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?

Witty & Engaging: A Review of Nancy Mitford’s The Pursuit of Love

Happening upon Nancy Mitford was, for me, a happy little surprise. I’d read that one of her books, a Christmas one, was recommended by Flavorwire. My library didn’t have that one, but it did have

The Pursuit of Love by Nancy Mitford | A Review by The 1000th Voice

The Pursuit of Love
By Nancy Mitford

Review

I’m absolutely in love with Mitford’s sentences. Some of them are concise, some possess hidden barbs and others are complex and fascinating.

Louisa was to have two houses, one in London, Connaught Square, and one in Scotland. Her dress allowance would be three hundred a year, she would possess a diamond tiara, a pearl necklace, a motor-car of her own and a fur cape. In fact granted that she could bear John Fort William, her lot was an enviable one. He was terribly dull.

The pursuit of love in this book is both romantic and familial. It’s Linda’s (the narrator’s cousin), it’s the Bolter’s (the narrator’s mom) and it’s really each character’s pursuit. Linda wanted so badly not to become just like the Bolter. But upon leaving her second husband and taking up with a French Duke she‘d only just met, she confirmed to the reader, Fanny and her family that she was just the same. She was going to be a problem.

Alfred likes people to be filed neatly away under some heading that he can understand; careerist, social climber, virtuous wife and mother, or adulteress.

The Pursuit of Love was witty, smart and surprising. It was, ultimately, a wonderful book. In fact, a near perfect book.

Rating

Writing 5 out of 5 stars

As I said, I loved Mitford’s sentences. They were a thing of beauty.

Character Development 5 out of 5 stars

The story had an interesting structure where the  narrator was telling her cousin’s story while weaving in her own and the rest of her family’s. In that way, Mitford was able to craft well-developed characters

Storytelling 5 out of 5 stars

Mitford’s story was fascinating, humorous and ultimately very entertaining.

Total 5 out of 5 stars 

Have you read any of Mitford’s work? What did you think?

The Most Weirdly Wonderful Book I’ve Ever Read: A Review of Murakami’s The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle

“Oh, so, you’re reading Murakami?” my brother commented, motioning to the book on the end table in my family room. I knew he’d read some Murakami—or I assumed so because they were on his bookshelf and you know I’ve read everything on my bookshelves.

“Yeah,” I said. “I just started. I’m just on page 20 or so and it’s kind of weird.”

Hmmumm,” my brother said in a way that foretold the rest of the book. I didn’t know how weird it would get. But he did.

The Most Weirdly Wonderful Book I’ve Ever Read: A Review of Murakami’s The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle | The 1000th Voice

The Wing-Up Bird Chronicle
By Haruki Murakami

Review

The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle was the most weirdly wonderful novel I’ve ever read. It’s weirdness is interesting in it’s almost run-of-the-mill way. Not to say that every book is as weird as this is, but the novel itself is almost a completely normal book but then there are these really weird parts of it.

The Most Weirdly Wonderful Book I’ve Ever Read: A Review of Murakami’s The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle | The 1000th Voice blo

At once the story seems mundane, but there was always an undercurrent of oddity that makes the mundane almost a lie. In this book, Murakami was able to pull off an impressive feat—taking the simple and making it complex, the mundane and making it bizarre.

The Most Weirdly Wonderful Book I’ve Ever Read: A Review of Murakami’s The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle | The 1000th Voice

Murakami’s success in this book can definitely be attributed to two things: 1) a rich imagination and 2) excellent writing. In the beginning when I wasn’t sure I wanted to continue reading the book, the excellent writing kept me going.

Rating

Writing 5 out of 5 stars

Murakami’s writing is richly imaginative, detailed and complex. It’s simply wonderful.

Character Development 5 out of 5 stars

Only one character, Toru Okada, was really well developed in this story, but as the story progressed, the minor characters began to take on a lot of depth and complications.

Plot Structure 5 out of 5 stars

The plot of this story was one of the seemingly normal things, but it wasn’t normal. Toru was doing and experiencing a lot of unusual things and these experiences contributed to an odd plot. But the plot moved on at a good, smooth pace.

Storytelling 5 out of 5 stars

The story Murakami told here was just amazing, and he has quite a way about storytelling.

Total 5 out of 5 stars

After finishing this book, I wondered how I’d waited so long to read any piece of Murakami’s work. In fact, I almost wondered if the previous 28 years of my life were in some way a lie just because I hadn’t read this book. Have you read it? What were your thoughts? Have you read any other book that caught you as completely off guard as this one did for me?

Sensitivities: rape (briefly depicted), prostitution (briefly mentioned), brief sexual activity, gruesome torture (detailed) and murder (referenced)
A new feature I’m adding to book reviews is a sensitivity warning. I may enjoy the book and recommend it, but there could be some things that could be bothersome to others.

Twitterature | 1.2014

Modern Mrs. Darcy’s Twitterature is her fun way to share quick little
reviews of books read recently. I hope you enjoy these.

The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle by Haruki Murakami | Twitterature | Brief Book Reviews at The 1000th Voice blog

The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle
By Haruki Murakami

Weird,  wonderful & magical. Beautiful prose & unusual characters move the story along.

Brother, I'm Dying by Edwidge Danticat | Twitterature | Brief Book Reviews at The 1000th Voice blog

Brother, I’m Dying (audiobook)
By Edwidge Danticat
Read By Robin Miles

Oh, wow! Just finished listening to this.  My life will never be the same.

