Monday, September 17, 2012

The Little Stranger by Sarah Waters (Read-a-long)

Oh, the ambiguous ending. I usually don't mind an ambiguous ending, but this one left me cold. I'm okay that Waters didn't spell everything out, but I wish there had been more clues to at least make a guess as to what was happening. I have no idea. I have some rather random guesses, but I don't feel like I have enough evidence to argue a case one way or another.

I do think that there was something supernatural in the house. At first I thought it was the deceased daughter Susan, but I couldn't figure out why she would torment her family. My thoughts were that maybe the suspicious circumstances concerning her death would come to light. Nope, nothing did.

The second thought that came to mind was that it was Dr Faraday's mother. It seemed like anyone who got in his way of breaking into the family was targeted. (Roderick was insulting to his class. The attack on the little girl seemed a distraction to the party intended to find a suitor for Caroline. Mrs. Ayres was disapproving of his engagement to her daughter. Caroline became a target once she ended the engagement.) By the end, I was just confused. Caroline seemed to recognize her attacker, but she didn't know either of those two individuals during their lives. Hmm...chin-scratcher.

The title didn't really come into play until the very end and it seemed like an afterthought. That was slightly disappointing.

I wasn't particularly fond of Dr Faraday in the first half, but I actively hated him by the second. He really showed his true character after being snubbed by Caroline. How incredibly insulting he was! He obviously didn't really love her because if he had he would never have said such dreadful things. He was just angered because he saw Hundreds slipping through his greedy fingers. And, stalker much? My goodness. Creepy, creepy dude. Leave her alone already. She doesn't like you.

Despite all my grumbling above, I did enjoy The Little Stranger. I can't deny that Waters' is an excellent writer. It was slow at times, but it kept my attention. It wasn't perfect, but it was an enjoyable RIP read. The audio really helped with that. I will certainly be looking for more audiobooks narrated by Simon Vance.

Much thanks to Estella Society for hosting!

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

The Little Stranger Read-a-long Check-in #1

I've had The Little Stranger on my shelf for close to two years. So when Estella Society proposed a read-a-long, I was all over that. The funny thing is that I've hardly touched my copy but have opted instead for the audiobook narrated by Simon Vance. During audiobook week a few months ago I heard many readers gush over Simon Vance. I totally get it now. He is good. Really good. I have actually been looking forward to doing housework this week so that I can listen to more of The Little Stranger. Truly shocking.

How are you liking the book? Can your read it at night?

I'm really enjoying it. Sarah Waters has won me over with her writing. It started a little slowly, but I found that it added to the creepiness. I would catch glimpses here and there of something not quite right in Hundreds, but it kept me guessing as to what would happen next. I haven't been fearful of reading it at night, yet, but I've carried on to chapter nine and it's starting to get a little more under my skin.

What do you think about what's going on?

I can't quite figure out exactly the rationale behind the different attacks, but I've had an inkling as to who is behind them. As I said, I read a little into chapter nine and of what I've read, it makes me think that my guess is correct, but I don't want to spoil it for anyone not there yet.

What do you think of the Ayres family? Do you pity them their fall from the top?

I found them obnoxious in how they treated those they saw as beneath them. Roderick more so than Caroline, but they are both fairly condescending. I wanted to slap Roderick when he made the comment to Dr. Faraday about how they were only friends with them because their real friends couldn't be welcomed into their home in its current state. I guess I'm a girl who doesn't deal well with snobbery. I feel badly for them that they may lose their home, but devastation was all around in that time period. They were hardly in the worst of circumstances.

Thoughts on Dr. Faraday

The group post of questions says "Can't you feel the want radiating off him?" Yes! So much. That is a perfect way of phrasing it. He is so obsessed with this family. He reminds me of Charles Ryder from Brideshead Revisited. He seems to want to work his way into the family in any way possible. His sights seem to be set on Caroline. I think it's telling that he's constantly remarking on how plain and manly, etc. Caroline is.  I'm sure if that play doesn't work, he'll work another angle.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

RIP VII, IT, and The Little Stranger

RIP VII, Or R.eaders I.mbibing P.eril VII is hosted by Carl of Stainless Steel Droppings. I am so excited! This is my first year participating, and I have been hoarding scary books for just this event. I have crazy huge stacks, but they are just stacks from which to select my reads. There is no way that I'll be able to be read them all. I'll definitely be shooting for Peril the First--four books of the RIP variety. To the books!

Stack the First: Books I'm Hoping to Finish

The Woman in Black by Susan Hill
Dracula by Bram Stoker
We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson
The Little Stranger by Sarah Waters--Readalong hosted by Estella Society
It by Stephen King--Italong hosted by Jill and Christina (what am I thinking?!)

Stack the Second: Audiobooks I'm Hoping to Finish

The Weed that Strings the Hangman's Bag by Alan Bradley
The Little Stranger by Sarah Waters--Doing a listen/read for the readalong.
Don't Look Back by Laura Lippman--Random library pick. The Little Stranger hadn't come in and I had a long drive ahead of me.

Stack the Third: My Maybe Books

After the Funeral by Agatha Christie
Lost in a Good Book by Jasper Fforde
Case Histories by Kate Atkinson (and other three in Jackson Brodie Series)--This series has been recommended by so many of my favorite bloggers.

Both readalongs are mentioned above, but here are the buttons and links again if you're interested.

