RIP VIII: Making a List

 

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Time to get your creepy on! Once again Carl brings us the Readers In Peril Challenge, Part 8. It’s the most fun you can have being scared while reading. I try to keep a few books in mind for the challenge all year long. I was starting to think that after 8 of these challenges that I’ve read everything, but there is always something out there.

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As usual, I am choosing Peril the First:

Read four books, any length, that you feel fit (the very broad definitions) of R.I.P. literature. It could be King or Conan Doyle, Penny or Poe, Chandler or Collins, Lovecraft or Leroux…or anyone in between.

 

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My choices are:

  • The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson (a re-read)
  • Pig Island by Mo Hayder
  • The Shining by Stephen King (for the Shinealong)
  • Troubled Daughters, Twisted Wives edited by Sarah Weinman
  • Bellman and Black by Diane Setterfield (if I can get a copy)
  • Jane Austen and the Unpleasantness at Scargrave Manor by Stephanie Barron
  • The House at Riverton by Kate Morton
  • Rosemary’s Baby by Ira Levin
  • And anything else I see

This should be interesting since I don’t own all on the list yet. I need to place an order.

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I thought it might be fun to to watch a few scary movies this year too, so I’m signing on for Peril on the Screen.

  • Rosemary’s Baby (after the book)
  • The Stepford Wives
  • The Shining (after the book)
  • Rear Window

So there is my list for the spookiest challenge for the best part of the year. I love autumn! I can’t wait to enjoy every minute of it.

Wide Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys: Review

wide sargasso seaWide Sargasso Sea is a prequel to Jane Eyre. There are going to be spoilers for Jane Eyre all over this, so BEWARE!


So the mad wife in Rochester’s attic, Bertha, has her own story. We know how it ends but what about her life before? Bertha wasn’t born Bertha, she was Antoinette Cosway. Her mother was Annette, a beautiful Martinique woman who moved to Jamaica with her husband, a wealthy slave owner. He died, slavery ended, and Antoinette, her mother and brother were left hated and in poverty. Annette pulled herself together enough to find a rich husband, Mr Mason. Being an Englishman, he underestimates the hatred of the island people toward Annette until a tragedy changes their lives forever.

Antoinette is then sent to a convent where she is relatively happy, but Mr Mason has plans for her. He believes he is securing her future but he’s sending her to her doom.

I put off reading Wide Sargasso Sea for so long. I’m a huge Jane Eyre fan and I thought Rhys was going to be ragging all over Jane, but I was wrong. Mr Rochester on the other hand…looks douchey.

In imagining Antoinette, aka Bertha, Rhys gives her a childhood not unlike Jane’s: poor, hated, neglected, traumatized, and eventually orphaned. Later, Antoinette gains the things that would make her attractive to an Englishman, beauty and wealth, but it’s her non-Englishness that makes her suspect. That quality more than anything else is what makes her husband turn on her. Antionette is as loved starved as Jane but Antoinette expresses it differently. She gives her whole heart and body to Rochester which just makes him think she must be up to something. This isn’t how a respectable English wife would act, especially a wife he only married for money. Antoinette is given the advice that she should keep her distance from him if she wants him to love her, but she cannot and this only makes him more cruel.

That brings me to the reprehensible behaviour of Rochester. In the book’s forward, I read that Rochester represents the British Empire that only takes want it wants from the colonies (Antoinette) and never gives back. That’s fine, and I’m sure correct, but when I’m reading I like to give real human motives to characters. One of the things I felt was happening was that Rochester felt guilty and instead of owning that, he tries to alleviate that guilt by buying into all the gossip he’s been told. Subconsciously, he feels bad about taking all her money, and all the hot sexy loving, while knowing he’s going to drag her to England and away from the few people who love her. So it’s easier to listen to the outlandish tales of his neighbour, a guy with a huge axe to grind, than feel bad about it. Even after she tells him her whole history, he still doesn’t believe her because A) foreign, and B) crazy! He’s got to be right or admit he’s a jerk. I don’t think Antoinette would have become “mad”: her mother had been traumatized and her brother physically ill. It wasn’t a genetic ailment. She could have been happy. I think she just gave into despair like a lot of women of the time. They were driven to it by their circumstances. Why not just give up?

