as Snowman hallucinates, ruminates, and dreams up in his tree. He finally decides that he needs to go take a walk back into town to stock up on another energy bar or two. He makes it back alive just in time to discover that the Crakers have encountered other humans. Annoyed, Snowman goes off with his spray gun to take care of them.

This book was just interesting enough for me to read it through to the end. Mostly, it was depressing and crude and I was glad when it was over, even though the ending was weak.

The Children of Crake are on the same path that the humans before them went down.

So what was the point?

Saturday, October 18, 2008

The Child in Time by Ian McEwan

263 pages for the Read-a-thon - The Child In Time by Ian McEwan.

Stephen takes his 3-yr-old daughter to the supermarket and when he turns around after paying, she is gone. The aftermath of how he and his wife grieve and eventually heal is heartbreaking, but there is a happy ending. I'm looking forward to reading more by this author. His writing style is beautiful and seamless and I lingered over many of the passages. A lot of his insights into human nature are so simply worded and spot-on. Wow. I really loved this book.

But why is there a picture of a teddy bear on the book when Kate carries around a stuffed donkey, not a bear?


I haven't posted lately, but I wanted to write about the 24-hr Read-a-thon which is going on today. I'm not reading all 24-hrs today, but I am reading off and on and going to the bookstore today, so I'm doing my part! I'm reading The Child in Time by Ian Mcewan today.

Here are my favorites from these past couple of months:

Life As We Knew It by Susan Beth Pfeffer
A meteor hits the moon, knocking it off its orbit and the moon moves closer to the Earth, becoming gargantuan in size. Panic ensues, the world goes to chaos, climate goes haywire, and pandemic and shortage of food and clean water leaves many people dead. Miranda and her mother and brothers struggle to survive.

The Double Bind by Chris Bohjalian
Someone lent this one to me earlier this year and I just now picked it up to read it. It is a psychological thriller that starts off with an event that will get your heart pumping. You read the book believing one thing but there is a twist at the end where you discover that nothing in the story is as it appeared. I was expecting some kind of twist so I figured it out in the middle, but it was still a good read. The book is about a social worker who is researching a box of photographs. In the beginning of the story, she is attacked while bicycling and that ties into the events that come later. Hard to describe. It's one of those books where you're turning the pages backward almost as much as you're turning them forward.

Silas Marner by George Eliot
This was such a gentle story and very easy to read. I liked it. The story is about a weaver who has to start a new life somewhere else after he was set up for a crime he didn't do. In the new town, Marner doesn't socialize with anyone and he becomes a hermit. He accumulates a lot of wealth from working long hours and his gold is his only friend. He is robbed one night and feels like all is lost. Then, a baby girl whose mother died in a snowstorm toddles into his house and he adopts her. He finds new joy in raising his daughter and even feels like his gold was restored to him through her golden hair.

All Quiet on the Western Front by Erich Maria Remarque
This is a war account and not very entertaining or riveting, but the comradeship between the soldiers held me until each character left the story through their own personal tragedy. The writing is also very beautiful and there are many quotes I went back to over and over. I was surprised to see that it's translated from German -it flows together so well.

The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood
A story set in the future where society is strictly controlled and people are arranged by hierarchy. The story is told by a Handmaid, whose role is to bear children for the childless Wives. A frightening story.

The Day of the Triffids by John Wyndham
The premise sounds kind of ridiculous - flesh eating plants taking over the world. Still, I don't read much science fiction but I really enjoyed this.

We Have Always Lived in the Castle
Take any old local legend of a haunted house still occupied by two ghostly women and make it true. The two occupants of the house happily tidy up the rooms, preserve jams, bake, and make clothes out of odd materials all while the local townspeople wonder whether or not people really do live in that house.

I hope everyone who is participating in the challenge has a great time!