Books & Such | October

I’ve been MIA. There’s no way around that. As you know, life can easily get in the way, even if it’s things we love. But after a while I really felt something was missing. I’ve hardly read, and I definitely haven’t done any personal writing. I’ve thought long and hard about this space. I’ve considered stopping blogging. (For all intents and purposes, I’m sure it’s seemed like I’ve stopped.) But at the end of the day, I’ve always concluded that, while I’m not certain what I want to do here, I know I want to be here. So here I am…

Over the next month or so, I plan to spend some time thinking through my goals – for my life and this blog. Then spend some more time determining what I’ll post about here.

In the meantime, I wanted to just chat about some book-related things.

Mission: Book Buying Binge 2.0

Over the last couple of months I’ve gone on a massive book buying binge. It started over the summer with books from a few random places and has continued through September with a large haul from my local Friends of the Library sale.

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Bird statue will not look you in the eye!

Books from misc. sources (from the top): Dust Tracks on a Road by Zora Neale Hurston; How to Be Alone by Jonathan Franzen; The Tools by Phil Stutz and Barry Michels; Guns, Germs and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies by Jared Diamond; The Last Kind Words by Tom Piccirilli; The Price of Civilization: Reawakening American Virtue and Prosperity by Jeffrey D. Sachs; Roger Williams and the Creation of the American Soul: Church, State and the Birth of Liberty by John M. Barry and Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth by Reza Aslan

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Oh, so happy with these new kids’ books!

Kids’ books from various places (from the top): A Wind in the Door by Madeleine L’Engle, The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, Nim’s Island by Wendy Orr, Pinocchio by Carlo Collodi, Peter Pan, Little Women by Louisa May Alcott, The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett and The Story of Jonah

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Put a purple pumpkin on it!

From my $5 bag at the library book sale (from the top): May Your Days be Merry a Bright: Christmas Stories by Women, Food Rules: An Eater’s Manual by Michael Pollan, Checklist for Life for Moms, Accordion Crimes by E. Annie Proulx, Let the Great World Spin by Colum McCann, The Color of Water: A Black Man’s Tribute to His White Mother by James McBride, Animal Dreams by Barbara Kingsolver, The Bean Trees by Barbara Kingsolver, A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius by Dave Eggers, The Midwest, Caleb’s Crossing by Geraldine Brooks, To America: Personal Reflections of an Historian by Stephen E. Ambrose and 2013 Writer’s Market

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A little easel love for this lovely book for the lovely Claire!

Butterflies in the Garden
by Carol Lerner

Checked Out & Checking Out

Now, to books I’m only borrowing.

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Touched by the fall berry bush!

From the top: Fingersmith by Sarah Waters, The Vanishing by Wendy Webb, Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs and Rooms by Lauren Oliver


Through the Woods by Emily Carroll

Just a straight-up beautiful cover!

Through the Woods by Emily Carroll

I’m reading The Vanishing first. It’s a great book that seems to be resetting my reading rut. I’m not certain what I’ll read next, but, based on cover alone, it might have to be Through the Woods. 

What books have you bought recently? What are you currently reading?

An Outdoorsy Book List

Well, National Great Outdoors Month is over. I spent my free time last month outdoors (where else) and reading (trying to find spare moments).

I’ve decided that maybe the entire summer should be devoted to celebrating the wonders of the great outdoors. Here, then, are my favorite outdoorsy books:

John Krakauer, Gretel Ehrlich, Into Thin Air, Into the Wild, The Solace of Open Spaces

Into Thin Air by Jon Krakauer

The Solace of Open Spaces by Gretel Ehrlich

Into the Wild by Jon Krakauer

My Side of the Mountain by Jean Craighead George and Hatchet buy Gary Paulson

My Side of the Mountain by Jean Craighead George

Hatchet by Gary Paulsen

They run the gamut from young adult to adult, fiction to nonfiction. I hope you enjoy them!

Have you read any of these books? What did you think? Do you have book recs about or featuring the great outdoors?

Weekly Reads: 6.1.15

Oh, goodness! It’s like I forgot the password to login here!

I can honestly say that life has gotten the better of me these past few months. But, let’s not dwell because I’m here today.

