Book Review: We Have Always Lived in the Castle

 

Book Review of We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson | The 1000th Voice Blog

We Have Always Lived in the Castle
By Shirley Jackson

Have you ever read Shirley Jackson’s The Lottery? I haven’t, but in high school an oral interp team mate read it as her performance. I must have watched her performance a couple dozen times that season, and I was always fascinated by how creepy it was, how horrible the situation was and how it was just accepted as normal by the town’s residents. This is my first experience with Shirley Jackson since then. While I found this one creepy, it’s not on par with The Lottery. 

Quotables

Uncle Julian was, in my opinion, the most quotable.

“‘He is a bastard.’
‘Uncle Julian-‘
‘In a purely metaphorical sense, I assure you. Both my brothers married women of very strong will. That is merely a word used–among men, my dear, I apologize for submitting you to such a word–to categorize an undesirable fellow.'”

“‘He was a man very fond of his person,’ Uncle Julian said. ‘Given to adorning himself, and not overly clean.'”

Rating

Writing 3.5 out of 5 stars

Jackson has an interesting writing styling. This story wasn’t as compelling as The Lottery, but still good.

Character Development 4 out of 5 stars

The characters Jackson created in this story were very creepy and quite well developed. Merikat’s behavior kept me wondering through the entire story. Why did she behave the way she did? Mental illness? I don’t know for sure, but she was a well-developed character.

Plot Structure 3 out of 5 stars

This novella moved along at a nice pace with an interesting development towards the end.

Storytelling 4 out of 5 stars

There’s no doubt about it, Jackson is an interesting storyteller.

Total 3.625 stars

Have you read The Castle or any of Jackson’s other stories? What did you think?

Halloween 2013 The 1000th Voice Blog

Book Review: Rebecca

Book Review: Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier | The 1000th Voice Blog

Rebecca
By Daphne du Maurier

After completing my Weekly Reads post on Monday, I quickly got to work finishing Rebecca. It was over much quicker than expected. It was a bittersweet moment when I realized the last 30 or so pages were the Author’s Note. Of course, I excitedly read the Author’s Note, and, while I appreciated the ending of Rebecca, it was just over a quicker than planned.

Review

As I reflected on the book today, I also started the short We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson. It made me think about the length of a story and its depth. I’m not far enough into Castle to know if it’s too short or not deep enough, but I’ve definitely read books that were too short and some that were too long with writing that should have been cut to tell a better story. I don’t believe a single word should be cut from Rebecca. At almost 400 pages, I believe there’s still an economy of words that tells a thoroughly intriguing story. Without the extra bits, the story wouldn’t have the suspense or the creepiness it has.

With all that said, it probably goes without saying that I loved this book. But let me tell you more about my love. I was riveted; I wanted nothing more than to have a few spare minutes to read this book. A 12-hour round trip to my parent’s house this weekend provided plenty of time to read. One aspect of the book that kept my attention was the general iciness that lent a creepy air. I could just picture Mrs. Danvers’ and Mrs. de Winter’s confrontations with a sharp chill between the two.

Quotable

“Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again.” – Page 1

“A new confidence had been born in me when I burnt that page and scattered the fragments. The past would not exist for either of us, we were starting afresh, he and I.” – Page 61

“I had an uneasy feeling we might be asked to spend the approaching Christmas with Beatrice. Perhaps I could have influenza.” – Page 181

“Sometimes I wonder if she comes back here to Manderley and watches you and Mr. de Winter together.” – Page 176

Rating

Writing 5 out of 5 stars

As I said above, there wasn’t a word wasted in creating an icy atmosphere that also really fit the period.

Character Development 5 out of 5 stars

A character that grows, changes or shows his/her faults is a realistic character. du Maurier excellently developed her characters throughout the story.

Plot Structure 5 out of 5 stars

Starting at the end, the main portion of the book is a flashback to a matter of months in the narrator’s life. I always think that using this format is in and of itself interesting. The story also builds to a climax that’s relatively unexpected.

Storytelling 5 out of 5 stars

du Maurier proves herself to be an excellent storyteller with this book. The story itself is intriguing, but it’s also told in a fascinating way.

Total 5 out of 5 stars

Have you read Rebecca? What were your thoughts?

