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The Touchstone tells the story of Stephen Glennard, who is in love with the beautiful but poor Alexa Tennant but who can’t afford to marry her. When confronted with the possibility of losing her to a lengthy trip in Europe with her aunt, and having come across a newspaper advertisement seeking the letters of the late author Margaret Aubyn, he resolves to publish her correspondence to him as a means of funding his marriage. But of course it isn’t that straightforward, as the reaction to the letters and his own feelings about what he has done to the memory of a woman who had loved him begin to intrude into his domestic bliss.
This is all about moral ambiguity, how we live with the consequences of the choices we have made, and how we might redeem ourselves. It is a powerful story, beautifully written, full of wonderfully quotable passages such as “there are times when the constancy of the woman one cannot marry is almost as trying as that of the woman one does not want to.”
This is a lovely edition, with a striking cover and an excellent foreword by Sally Vickers which is full of interesting insights, including the suggestion that Margaret Aubyn may have been based in part on George Eliot (with the implcation that Edith Wharton dd not like her).
I haven’t read as much Wharton as I should, though I’ve always been attracted by her work ever since reading The House of Mirth as a teenager. I will definitely read this novella again, and will probably pick up more.
This is my sixth and final read for the Novella Challenge.
I have to say right at the beginning that I really love stories about vampires. That’s not to say that I am uncritical; there are at least two series of vampire novels that I’ve stopped following because the the stories have become formulaic (I won’t mention any names…..). But it means that I’m always on the lookout for something interesting in the genre, and was thrilled to come across Let The Right One In by accident when browsing in a bookshop.
According to the blurb on the cover, Lindqvist has “reinvented the vampire novel” and there is “a whiff of the new Stephen King” so this was a no brainer for me. And I’m so glad that I picked it up, as it is a genuinely creepy and unsettling book which has been stuck in my head over the few days since I finished it.
We are in Sweden, a suburb of Stockholm to be exact, on a council estate. Oskar is 12 years old, being brought up by his mother alone and bullied at school. One night, while acting out a fantasy of revenge in the local play area, he meets Eli, a girl of indeterminate age, and they form a bond. She gives him the courage to face up to his problems, but it soon becomes clear that she isn’t what she seems; she is in fact a vampire who is at least 200 years old.
That’s the set-up, but there is so much more to this story. It’s incredibly bleak in places, a lot of the characters lead disappointedlives, the children are mainly from broken homes. However, the supernatural element blends in; Eli is a victim also, turned into a vampire when a child, not really understanding how it all works but knowing what she needs to do to survive. It’s incredibly gruesome in places (which I don’t mind) but also really affecting, and I found the end satisfying.
I’m not sure I’ve done this unusual story justice, but if you want something new in the vampire tradition then give this a try.
This is my third read for the RIP III challenge.
Weekly Geeks #6 was catch up on reviews week, but so many of you organized bloggers were caught up with reviews that you chose to catch up on other things. So I kept in mind that a catch-up week every now and then will probably be welcome. At this point, I’m very behind on several blog tasks, so I thought maybe you might be, too!
Catch up on….
…organizing your sidebar
…updating lists of some sort (I need to deal with my giveaways list!)
…making links wherever (challenge lists, monthly reading summaries, etc.)
…your TBR pile
…your library books
…updating your blogroll
…updating your reader
1. Decide what you need to catch up on.
2. Write a post if you feel like it, telling your readers what you intend to catch up on. If you do that, you can sign Mr Linky right away with the link to that specific post.
3. Catch up!
4. Write a post near the end of the week (Thursday or Friday) summarizing how your catch-up week went. If you didn’t sign Mr Linky with your intentions post, sign it with your summary post.
So what am I going to try to catch up on?
- book posts = a review of Rape: A Love Story plus a post on my intentions for the Fall Into Reading Challenge
- film posts = reviews of Fantasia 2000 and Michael Clayton on my other blog Bride of the Screen God
- challenges = finish reading my third novel for RIP III
- update my blogroll
And how did I do?
- book posts = Completed
- film posts = Completed
- challenges = Completed
- blogroll = Failed
So 3 out of 4 isn’t bad, I suppose. I will get that blogroll sorted out one day soon…….