Found here

Found here

Sunday, September 2, 2012

The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky

The Perks of Being a Wallflower

by Stephen Chbosky
published 1999
completed September 2012

This book. I don't know if I'll be able to express just how much I love this book. I wasn't really sure I would. I've heard it's easier to appreciate as a teenager, but for me, it worked. In a really big way.

Charlie is a fifteen year old freshman in high school. You'll discover from the opening pages that he's unlike most kids his age. The Perks of Being a Wallflower is a series of letters that he writes to a stranger, trying to keep somewhat anonymous. You never discover to whom he is addressing and mailing these letters, but he shares with them in detail of his experiences throughout his first year of high school.

While I loved this book, I don't think everyone will. Some readers have difficulty with Charlie and his voice. If you don't feel an affinity towards Charlie, I don't think the book will work for you. As I said before, it worked for me. He had me on his team from the first page. I've had the book out from the library for months, but once I finally sat down to read it, I finished it in an afternoon. I couldn't put it down.

I fell in love with Charlie. Not in a romantic way, but in a I-want-to-put-my-arms-around-you-and-hug-you-and-protect-you kind of way. Charlie has this innocence, and it's difficult to pinpoint what is so different about him. I initially thought he may have Asperger's, but some revelations at the end of the book made me think his unique way of looking at the world may have been caused by something he experience when young. Either way, he sees the world so differently than others. Others always come first and he genuinely loves and wants the best for everyone. He feels things so deeply, is so loyal, and honest. He understands so much, but is yet so naïve at the same time. I took so many notes while reading this. Some of Charlie's insights are so simple, yet profound.

So many huge issues are tackled in this slim book. I don't want to get into spoilers, but this goes to very dark places, but through Charlie's eyes, it's bearable. For those who've read it, the struggles of Patrick and Brad were particularly heartbreaking. I was friends with several "Brads" in school who weren't ready to share that aspect of their lives with others until later in life. I still keep in touch with some of them, and it makes my heart ache to think of what they must have gone through in high school. How difficult it must have been.

As I was nearing the end of the book, I was nervous. I didn't know how it would resolve itself, but the epilogue set things right in a realistic way. It left me with a sense of hope.

I've attached the movie trailer below. I think it comes out in the US this month, but the UK release is Oct 3. The trailer seems like the tone isn't quite right. Am I the only one nervous about this? I'm hoping that the actual movie is a better reflection of the book. We shall see.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell

*Beware of spoilers. There are many.

I had every intention of following along with the read-along posting schedule, but this month got away from me. I did finish the book and am finally linking up my thoughts (albeit a bit late). As an aside, I'm glad that I'm not the only person that thought this was a Civil War book. I didn't realize that it wasn't until this summer and I've had a copy of the book (purchased myself) on my shelf for a year and a half. I am officially a moron.

My enjoyment of this book was similar to an inverted bell curve. I really loved the beginning and ending, but the middle bits were draggy. I don't do well with dialect and the strike held little interest for me. I don't want to do a proper review as I'm not really thinking coherently enough (crappy head cold), but I'll just ramble until I'm tired.

Many mentioned this in their check-ins, but what was up with Margaret? I can't think of a more annoying protagonist (at the beginning at least). The proposals scenes were shocking. She seems so annoyed that they fell in love with her. Most girls would be flattered Margaret, not pissed. It's okay to say no, just don't be a total wench about it.

I hated Edith from the very beginning, but she was much worse at the end. I can't believe they were trying to keep her away from other suitors so they could try to force her into marrying Henry. He seemed like a nice enough guy, but that really sucks for her. Anytime Edith spoke to Margaret at the end, I wanted to slap her. She was so patronizing.

I loved Mr. Thornton. He reminded me a little of Mr. Darcy (personality-wise, obviously not of the same class). I'm so glad of how it worked out, but I kind of wish, like everyone else, that the ending wasn't so abrupt. I read some posts where it mentioned that they never saw Margaret fall in love with him and that it seemed sudden, but I thought it happened back at Milton after he helped Higgins. She started to fall in love with him after "the lie" and just felt like there was nothing she could do about it because she couldn't explain it to him to protect her brother. Did anyone else see it that way, or am I crazy?

Lastly, how can I not mention the cat incident? I would like to ask Ms. Gaskell where she came up with that because it was RANDOM. I was listening to the audio for that bit and had to do a little rewind and replay because I could not believe my ears. Seriously strange.

Overall, I was glad I read it. It doesn't fall into the favorite category, but I'll give Gaskell another go at some point. Maybe next year.

Thoughts on the Audiobook

This was my first. I'm now initiated (somewhat) into the ranks of the audiobook listener). I read the first three-quarters of the book and happened to find the audio CDs in my library. (Which is a crazy coincidence considering my library has a grand total of 20 audiobooks. Not a joke.) I brought it home happily so that I could try it out by listening to what I had left. But it didn't happen how I would have liked. I opened the case to see a note saying that discs 11-14 are missing. Uhh...what? Why are they still circulating these? Would you keep a book missing a quarter of the pages or even one page? So crazy, right? I'm the only person on the planet that it worked for, but I still had to read another 80 or so pages to get to the point where I could listen to disc 15.

I loved it. I don't have much experience with narrators, but I do know that I loved Juliet Stevenson. I was amazed at how well she did the different regional accents. It wasn't as difficult to listen to as I had imagined it would. Now I am all fired up to listen to more. Little Strangers is up next. I already have the discs on hold. I can't wait!