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review 2018-01-23 17:26
The House - Simon Lelic

Jack and Sydney can hardly believe their luck when their offer on their dream house is accepted. So they have to take the house as seen, and so it’s full of the previous owner’s possessions. And so what if it isn’t actually Jack’s ideal home. As long as Sydney is happy that’s the main thing. Then Jack discovers something in the attic, something that shouldn’t be there. And things begin to unravel drastically.

 

I have to admit that when I started to read this book it didn’t grab my complete attention. But I continued to read and found that I wanted to find out more. The story is told from the view point of Jack and Sydney, each chapter headed with one the character’s names, a witness statement in a more fluid and unofficial form. This style of narration worked well, I liked gleaning information from different viewpoints to round the story out. It also allowed the reader to get to know the characters more. There were issues with both Sydney and Jack. Products of their upbringings, Sydney was standoffish, and prickly but also passionate about certain situations, including helping Elsie, a young girl she befriends. Sydney sees herself reflected in Elsie and wants to change history by helping her. Jack is more needy, more keen to please, and is devoted to Sydney.

 

As the story progresses more is revealed about Sydney’s past and the physical abuse she suffered as a child. The reader is guided through a series of events from the past and slowly shown how they collide with the present. I had guessed how things would proceed but it was interesting to see them played out. The murder doesn’t happen immediately and indeed is just a small part of the story. I thought this worked well, the death was a necessary part of the tale but doesn’t overshadow the bigger picture.

 

There were some things that seemed obvious, or obvious to me, that lessened the effect. That said this is purely a personal thing. This book has been described as spooky though I didn’t find it as such. I’m not a fan of horror for example, not because I don’t like being scared, but I’m too sensible. I get fed up with characters going down a smoky dark alley instead of towards the town and help for example. So when a scene in the novel depicted Jack investigating a noise downstairs, I just thought ‘why doesn’t he just put the big light on?’ That said, there are many things in here that aren’t as expected, such as what is found in the attic – and I won’t say more for fear of spoiling it. So, in all honesty, I’m glad that I didn’t find the novel spooky.

 

I liked the writing style, sometimes jovial, sometimes serious. This and chapter layout meant for me that I found myself reading the novel quite quickly, the chapters lending themselves to the justification of ‘just one more’. There are clues aplenty in each person’s narrative and also in what each may omit to write down. I also have to say I really liked the ending. It finished exactly as I think it should have.

 

Reading this back it may sound like I didn’t enjoy this novel but I did. I’ve heard this book described as a marmite book; you’ll either love it or loathe it. I like to be different. I didn’t love it but I certainly didn’t loathe it. I liked it. My enjoyment grew the more I read, and towards the end I was eager to get back to it. I found it an interesting and entertaining read.  And if you read for entertainment and the book you are reading entertains, then job done.

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review 2018-01-23 00:23
Always a Favorite
The Napping House - Audrey Wood,Don Wood

This book has always been a favorite of mine, especially for the little ones. This book is a fun story about a house where everyone is asleep. It goes through a sequence of people and animals on one cozy bed until one flea bites a mouse. Then everyone is woken up one by one and all crash down and break the cozy bed! This would be a great story to use when talking about sequencing events and retelling a story. A fun activity for younger students would be to make a "napping house" or a "cozy bed" about the size of a small poster. Label different spots on the poster 1-6 to represent the events that happened in the story and attach a Velcro dot to the poster beside each number. Then, find cut outs of the characters from the story and also attach a Velcro dot to the back of the character. The students will then label the "napping house" or "cozy bed", whichever you choose to make, with the character in the order that they appeared in the story. So, beside the number 1, the student would place the granny. By number 2, the student would place the boy, and so on. After they finish labeling 1-6, you could give them a sequencing map for them to record their work they did on the poster. 

 

ATOS Reading Level: 2.8

Suggested Grade Level: K

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review 2018-01-22 19:50
The Doll House by Phoebe Morgan
The Doll House - Phoebe Morgan

"The house surrounds us. I feel like it’s watching me."

This book isn’t really about a dollhouse. Nor is it about creepy dolls. It’s about family secrets and I love those almost as much as creepy dolls so I was good with that. Unfortunately, I guessed the biggest secret way too early and you probably will too.

Sisters Corrine and Ashley are being watched/stalked/terrorized by a third person without their knowledge. Corrine starts to catch on when someone begins leaving pieces of her old childhood dollhouse where she can find them. Everyone else thinks she’s starting to go a little mad. She’s always been a little jumpy, anxiety ridden and seen faces in windows that have spooked her. Recently, she’s been desperately trying to have a child through IVF and this is the conclusion her friends and family jump to – bunch of jerks. Ashley, the sister, has her hands full with a secretive husband who is spending far too much time at work, a baby who won’t stop screaming and who won’t sleep, a teen headed for trouble and mouth-breather phone calls. I felt for poor Ashley. Had I been in her position I might’ve got behind the wheel and just kept on driving . . . 

The heart of this story rests on its day to day family dramas so if you’re not into all of that you may find things a little slow going. I have to admit that I found it a struggle at times and too slow moving and I typically love this sort of thing. This is not a fast paced thriller, by any means. The stressful atmosphere is almost claustrophobic and there’s an underlying sense of dread but discovering that I was right about the “why” behind the big secret with still many pages left, took a lot of the thrill away for me. I was oh-so-wrong about the who though and I enjoyed that tasty little surprise.