So though I said I wasn’t going to get involved in any more challenges, I couldn’t resist this one as it is such a simple idea. I’ve been thinking quite carefully about what to set myself as goals, and I’ve come up with the following:
- to read the following books left over from RIP III challenge:
- Duma Key by Stephen King
- Something Wicked This Way Comes by Ray Bradbury
- Come Closer by Sara Gran
- Midwinter of the Spirit by Phil Rickman
- to finish Jigs and Reels by Joanne Harris which I started reading way back when?
- to finish The Mandlebaum Gate which I abandoned earlier this year, and kick-start my Muriel Spark readathon once again
- to read The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman as soon as I get my sticky paws on it
- to find enough books in addition to these, and make the time to read them, so that I hit my 52 books in 52 weeks goal
That looks like enough to get on with, I think!
Where to start with this one? A controversial title (I received some askance looks when reading this on my daily commute) perhaps, but as with all works by Joyce Carol Oates carefully chosen, not for shock value but to reflect what the nub of the story really is.
Rape is about Teena Maguire, a single mother, and her daughter Bethie, 12 years old, and the consequences of their short-cut through a local park late at night after a Fourth of July party. Teena is raped by a number of men who are high on drugs and alcohol, beaten and left for dead; Bethie is beaten but escapes, though she can hear from her hiding place what is happening to her mother.
The men’s families hire a lawyer who is able to get their charges reduced to assault by claiming that there was consent and the beating and so on must have been carried out by a different group of men who came along later; after all, no-one actually witnessed the rape. Some of the most difficult parts of the story are here, where the justice system seems to fail Teena and Bethie; the author has made it clear from the start that these men are guilty, there is no room for ambiguity or doubt, but Teena’s poor choice that night, her dress and her family circumstances are used against her. But there is one man who is determined to see justice done, and the latter part of the novella concentrates on how he achieves that; whether his actions are right or wrong is left to the reader to decide.
This is an incredibly powerful story, but not to everyone’s taste; I’m sure many will find it a difficult read. I have said elsewhere that I admire Joyce Carol Oates greatly, and a number of her novels deal with the undercurrent of violence in modern society and how it often erupts into the lives of otherwise ordinary families, and this is no exception. The events stay with Bethie into her adult life.
This is my fifth read for the Novella Challenge.
First things first – I loved this book. I read it slowly so that I could enjoy the experience for as long as possible and I’ve been mulling it over ever since, trying to work out exactly why Heart-Shaped Box is so good.
I think it’s basically such a wonderful idea – rock star buys ghost over the Internet and when the titular heart-shaped box containing a black suit arrives, he finds himself genuinely and creepily haunted. And it all goes downhill from there, as he and his current lady-friend try to find a way to rid themselves of this malicious presence.
It helps if you like the characters and I thought all of them were well-rounded, particularly Jude and Marybeth, and I found it was really easy to invest myself in their survival. I particularly loved the stuff about the dogs- I won’t say anymore as I’m sure I’m not actually the last person in the world to read this, although it feels like that sometimes.
It would be really easy to compare Joe Hill’s writing to that of his dad, who as everybody probably knows by now is the great Stephen King, but that comparison would be a bit unfair as Hill has his own distinctive voice. I’m really looking forward to reading more – I have Twentieth Century Ghosts tucked away somewhere for winter reading.
If you haven’t read this you should really give it a try. Great stuff.
This is my second read for the RIP III Challenge.
I started to write this post in July and promptly forgot all about it while I dithered over the book pool for this challenge – but never mind, got there in the end!
So I’ve already mentioned elsewhere that I signed up for this challenge, which I have to say I’m really looking forward to as I have been fascinated by Canada and things Canadian since I was quite young; I’ve no idea why, but there you are. Some of my favourite bands are Canadian (Rush, Barenaked Ladies) and I’ve read quite a few authors, most of whom will be represented on my reading list.
The challenge is – starting (well, started) July 1st, 2008 and running to July 1st, 2009 – to read (and write about) 13 Canadian books (by Canadians and/or about Canadians).