While Rhys borrows some plot from Jane Eyre, it’s a different type of novel. For one thing, about a hundred years separate them. It’s dreamy and modernist. The atmosphere is different. Where Jane Eyre is all wind swept moors, rain, and cold, Wide Sargasso Sea is colourful, lush, and warm. I enjoyed reading Wide Sargasso Sea, it made me think about “Bertha” differently, but it hasn’t taken away my love of Jane Eyre. After all, Bronte’s Rochester is not Rhys’s Rochester.

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It’s just a different perspective

Lazy Sunday Thoughts

I surprised myself this week by starting and finishing two books! Short books, but still books: The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy and Wide Sargasso Sea. I’m very happy about this. I had such a terrible book drought. I’ve only read 28 books this year. For me, this is bad. I’m hoping that this sudden desire to read stays with me. I’m actually looking forward to new releases and last week I visited the bookstore and got that old feeling. You know that one, where you want to drool over the pretty covers and touch all the books. That’s not just me, right? With fall coming, I can’t wait to start reading all the spooky books. I’m going to start on a list soon.

I have a lot to say about Wide Sargasso Sea, so expect a rambling review of that. The book is Jean Rhys’s response to Jane Eyre. It will be a spoilery review. While reading it, I remembered that Thug Notes had some thoughts on Jane Eyre. I thought I’d share that today. Thug Notes are entertaining analyses of classic books from Sparky Sweets, PhD. I learned something about Jane and Bertha, actually. I should warn you that he gives the away the whole plot so don’t watch if you haven’t read it!

Other than that, we’re getting the girl all ready for another year of school. Yep, it’s that time again. Just one more week.

The Heiress Effect by Courtney Milan: Review

heiress effectI’ve been enjoying The Brothers Sinister series from Courtney Milan. The Heiress Effect is #2 but that’s rather misleading since the first-first book was the novella, The Goveress Affair, then The Duchess War with a Christmas novella thrown in after that one. So, really this is #4. Follow me?

In The Heiress Effect, we meet Jane Fairfield, an incredibly wealthy heiress with bad taste and all the social grace of an emu. She wears the most ridiculous getups to every occasion and the words that come out of her mouth make everyone cringe. No one realizes that this is an act. Jane is purposely being uncouth in order to keep her younger sister safe. There are people she doesn’t mind being rude to, like the Marquess of Bradenton. On the other hand, being a jerk to a man like Oliver Marshall isn’t as much fun. For some reason, he doesn’t laugh at her like the others do behind her back.

Oliver won’t be part of the mean spirited gossiping about Jane because he himself has always been an outsider. As the illegitimate son of a duke, the boys at Eton and Cambridge never let him forget his place among them. Now he has a chance to gain a place in the political world but how far is he willing to go to get it?

What I like most about this series is how Milan gives her heroines unique obstacles to overcome. In Jane’s case protecting her younger sister Emily, who has a form of epilepsy, from a well meaning yet overzealous uncle. Jane has to keep from marrying until Emily comes of age. Even though Jane puts on the socially inept act, she knows she’d never fit in anyway. She doesn’t fit into the mold of the typical lady. She likes to be bold and say what’s on her mind. Even though Oliver is attracted to her, he sees that she’d never make a proper politician's wife. Here is my trouble with The Heiress Effect. I didn’t feel that Oliver was good enough for Jane.

Jane is bright and bold and in your face, Oliver just wasn’t her equal. Oliver should have been a much more interesting character. He’s a bastard. He’s a self-made man. I wasn’t feeling it though. He was just sort of meh. I couldn’t understand why Jane liked him so much other than he was the only person who was nice to her. I didn’t feel the chemistry between them. I realize that this is Oliver’s “issue” in this romance novel that he must overcome, and he does, but by then it was too late for me.

Like in the previous stories, the secondary characters add much to the story. Emily is her own person whose own romance overshadows her sister’s. Oliver’s younger sister Frederica is a suffragette in training and much more interesting than he is. The other female characters, Aunt Freddy and the Johnson sisters, are more than one dimensional plot devices. Since this is part of a series, there are hints at future storylines involving some of these characters, including the other Brother Sinister, Sebastian.