June is National Great Outdoors Month. In honor of that, I’m finally reading Wild by Cheryl Strayed. Like, finally. It’s been on my to read list for quite some time. I suppose I was just waiting for the perfect time to pull it out.

I have a few fun posts planned this month to connect reading to the great outdoors. I hope you’ll return and join me!

What are you reading this week?

Joan: A Statement on Her Legacy

As 2014 ended, one couldn’t shake a stick without hitting at least a couple annual recaps in the media. (If one is in the habit of shaking sticks.) Every one of these included a list of celebrities lost. I’ve already shared my thoughts on one celebrity – Robin Williams. But I’ve lately pondered the legacy of another: Joan Rivers.

I feel I should begin by stating that I wasn’t a fan. While mean isn’t the most appropriate term to describe her comedy in my opinion, without getting wordy it’s the best I can do. I say that not to attempt to distance myself from Rivers in case others who dislike her read this. I share that fact only to further clarify my next statements.

In my mind, more than her comedy, her lasting legacy will be her determination, dedication and good old-fashioned hard work. It would be tough to deny these things.

Not only that her career began when it did at a time when just women weren’t allowed to be what she became,  but also because she carved out her own life and career and seemed to be who
she wanted to be despite active discouragement.

Joan’s life, her work ethic – these are the lasting and most inspiring pieces of her legacy.

Fantastically Realistic: Thoughts on Shirley Jackson’s The Haunting of Hill House

Welcome back to my third Halloween-themed post!

The Haunting of Hill House
By Shirley Jackson

Until last October, my only experience with Shirley Jackson had been listening to The Lottery what felt like a few dozen times in high school. While enjoyable, it wasn’t the same as experiencing her first hand, so I selected We Have Always Lived in the Castle as part of last year’s Halloween series. (Read my review here.) After a positive experience last year, I chose The Haunting of Hill House this year.


No live organism can continue for long to exist sanely under conditions of absolute reality; even larks and katydids are supposed, by some, to dream. Hill House, not sane, stood my itself against its hills, holding darkness within; it had stood so for eighty years and might stand for eighty more. Within, walls continued upright, bricks met neatly, floors were firm, and doors were sensibly shut; silence lay steadily against the wood and stone of Hill House, and whatever walked there, walked alone.

With The Haunting of Hill House, Jackson brought her patented almost-normal-but-still-not-quite-right characters in a realistic setting with paranormal or occult occurrences and influences. Like We Have Always Lived in the Castle’s Merricat Blackwood, Eleanor Vance, who would become a very short-term resident of Hill House, exhibits stunted emotions and thought processes and a paranoid affect. We experience some of her disturbing and insecure inner monologue, which still doesn’t even foreshadow how the book would end.

Perhaps it has us now, this house, perhaps it will not let us go.

Overall, I found The Haunting of Hill House to be an excellent Halloween read. Like my other top-choice Halloween reads, this book isn’t terrifying, but it presents just enough suspense and just enough of the paranormal that it kept my interest and maintained a gradually building sense of dread.


Writing 4 out of 5 stars

I love Jackson’s complex sentences and how she successfully pairs them with simple sentences that pack a strong punch. Overall, though, while technically strong, there were parts of her writing and the story that didn’t quite click for me.

Character Development  5 out of 5 stars

Despite the brief week they spent together, Jackson’s characters developed a unique relationship. Their unusual dialogue added to the overall impact of the book—it almost seemed that as a reader I was somehow a member of the group in Hill House due to an initiation of sorts with the dialogue.

Plot Structure 5 out of 5 stars

While the book only spanned one week of time, it seemed that the group had been at Hill House for much longer—quite possibly what Jackson wanted the reader to feel. The plot was well structured; however, it seemed to squeeze the main action points too close to the end of the book. They almost felt rushed.

Storytelling 4 out of 5 stars

Again, Jackson tells a fantastic, suspenseful tale using her trademark realistic setting, slightly offbeat if not cognitively and emotionally stunted characters.

Total  4.5 out of 5 stars

Have you read The Haunting of Hill House? What did you think?