Halloween 2013 The 1000th Voice Blog

Book Review: Dracula

Dracula by Bram Stoker | Book Review by Brittany at The 1000th Voice

Dracula
By Bram Stoker


Although not the first vampire novel, Dracula is the most famous original, the one that really seems to have influenced a certain awe with vampires for nearly a century and a half. And as most of us know, vampire culture is huge in the US. I wouldn’t consider myself a huge fan of vamp culture, but I’ve definitely read some of the books and watched some of the TV shows and movies. I’ll admit right here that I’ve seen two of four Twilight movies, and I’ve already admitted in the past to reading all but the latest Sookie Stackhouse book.

Review

I really enjoyed this book. From the vampire story to the epistolary nature in which it’s told, I was riveted. In the beginning we’re told that the manner in which the story was accumulated will eventually be revealed, but before then, we’re treated to first person accounts of Count Dracula in Jonathan Harker’s journal, concerns about her loved ones and wishes for their future in Mina Harker’s journal, a few bits and pieces about her sleepwalking ordeal in Lucy Westenra’s journal and a few memorandums and notes from other characters. Eventually, the journals all focus on one thing: Count Dracula.

I found the themes of the book–the role of Victorian women in society, immigration and more–interesting as well. In regard to the role of women, that’s mostly addressed by the back and forth the group of men has with Mina. Will she be allowed to help or won’t she? At times, she seems to be emotionally stronger than the men, going so far as to continue to encourage them and support them as she’s dealing with her own issues. But, yet, the men still aren’t sure how much involvement she should have.

On the matter of immigration, I think Count Dracula sums it up quite well when he explains to Jonathan Harker why he’s taken years to perfect his English before moving:

“But a stranger in a strange land, he is no one. Men know him not, and to know not is to care not for.”

For a time, that almost makes me feel sorry for Dracula but only for a short time.

Quotable

There are so many good quotes in this book, so here are a few of my favorites.

“I am all in a sea of wonders. I doubt. I fear. I think strange things, which I dare not confess to my own soul.”

“The last I saw of Count Dracula was his kissing his hand to me, with a red light of triumph in his eyes, and with a smile that Judas in hell might be proud of.”

“Though sympathy can’t alter facts, it can make them more bearable.”

“He was a good fellow, but his rejoicing at the one little part in which he was officially interested, of so great a tragedy, was an object-lesson in the limitations of sympathetic understanding.”

“I know what sorrow you have had, though I cannot measure the depth of them.”

Rating

Writing 4 out of 5 stars

See my quotables section above. I found the writing in this story to be almost top notch.

Character Development 4 out of 5 stars

The epistolary approach allowed Stoker to more than adequately develop his main characters.

Plot Structure 3 out of 5 stars

The structure of the plot was good, but I felt it a little lacking. There were many times when I was a little confused at the passage of days and each characters’ activities.

Storytelling 4 out of 5 stars

Really this is a great story.

Total 3.75 out of 5 stars

Have you read Dracula? What did you think?

Halloween 2013 The 1000th Voice Blog

Book Review: We’ll Be the Last Ones to Let You Down

Book Review: We'll Be the Last Ones to Let You Down by Rachael Hanel | The 1000th Voice Blog

We’ll Be the Last Ones to Let You Down
By Rachael Hanel

The story of my life is bound up in the story of my parents, their life in the cemetery.

Described as macabre and lyrical, Rachael Hanel’s memoir is about life, death, cemeteries and her father’s unexpected and timely death.

When Rachael was young, her father Paul began a career as a gravedigger. While talking about her father she writes about how he’d grown up as one of 14 children. Her grandparents worked hard just to feed their children. College and eventual careers weren’t in the equation. While his siblings found jobs, Paul build a career. As Rachael put it:

A career brings enjoyment, is closely intertwined with identity; it’s who you are. It’s not easy to separate career and life, whereas job and life have clear deliniations.”

While he took his responsibility to the dead and their loved ones seriously, Paul’s sense of humor showed in his business’ tag line: We’ll be the last ones to let you down. Rachael recalls him putting that tag on tons of promotional items. As a marketer, that makes me very happy.

Once her dad embarked on his career, death and cemeteries became a part of him, his life and his family’s lives. After spending countless hours riding her bike through the cemetery as her parents worked, she became very fascinated with macabre books of all kinds–true crime, ghosts and the like. She spent hours finding books in the library and devouring them and asking her mom to tell and retell stories about the deaths of their county’s citizens.