I wouldn’t say this was my favorite in the series but it was still enjoyable and I look forward to more books from Milan.

Thanks to Victory Editing for the review copy via NetGalley.

Lazy Bookish Thoughts: Reading Again

Helllllllloooooo! I’m still here. I’m reading and buying books and actually looking forward to reading said books.

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First off, I picked up The Shining by Stephen King for the Shine-along in September. I read it years ago. I think I was shocked at how awful Jack was. It will be interesting to re-read it now.

I gave up on Save Me the Waltz by Zelda Fitzgerald. It’s supposed to be somewhat autobiographical and it was interesting but…. half the time I didn’t know what the hell she was talking about. Remember Brad Pitt’s commercial for Chanel No5? How confusing and weird that dialogue was? Save Me the Waltz is like that at times. For example,

“Sometimes,” commented David irrelevantly, “your face looks like a soul lost in the mist on a Scotch moor.”

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What?

I could enjoy it at some other point in time but I just don’t have the patience for that kind of thing at the moment. Anyway, they have money and then they don’t and then they do, and eventually it’s going to end badly. Moving on.

I finished The Heiress Effect by Courtney Milan last night. I’ll be writing up a review soon, though I don’t know when because something has come up that I have to deal with. Life, man.

Night Film by Marisha Pessl: Review (Audiobook)

night filmDisgraced journalist Scott McGrath just can’t let a story go, even though his investigation of creepy film director Stanislas Cordova nearly ruined him. When the body of Cordova’s daughter Ashley is found, an apparent suicide, Scott begins where he left off. What events lead to the death of this brilliant young woman?

Cordova is a mysterious figure in the entertainment world. His films are so disturbing most have been banned, only accessible through black market connections. No one who has viewed them is the same afterward. He shows humankind the darkest side of itself. Scott wonders how much of Cordova’s films are movie magic and how much is real. What happens to the actors who play these twisted parts in these graphic movies? What part did they play in the death of Ashley? The closer he gets to the answers the more danger he finds himself in, just like the protagonists of Cordova’s films.

Night Film by Marisha Pessl is one messed up book. It’s starts off like a fairly straightforward mystery. A girl dies. What happened to her? Was she an addict? Crossed in love? Mentally ill? As Scott learns more about the girl, her last moments, her family, her friends, the picture just gets wider. Soon he must investigate the films, how they were made, who were the actors. The story becomes a twisted psychological thriller. It becomes clear that Ashley’s life is far from the average Hollywood director’s child.

Cordova is, of course, a fictional director; he might be the epitome of the ‘serious artiste’ or he’s seriously fruit loops. Scott finds out that almost no one has ever seen the man. The people he talks to are just in the man’s orbit, they’ve heard things or done things for him. Talking to the man is more than Scott can dream.

Night Film is heavy on the film imagery. There are nods to Stanley Kubrick, Roman Polanski, Nicolas Roeg, Alfred Hitchcock, and probably more than I’ll ever know. The same people or items appear: strange dolls, a red coat, redhaired women. Pessl creates pictures with words. As for the characters themselves, beyond the great white whale that is Cordova, there’s McGrath, the haggard reporter, Nora, the perky ingénue, and Hopper, the damaged bad boy. Then there is Ashley. Like Daphne du Maurier’s Rebecca, she’s a character seen only through the eyes of the other characters. That was one the best parts of Night Film for me. Ashley could be anything, an angel or a devil, depending on who is describing her. Everything she has done affects the plot of the novel.

The plot is twisty and trippy. At one point I thought, what the hell is going on here? As for the ending, well, I’m still thinking about it. Would I have been a Cordova fan?

About the Audio: Ok, so I started listening to this before I realized that there were visual additions to this book, like photos and fake articles from magazines. I’m not really sure what I missed, actually. I’m going to get my hands on a physical copy when I can. This was a review copy without the pdf that is supposed to come with it. This bothered me at first. However, further into the book I got the less I cared about that. The narrator is Jake Webber. He has a slow, raspy voice. Since Night Film is in first person, I came to believe that he was Scott McGrath. His interpretation of the other characters is spot on as well.

And for thrills and giggles, here’s the spooky book trailer.

Night Film will be available for purchase August 20th.