I’ve been pondering my booklist, and have come up with the following:
1. A Celibate Season by Carol Shields and Blanche Howard
2. Pilgrim by Timothy Findley
3. Garbo Laughs by Elizabeth Hay
4. The Onion Girl by Charles de Lint
5. Moral Disorder by Margaret Atwood
6. For Your Eye Alone: The Letters of Robertson Davies
7. The Glenn Gould Reader
8. After Edgar by Joan Barfoot
9. The Diviners by Margaret Laurence
10. Runaway by Alice Munro
11. Neuromancer by William Gibson
12. Hey Nostradamus by Douglas Coupland
13. Strange Things by Margaret Atwood
These are all books that were kicking around the house, it was just a question of gathering them up. Now all I have to do is start to read!
The Terror is my first Dan Simmons novel, and I have to say that I’m really very impressed. I wasn’t at all sure what to expect, but found the story really gripping and I read what is a fairly chunky book (at over 750 pages) in pretty quick time for me.
So this is based on the true story of Sir John Franklin’s expedition to find the North West Passage in the 1840s, an attempt that failed with the apparent loss of the crews of the two ships involved, The Erebus and The Terror. Over the years it has become clear that the ships had become stuck in the ice and that the men succumbed to scurvy, starvation, botulism and lead poisoning, the latter from the poorly soldered cans in which much of their food was provided. Dan Simmons builds all this into his tale, but adds a little something extra – what if there was also something out on the ice stalking the men, picking them off, something not natural….?
I couldn’t tear myself away from this, picking it up at every spare moment to find out what was going to happen next. The story is told from the viewpoints of several of the main characters, almost all based on real crew members; this works really well. There is a real sense of foreboding in the novel and the sensation that even the widest of wide-open spaces can be oppressive when you can’t get away. I even enjoyed all the detail about ship-board life, the difference between whaleboats and pinnaces, and I now know much more about the effects of scurvy than I probably wanted to! I also know a little bit more about Inuit mythology than I did before. I found the resolution satisfying, and the mixture of historical fiction and horror worked well, so recommended.
This is my first read for the RIP III challenge.
An Incomplete Revenge is the fifth Maisie Dobbs mystery, and maintains the high quality of the series. It is 1931 and Maisie is asked by the son of her former employers to investigate the circumstances around a series of petty thefts and fires in a Kent village where he is intending to buy a brick works. With the help of her assistant who is in the area hop-picking with his family she uncovers the circumstances surrounding a Zeppelin raid in 1916 which has cast a shadow over the community.
I really enjoyed this, as I always do with the Maisie Dobbs stories as I find her such a sympathetic figure. I could see where the story was generally heading, but not the detail around it; this is the second crime novel in recent weeks where that has happened (perhaps I’m reading too many of them) but I don’t mind that really, as long as the novel is well-written and I have an interest in the characters.
I found descriptions of the travelling people (or Romany or gypsies) fascinating, and what we learn about Maisie through her interaction with them really develops her as a character; it is interesting to see how little has changed really in terms of the suspicion and prejudice these people come across wherever they go.
If you haven’t read any of these novels before I wouldn’t start with this one as there is an arc story in the background which reaches a partial conclusion here; they are so lightly written (in a good way) with a lot of compassion and humanity that I would recommend reading the the whole series from the start.
I was looking through books yesterday at the shops and saw all the Twilight books, which I know basically nothing about. What I do know is that I’m beginning to feel like I’m the *only* person who knows nothing about them.
Despite being almost broke and trying to save money, I almost bought the expensive book (Australian book prices are often completely nutty) just because I felt the need to be ‘up’ on what everyone else was reading.
Have you ever felt pressured to read something because ‘everyone else’ was reading it? Have you ever given in and read the book(s) in question or do you resist? If you are a reviewer, etc, do you feel it’s your duty to keep up on current trends?
Well….. I’m often tempted as I don’t like to feel I’m missing something, but this usually manifests itself by buying the book in question, putting it away somewhere and not reading it until ages after everyone else. The only time I gave in was with The Da Vinci Code and I so wish I hadn’t.
Despite my love of all things vampire I haven’t tried any of the Twilight books yet…….