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:

The Solace of Open Spaces by Gretel Ehrlich

Into Thin Air by Jon Krakauer

Into the Wild by Jon Krakauer

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 Ms. 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.

Thoughts

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.

Rating

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.

Thoughts

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.
via

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.

Rating

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?

A Review of Jennifer McMahon’s The Winter People

Halloween 2013 The 1000th Voice Blog

Today kicks off two weeks of reviews of gothic horror, suspense and otherwise creepy reads for my Halloween 2014 series.

The Winter People
By Jennifer McMahon

As I’ve mentioned before, I’m not a fan of horror fiction that tends towards torture porn. Being extremely terrified just isn’t something I enjoy. Instead, I gravitate more towards gothic horror or suspenseful or generally creepy books. Finding these books has been somewhat difficult. That is, until I looked up Susan Hill’s The Woman in Black on my library’s website and found the recommendations section. Jennifer McMahon’s The Winter People was recommended because:

In the best of the gothic tradition, these shivery ghost stories feature creepy locations, dark family secrets, and mysteries that are better left unsolved. Both novels are literary with an oppressive atmosphere and a slowly building sense of dread.

A literary ghost story with a general or slowly building sense of dread is an excellent description of the type of book I’m looking for each Halloween!

Review

In this classic, creepy ghost story, McMahon creates a sense of dread in a realistic New England setting. Using the small, remote town of West Hall, Vermont, McMahon winds a tail that begins in the early 1900s and continues into present day as a young woman digs into her parents’ past and learns of their dark secrets and those of her town.

The Winter People really had the perfect amount of scary parts to fit what I was looking for. An historic farm house serves as the setting for a large portion of the story, from the early 1900s to the present day.

Rating

Writing 5 out of 5 stars

McMahon uses clear, concise language to weave her tale.

Character Development  5 out of 5 stars

As the story progresses, McMahon develops her characters into realistic people with their own unique personalities.

Plot Structure 5 out of 5 stars

McMahon moves the plot forward at a comfortable pace, allowing the reader to settle in and enjoy her writing.

Storytelling 5 out of 5 stars

McMahon successfully mixed two story lines together to create one rich story.

Total 5 out of 5 stars

Have you read The Winter People? What did you think?

Weekly Reads: 10.6.14

Today, I’m halfway through my second Halloween reads bookmaybe. I’m reading

The Little Strangers by Sarah Waters

The Little Stranger

By Sarah Waters

It came up as a recommendation on my library’s website as I was looking at Susan Hill’s Woman in Black.  The book is great so far. There’s a slight hint of madness and possible haunting, but I’m not sure it fits the bill for a Halloween read yet.

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?

**Linked up with Book Journey**

A Little Announcement

If you haven’t noticed, it’s been quite dark around here lately and for good reason.

Claire & ChristianChristian was born September 7th. We’re all very happy and in love, but so very tired. I’ve hardly read a page since September 6th.

Next week I’ll begin my 2014 Halloween Reads series. I have a number of creepy, gothic books on tap. Now, I just need to get to reading them!

I hope you have a wonderful weekend and a chance to get out to see the fall colors (depending on where you live)!

 

What I’m Into | 8.2014

Well, August sure seemed to fly by. We visited the Renaissance Fair for the first time and had a blast. Lots of fun things filled the month, including these books and shows.

Read & Reading

The Winter People by Jennifer McMahon

My commute was made far less annoying by listening to The Magician’s Assistant by Ann Patchett and Our Lady of the Forest by David Guterson. August, or rather just Labor Day weekend, provided some good reading for me. I finished No More Words by Reeve Lindbergh, Little Earthquakes by Jennifer Weiner, The Anne Frank House Authorized Graphical Biography by Sid Jacobson and The Winter People by Jennifer McMahon. All of them were quite good!The Anne Frank House Authorized Graphic Biography

Watched & Watching

Bachelor in Paradisethe drama is just too much fun.

ManhattanThis is well-scripted, produced and cast. It’s amazing. It airs on WGN.

MarriedI really like Judy Greer, and I’m happy to see her in a starring role. Dark and funny!

Saving for Later

 

via

This recipe for Italian Pot Roast & Parmesan Risotto looks amazing!

I’ve pinned a lot of navy blue and gray pieces and outfits to my Fashion board for fall. Various additional items in those colors will really fit into my current closet.

What were you into this month?

**Linking up with Leigh Kramer**