This is a nice debut but it wasn’t quite compelling enough to grab and hold my attention, nor did I ever get fully emotionally invested in the characters. I’m giving it a three for those reasons.


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review 2018-01-21 14:28
A guide to dusting your heart and clearing out your soul. Simple and beautiful.
A Buddhist Monk's Guide to a Clean House and Mind - Shoukei Matsumoto

Thanks to NetGalley and to Penguin UK for providing me an ARC copy of this book that I freely chose to review.

Sometimes I read the title and the description of a book in one of my favourite genres and it is intriguing enough or it has something that makes me want to read it. But sometimes I see a book that is completely different to what I normally read but still, it seems to call me and this is one of those books.

As I am about to move (houses and countries), I thought a book about cleaning (not only our houses but also our minds) might be an asset. And, oh boy, was I right!

This book does what it says on the tin. I can’t guarantee you that you’ll end up cleaning more if you read it, but I’d be surprised if it doesn’t make you think about the process.

I don’t know how accurate a translation of the original this is, but I loved the simple style of writing. Although the sentences are not elaborate or complex, and the ideas it contains seem extremely simple, they are beautiful in their simplicity and unassuming. This is not a book of advice that will quote analytics, statistics, and numbers of followers. It just explains what life for Zen monks living at a temple is like, and explains their philosophy.

I am not very house-proud and I can’t claim to spend a lot of time cleaning (and even less thinking about cleaning), but there are some chores that I do enjoy, and some whose mechanics can free my mind and make me forget the things around me. Although this is not what the book is about (it is a way of life and it is very specific and ordered), I think most of us will identify with some of the thoughts behind it.

The book highlights the importance of respecting nature, our bodies, our possessions (and we don’t need many), all life, and each other. It is a short book and it is also a relaxing read that will make you look at things differently and give you some pause. And, as I said, you don’t need to be big on cleaning to enjoy it.

I thought I’d share some examples of passages I highlighted from the book, so you can get an idea of what to expect:

I hope you enjoy applying the cleaning techniques introduced here in your home. There’s nothing complicated about them. All you need is a will to sweep the dust off our heart.

‘Zengosaidan’ is a Zen expression meaning that we must put all our efforts into each day so we have no regrets, and that we must not grieve for the past or worry about the future.

It goes without saying that dust will accumulate in a home that is never cleaned. Just as you have finished raking the leaves, more are sure to fall. It is the same with your mind. Right when you think you have cleaned out all the cobwebs, more begin to form. Adherence to the past and misgivings about the future will fill your head, wresting your mind from the present. This is why we monks pour ourselves heart and soul into polishing floors. Cleaning is training for staying in the now. Therein lies the reason for being particular about cleanliness.

I hate ironing. I must say that after reading this I know what I’ll think about when I have to iron something from now on:

How to Iron. When ironing, visualize yourself ironing out the wrinkles in your heart.

By letting go of everything, you can open up a universe of unlimited possibilities.

 A lovely book, a deep book, and a simple book. I kept thinking of friends and relatives who might enjoy/benefit from it (and I don’ t mean because of the state their houses are in!). And I am sure many of you would enjoy it too. Just try it and see.

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review 2018-01-19 09:22
Rich, but unsatisfying
The Golden House: A Novel - Salman Rushdie

A man of extreme wealth immigrates from Mumbai to Manhattan along with his three adult sons. They change their identities and keep the reason for leaving their previous home a mystery though they don't live like recluses, just the opposite, they embrace their new homeland with excess and extravagance.

 

The Golden House is about this family and the unraveling of their mystery as told by a neighbour, a film maker, who takes an interest in them because he hopes their story will provide the plot for a movie he wants to make.

 

Salman Rushdie's characters are larger than life, and I mean down right over the top. Indeed, there are no ordinary people in this novel, every one is eccentric, brilliant, extremely talented, very well dressed and beautiful beyond description though Rushdie does his best to describe all the above lavishly and extensively.

 

In fact he spends so much time on sumptuous imagery, on references to Greek mythology and on quotes that might make sense if I knew author of the quote and the context in which it was being used, I very soon became bored and early on found my self skimming pages to find something that advanced the plot.

 

The Golden House is an "insiders" book. If the reader knows the locales, events, jargon, trends, author of quotes, context of quotes, the heroes and heroines of Greek mythology and their significance then I imagine you're supposed to feel included, with it, up to date, part of the club, and oh so contemporary. If you don't you're a boob, a rube, a member of the cultural lumpenproletariat and don't deserve to know what's going in his book.

 

Rushdie obviously is an excellent, clever, educated, intelligent, sophisticated member of the upper crust of society and he sets out to prove that in every paragraph of this book.

The writing is so rich, so decadent I felt the same way I did when during the Holidays I overindulged in Christmas cake, shortbread and mince tarts - well fed, yet ironically, unsatisfied.

 

Keeping with my New Year's resolution of not enduring to the end books I'm not enjoying, I abandoned The Golden House about a quarter way through.

 

 

 

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