Groundswell by Charlene Li | Twitterature | Brief Book Reviews at The 1000th Voice blog

Groundswell
By Charlene Li

Informative. Set the foundation for an understanding of social media marketing.

Have you read any other these books? What were your thoughts?

Book Review: Peace Like a River

Happy New Year! I want to share this book review with you before another 2013 recap post on Friday. This was one of my three favorite reads this year!

Years ago my senior English teacher returned to South Dakota from Minnesota after getting her Master’s degree at St. Scholastica in Duluth raving about this book she’d read. She repeatedly recommended it to me. I somehow put it off for years; until I was sifting through books in Goodwill and saw it: Peace Like a River by Leif Enger.

Peace Like a River by Leif Enger | Book Review by The 1000th Voice

Peace Like a River
By Leif Enger

Review

I can sum up my thoughts about this book in one word: Beautiful. The story is beautiful; the writing is beautiful (the imagery! the characters!). It truly is a wonderful book that I’m ashamed to admit I waited so long to read.

As the book followed Reuben’s family on a quest led by patriarch Jeremiah Land, I was struck by how magical but ordinary everything was. I definitely didn’t grow up in North Dakota in the 60s, but the happenings of the book are almost mundane. Until we get to the miracles that Reuben documents. Then we’re transported into a land of magical realism, and it’s a wonderful land.

A reviewer on Goodreads implies that the reader must have faith in God to believe the miracles in this story (or to not have trouble accepting them), but I strongly disagree. Suspension of disbelief is all that it requires, a willingness to let the story tell itself, to be entertained but not to question things as one would in real life. Coined in 1817 by Samuel Taylor Coleridge, suspension of disbelief suggests “that if a writer could infuse a human interest and a semblance of truth the reader would suspend judgment” about the plausibility of the tale (Wikipedia). As magical realism, elements of magic, miracles, etc. are a natural part of an otherwise normal world. Additionally, in our contemporary literary world soaked in dystopian fiction, a little magical realism or a miracle here and there should be believable.

Quotable

“Fair is whatever God wants to do.”

“Real miracles bother people, like strange sudden pains unknown in medical literature. It’s true: They rebut every rule all we good citizens take comfort in. Lazarus obeying orders and climbing up out of the grave – now there’s a miracle, and you can bet it upset a lot of folks who were standing around at the time. When a person dies, the earth is generally unwilling to cough him back up. A miracle contradicts the will of the earth.”

Rating

Writing 5 out of 5 stars

In his Goodreads author profile, Enger’s writing is described as “a smooth mix of romanticism and gritty reality, recalling the Old West’s greatest cowboy stories.” I couldn’t sum it up any better.

Character Development 5 out of 5 stars

The characters were very well written in this story as well. They all seemed very normal but went through transformations that could be considered magical or at least stretched reality in interesting ways.

Plot Structure 5 out of 5 stars

The pace of the story and its progression to the end was all very logical—a nice contrast to the magical/spiritual elements.

Storytelling 5 out of 5 stars

Overall, the story was amazing. I wouldn’t have changed a thing about the way Enger told the story.

Total 5 out of 5 stars

Have you read Peace Like a River? What did you think? Also, what are your thoughts on suspension of disbelief?

Book Review: Beautiful Ruins

Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walter | Book Review by The 1000th Voice

Beautiful Ruins
By Jess Walter

So, I picked up this book to read for a book club that I wasn’t actually able to attend, but that’s OK, because this book was amazing. I read at least half of the book before realizing I’d read a Jess Walter book before. Every Knee Shall Bow was also a good book, but as a nonfiction book about an overly religious family who were targeted by the FBI, it’s vastly different.

Rating

Don’t let the chick-lit like cover of this book fool you. This is a serious, modern literary work. And I enjoyed every minute of it.

Life is a blatant act of imagination. (page 13)

Not that there’s anything wrong with some nice fluffy chick lit, but this book provides a nice, layered story line that kept me interested from page one.

We live in a world of banal miracles. (page 30)

Without even knowing it, this book continued a recent trend for me (one that I’ve really enjoyed). This story features multiple narrators in different times. Different times here isn’t the key. I LOVE multiple narrators. I don’t know if it’s the varied perspective or some other aspect, but this just works for me.

Review

Writing 5 out of 5 stars

Walters writing is detailed and strong.

Character Development 4 out of 5 stars

While I love a varied perspective, it does require jumping around and missing some of the development of characters.

Plot Structure 5 out of 5 stars

Again, I love a good varied perspective story that advances the plot in its own asynchronous way.

Storytelling 4.5 out of 5 stars

It’s a lovely, fascinating story that really kept my attention.

Total  4.625 out of 5 stars

Have you read Beautiful Ruins? Did you enjoy it

Twitterature: December 2013 Edition

Modern Mrs. Darcy’s Twitterature is her fun way to share quick little
reviews of books read recently. I hope you enjoy these.

The Accidental Creative
By Todd Henr
y

Inspiration strikes those who are prepared. Read, observe & be creative.

The Buddha in the Attic
By Julie Otsuka

The common shared experiences of Japanese picture brides. #heartbreaking

Alice I Have Been
By Melanie Benjamin

A childhood secret almost/sort of ruins young Alice’s life. The somewhat fictional story of the Alice.

The Accidental Creative | The Buddha in the Attic | Alice I Have Been