Weekly Reads: 10.27.14

It’s Halloween week, and I’m reading

The Haunting of Hill House

The Haunting of Hill House
By Shirley Jackson

Last year I read and enjoyed Jackson’s We Have Always Lived in the CastleI was excited to check one more of Jackson’s uniquely unusual books off my to read list this year. I’m halfway through (hoping to finish by Thursday), and so far it’s holding up to my expectations. I’m quite excited to finish and share my thoughts with you!

If you’re interested in my thoughts as I read the book, check out my new Tumblr Totally Contains Spoilers.

What are you reading this week? I hope you have a great reading week!

**Linked up with Book Journey**

Richly Suspenseful: Thoughts on Sarah Waters’ The Little Stranger

Welcome back to my second Halloween-themed post!

Halloween 2013 The 1000th Voice Blog

With her new book The Paying Guests receiving acclaim by reviewers, it seemed fortuitous that I had just picked up one of Sarah Waters’ previous books to feature in my Halloween series. Like The Winter People by Jennifer McMahon, I discovered The Little Stranger using my library’s new-to-me online recommendation feature. Again, like The Winter People, it was recommended to me because of my interest in The Woman in Black by Susan Hill.

In elegant, mannered prose, the narrators of these psychologically suspenseful ghost stories describe their encounters with possible supernatural phenomena at declining English country estates. Both leisurely paced yet intricately plotted novels boast an atmospheric historical setting imbued with menace.

The Little Stranger by Sarah Waters: A Review at The 1000th Voice

The Little Stranger
By Sarah Waters

In Waters’ The Little Stranger, British country doctor Faraday recounts the downfall of the Ayres family and Hundreds Hall in the years between the wars.


As I read The Little Stranger, I wasn’t sure if it would fit the bill for a Halloween read, but about halfway through, I determined that it fit the type of suspenseful gothic novels I enjoy reading, particularly this time of year.

George & Amal's country manor

George Clooney and Amal Alamuddin purchased this 17th-century English manor shortly after their wedding.

An English country estate may be one of the most romantic places in the world, but it’s certainly also one of the creepiest. Waters has skillfully created the setting at Hundreds Hall and the surrounding country side between the great wars. England, along with its young men and their families, are still trying to recover or just trying to survive in the new world created in those years leading up to WWII.

And somehow the loss of her made me want her, plainly and physically, more than the nearness of her had done: I stepped to the door and stood against it, frustrated, willing her to return.

I found this novel hard to put down. If it weren’t, there’s no way I would have finished it with a newborn at home. The pacing of the story and the writing are so superb I just craved the next sentence and the next little turn in the book. The richly detailed Hundreds Hall, which served as the main setting, was so realistic I felt as if I were walking down its dark, dusty halls and into its stale, closed-off rooms.

In any other setting, such a story would have struck me as farcical. But the Hall, by now, had a disconcertingly palpable air of stress and tension: the women in it were tired and nervous, and I could see that Mrs. Bazely’s fear, at least, was very real. When she’d finished speaking, I left her side, and went across the kitchen to look at the speaking-tube myself. Lifting the tea-cloth I found a bland ivory cup and whistle, fixed to the wall at head height on a shallow wooden mount. A less sinister looking thing it would have been hard to imagine—and yet, when I thought of the disquiet it had managed to inspire, the very quaintness of the object before me began to seem slightly grotesque. I was reminded uneasily of Roderick. I remembered those ‘ordinary things’—the collar, the cufflinks, the shaving mirror—which had seemed, in his delusion, to come to crafty, malevolent life.


Writing 5 out of 5 stars

Waters is known for writing richly detailed stories, and this is no exception. The setting is realistic and the suspense builds palpably.

Character Development  5 out of 5 stars

Narrators are generally not considered reliable, but, in using Faraday to tell the entire story, Waters developed a number of strong characters.

Plot Structure 5 out of 5 stars

Waters has written a measured, successfully-plotted story.

Storytelling 5 out of 5 stars

With a general sense of suspense and dread building throughout, Waters has told a very successful story with The Little Stranger. 

Total 5 out of 5 stars

I enthusiastically endorse reading The Little Stranger no matter what time of year it is!

Have you read any of Waters’ novels? What did you think?