Review

I thoroughly enjoyed this book. Writing a memoir is a popular thing right now. To be successful, the book has to be compelling and Hanel’s is–from her lifelong fascination with the macabre to her ability address the philosophical issues of death:

Some say we can’t see time, that it’s an invisible fourth dimension. But we can see its evidence–the gears of a clock, the swing of a pendulum, the aging of a face.

Rating

Writing 4 out of 5 stars

Storytelling 4 out of 5 stars

Cultural Impact 3 out of 5 stars

Total 3.67 stars

What’s your favorite macabre story?

Halloween 2013 The 1000th Voice Blog

Book Chat: 10.1.2013

It’s October! I’m very excited about the many great things this month has to offer: my 5th wedding anniversary, my birthday, Halloween, Practical Magic on TV, the Twin Cities Book Festival and my gothic horror/suspense/general creepy reads!

Halloween Reads at The 1000th Voice BlogI’m not a fan of today’s torture porn horror movies. There’s nothing appealing to me in the terror that is someone being tortured. So that’s why I gravitate towards creepy rather than all-out-terrifying. (And probably why Practical Magic is one of my favorite things about October!)

As you know, I’m already reading Dracula by Bram Stoker. Up next will be Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier and We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson.

I have some fun Dracula- and literature-related Halloween posts planned. I hope you join me!

Do you enjoy extremely terrifying books or movies? What’s your favorite gothic horror, suspense or just plain creepy read?

Check out my review of Frankenstein by Mary Shelley, Frankenstein costume ideas and some scary books to read from last year.

Weekly Reads | 9.16.2013

in which I share my planned reading for the week ahead

Have I mentioned before that I’m a slow reader? It’s definitely true with classics. The speech and writing patterns take me a bit longer than contemporary fiction to understand. But that doesn’t mean I don’t enjoy it. I absolutely enjoy reading classics and gaining a deeper understanding of the lives and thoughts of the time. That’s especially true with Dracula by Bram Stoker. In our current vampire-obsessed culture, it’s been great going back and reading the early years of vampire literature as we know it in its modern form.

On a more exciting note than the fact that I’m still reading the same book, I hit up my local Friends of the Library book sale this weekend. And I’m pretty sure I scored big.

Friends of the Library Score | The 1000th Voice blog

On top is The Corrections by Jonathan Franzen. Yes, you read that right. After Franzen revealed himself to be more of prick than people thought, I went out and bought his book. But the money went to a good cause (i.e. not Franzen’s pocket).  But I left the best for last here. The Lady and the Tycoona collection of the letters between Rose Wilder Lane and Jasper Crane. I am so excited to start digging through this!

Friends of the Library Score | The 1000th Voice blog

She Stoops to Conquer is a play by Oliver Goldsmith. The real winner here is that amazing cover.

Friends of the Library Score | The 1000th Voice blog

Finally, A Shakespeare Anthology is a nice little collection of pieces from Shakespeare’s many works.

I’m pretty sure I had a good day at the book sale, except that one of these cost $20 (and it wasn’t the Franzen).

What are you reading this week? What’s the best book you’ve ever scored at a garage sale, thrift store, Friends of the Library sale or really any other discount place?

**Linked up with Book Journey**

Book Review: The Onion Presents: Christmas Exposed

HumorousHolidaysBadge

Read Part 1 of my Humorous Holiday Season Book Reviews here

Well, here we are at the end of my two part series of humorous holiday book reviews, and we’re going out with a bang because part 2 is better than one!

The Onion Presents: Christmas Exposed is a collection of articles, infographics, and the like from the annals of The Onion’s many absurd satirical pieces of work. Because this is a collection of writings and graphics, I can’t review it in a typical way, so I wanted to share some of my favorite parts.

On page 30 and 31, The Onion writers shared some great Winterizing Tips:

Use phrases like “I love you” and “You are special to me” to create warm feelings in the home.

If flying above the Andes Mountains this winter, bring along plenty of extra Paraguayan soccer players.

In Out-of-Control Revelers Deck Shit Out of Area Halls (page 65), fictional Millicent Slopes had me rolling with laughter when she was quoted as saying, “Look at my halls. I can barely squeeze through there. Such was the force and vigor of their decking.”

Overall, this was a funny, quick read. Readers and lovers of The Onion will really enjoy this holiday collection. As always with The Onion, please keep in mind that it’s not real. 😉

Have you read The Onion Presents: Christmas Exposed? Have you read any other funny or good holiday books?