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review 2017-10-17 20:13
We Have Always Lived in the Castle ★★★★☆
We Have Always Lived in the Castle - Shirley Jackson,Bernadette Dunne

Shirley Jackson is so good at taking us inside the heads of characters who really don’t fully understand how disturbed they are, and neither do we, until we do. And that a-ha moment, when clarity hits. This story leaves me with even more questions about what is real or not and fascinated with the dynamics between individual characters, their family unit, and between them and the townsfolk. And maybe it’s because I was reading Carpe Jugulum at the same time, I couldn’t help thinking of

those final scenes in terms of classic stories of villagers becoming a howling mob with torches and pitchforks to storm the castle where the monster lives. Or maybe that was intentional on the author's part. The girls in their isolation in that big old house with their almost mythic backstory of murder really kind of fit the monster in the castle and angry, frightened villagers, don't they?

(spoiler show)

 

Audiobook via Audible. Bernadette Dunn’s performance is as outstanding as it was for The Haunting of Hill House.

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review 2017-10-17 19:38
Carpe Jugulum ★★★★★
Carpe Jugulum - Terry Pratchett

I can’t believe I just finished the last Discworld book in the Witches series. Dammit, why isn’t there more?!? Wait, I think there’s still a couple in the Tiffany Aching stories I haven’t read yet, maybe those count?

 

It didn’t take me long to progress through the first three of the five stages of grief. I may never reach Acceptance, though, because I am really going to miss Granny and Nanny Ogg and Magrat and Agnes/Perdita. Mostly Granny, though. I sure hope she makes some cameo appearances in the other books I haven’t read yet.

 

Carpe Jugulum was fun. So much fun that I mostly blew off watching the ALCS and stayed up waaaay past my bedtime during the work week to finish.

 

Previous Updates:

10/15/17 10/394pg 

10/17/17 337/394pg

 

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review 2017-10-17 04:03
Beneath a Scarlet Sky
Beneath a Scarlet Sky: A Novel - Mark T. Sullivan

5 stars for story

4 stars for narration

4.5 stars overall

 

I loved this. It's easily the best thing that has come out of Amazon Kindle First ever, and I'm so glad I picked it up. 

 

This is a "novel" only because the author wasn't able to verify all the facts of the story that Pino Lella told him about his time in Italy during the last two years of the war. As it explains in the foreword, a lot of documents were "lost" after the war, and many people who lived through it chose not to talk about it and simply let it fade into history. Being unable to 100% verify every detail, the author decided to call it a novel, but it is a biography. 

 

As such, I can't really critique this the same way I normally would any other story. These are real people and real events. There's no ultimate struggle of good vs evil (well, there is but as we all know, humans are complicated and things aren't always so black and white) and there are no tropes to rely on or subvert. This is just what happened, and it's both inspiring and infuriating. 

 

Without giving too much away - and assuming you're not a WWII history buff and might know some of these details already - Pino Lella was seventeen when the war came to Italy, and in order to avoid being conscripted and forced to fight on the German front in Poland, where many Italians pressed into service were losing their lives, he instead "volunteered" to work for Operation Todt. All he knew about it was that it was less likely to get him killed and would keep him off the warfront. Things don't go as planned and he ends up in a prime position to work for the resistance, getting them valuable information that helped the Allied invasion. 

 

For the first third of the book, things move pretty slowly. Pino is at first hidden in the mountains near the Switzerland border and helps refugees escape over the border. When his parents bring him back to Milan, things start to pick up and slowly get more complicated. And yet, things seem to almost go too well. Then the end of the war is in sight, and that's when things really hit the fan. The writing in the last third is especially strong and emotive, and I really had to work not to cry in the car as I listened to this on my daily commute. 

 

As for the narrator, Will Damron, he takes the Kevin Costner approach to accents. I would honestly have no accent at all than to listen to a really horrible Italian accent, so I wasn't bothered by this. He does do a decent German accent though. He's very clear and easy to follow along with, and he reads at a good pace. At first, his narration was almost matter-of-fact, but he can really bring the emotions when it's called for. I would say for the most part, he's a 3 star narrator, but the ending was strong enough to bump it up to 4 stars. (And he's certainly popular with audiobooks, so he has his fans.)

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review 2017-10-16 02:32
One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest ★★★☆☆
One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest: 50th Anniversary Edition - Ken Kesey,John C. O'Reilly

I can see why some people praise this book so highly, and I can see how it was such a hit at the time it was published, even without the iconic movie starring the always-crazy Jack Nicholson. The imagery is compelling, as is the unreliable voice of the (?) paranoid schizophrenic narrator through which we experience the events. It works well as a rather heavy-handed political/social allegory, but I found myself unable to get past the unapologetic racism and misogyny presented as a fun way to break from societal norms and expectations.

 

I was much more interested in the audio “extra” at the end of the story: an NPR interview by Terry Gross of the author, who explains the origins of the story, his first-hand experiences as a subject of the CIA’s LSD experiments conducted on students in the 1960’s and as an aide in a psychiatric hospital.

 

Audiobook via Audible. The author’s unpolished reading of his own work really fits the story.

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review 2017-10-16 01:58
Dark Matter ★★★★☆
Dark Matter - Michelle Paver

Although technically a ghost story, the real horror for me is the sense of creeping dread and isolation and loneliness as the last man left in the endless night of an arctic camp. Most chilling of all is the man’s horror at contemplating the afterlife should he perish there and become a ghost himself – not just a winter of endless night alone, but an eternity.

 

Audiobook via Audible. Jeremy Northam proves he’s as wonderful an audio narrator as he is an actor, which certainly isn’t true of everyone.

 

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