The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield

I’ve read so many wonderful books by first time novelists this year, and The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield will certainly join the ranks of Audrey Niffenegger and Elizabeth Kostova. This is another one of those unread treasures that has been sitting on my shelf and it makes me wonder what other visionary treats lie there in waiting.

The Thirteenth Tale is a prime example of storytelling at it’s top form. Margaret Lea is a young woman who works at her father’s bookshop which specializes in rare and antiquarian books. She’s been surrounded by books throughout her life and has grown comfortable with the classics such as Jane Eyre, Middlemarch, The Woman in White, etc. and has shied away from more contemporary literature. That is, until she is summonsed by Vida Winter, a top selling novelist with a mysterious past who has requested that Margaret record the story of her life. Margaret is a bit leary of the commission, but accepts and finds that she must face her own ghosts while recording the ghosts of Ms. Winter’s past – a past that reveals that the truth is often stranger than fiction.

There are so many things that I loved about this book. The characters are wonderful. Vida Winter is someone that I wish truly existed just so that I could sit in her library in front of her fireplace and listen to her tell me her stories. But of course, the wonderful Diane Setterfield, who wrote Vida Winter’s character does exist 😉 The storytelling aspect of this novel was just perfect. There wasn’t a single moment in the novel when I was bored. There’s constantly a hook to grab you and the story is always appealing.

I haven’t read Daniel Wallace’s book, Big Fish, but much of this novel reminded of a gothic version of the film. It’s a tale of a past that’s truly bizarre, yet grounded in fact. This novel could easily be translated to the big screen and make a beautiful film by the way. Setterfield paints a very vivid picture in her descriptions of the landscapes, her characters appearances, the libraries, etc.

I’m so glad that I’ve finally joined the other half of the world that’s read this book! I’ve been saying this a lot lately, but here’s another author that I really look forward to following throughout her career. Setterfield certainly has a promising future ahead of her if she continues to turn out novels that deliver as well as this one did.

I leave you with a truly devilish passage from the lips of Vida Winter that’s not essential to the plot, but I had an evil grin on my face during this particularly RIP-ish scene:

Picture a conveyor belt, a huge conveyor belt, and at the end of it a massive furnace. And on the conveyor belt are books. Every copy in the world of every book you’ve ever loved. All lined up. Jane Eyre. Villette. the Woman in White…Middlemarch. And imagine a lever with two labels, On and Off. At the moment the lever is off. And next to it is a human being with his hand on the lever. About to turn it on. And you can stop it. You have a gun in your hand. All you have to do is pull the trigger. What do you do?”


Thoughts On A Thursday

I’ve noticed that my mind has been somewhat stagnant lately and it’s a very unsettling feeling. Life needs to move on. I feel like I’ve spent the last few months just waiting. Waiting for Megan to come back home, waiting to start my job, waiting for some spark to ignite, and I just need things to happen. And I know they will, and I know that they will happen very soon. In fact, I’m going into work on Tuesday to fill out all of my tax forms and payroll stuff so that I can start on the following Monday and there’s talk of Megan coming for another visit soon.

I really have enjoyed the time off of school and work, but I’m not the type of person who takes idle time well. Sure, I say that I’d love to just lay in bed all day and read, and that certainly appeals to me, but I need something else in my life. Things will get better with the start of work. This funk has been going on for awhile and I just couldn’t figure it out, and it all sort of made sense all of a sudden when I was talking to Megan today and she said “We never talk about things for hours anymore.” I asked what she meant and she brought up how we used to talk about various topics ranging from philosophy to hamburgers for hours on end and it all clicked. Most of those conversations were brought on by stuff that happened during my day or hers. We still talk about the things that happen during her day, but when it comes to my day, there’s not much to report on these days. I used to talk about what happened at the internship or what happened in class or what I learned that day and it would spark a long conversation and we’d go on forever. I miss that. I miss those long conversations. I miss the academic life already, or my days at my internship, and I just can’t wait to get back into the counseling profession. Just a week and a half to go and I’ll be there again.

God, this is a depressing post, and it really wasn’t meant to be. I don’t necessarily feel depressed, just sort of in a mist…waiting…but at the same time, once my job starts, I’ll no doubt be bitching about how much I miss my reading time and how much I miss blogging. I’ve grown so attached to being in the blogiverse (I like that word :p) all day that I don’t know what I’ll do without checking in on everyone all day. But I’m sure that’s how I’ll spend my evenings…checking in with friends and burying my nose in books. Actually, come to think about it, Megan and I do still have some fun conversations and they’re usually related to things I read in blogs…or on the latest book I’m reading. You would all be surprised how much Megan knows about you 😉 But it’s a sign of how much I truly enjoy everyone’s “company”. I talk like you’re all friends that I see in person every day!

One spark of the day on a book related note. After hearing of them from Stephanie, I decided to submit a review to to see if they’d consider me as a reviewer. Well, they apparently liked what they saw and are sending some books my way this weekend! Free books should cheer me up. I don’t know what I’ve got myself into with all of these challenges and now I’ve commited to reviews…I might have to admit defeat eventually, who knows…

Two More Challenges For 2008 (But They’re Mini…)

They’re “mini-challenges” as our host, Becky, calls them, so I don’t feel so bad joining yet another challenge 😉 These are two very cool challenges and actually fit quite nicely into the reading I had already planned for myself for next year.

The first challenge is inspired by Masterpiece Theater’s announcement that they will be showing all six of Jane Austen’s BBC Productions next year! If you haven’t done so yet, I recommend heading over to their site to sign up for their email list, because if you do you are entered into a drawing to win one of 100 Jane Austen book box sets! Becky’s challenge to us is a simple one: In 2008, either read or watch two of Jane Austen’s books and then write a post about it! I had already planned on reading Northanger Abbey next year, as that one sounds like my cup of tea, and I’m adding Persuasion as my second Austen book. I’ll also be watching all of Masterpiece Theater’s airing of the BBC productions as I love all of them!

The second challenge is to read any 2 books by C.S. Lewis AND any 2 books by J.R.R. Tolkien! How cool is that for a challenge?! I had already planned on re-reading the Narnia books for the series challenge and Cardathon challenge, and I’ll be breaking in my beautiful new boxset of Tolkien books from Carl for the other part of the challenge by re-reading the Lord of the Rings trilogy. I’ll probably do that as part of the Once Upon a Time challenge assuming that it takes place again 😉 Of course, you’re not required to read 10 books for this challenge like Mr. Over-achiever here…just 4!

Anyone else joining in? Head over to Becky’s blog to sign up! It looks like we have all of 2008 to complete this…am I right?

Heart -Shaped Box by Joe Hill

So here’s my first foray away from vampires for the RIP challenge, and I’d say that overall it was a successful voyage. Heart-Shaped Box will most probably not make it onto the list of favorite books of the year, but it’s a hell of a debut novel for Joe Hill. The book didn’t start off all that great for me. It centers around a rock star who is a collector of dark and occult-like objects such as sketches of the seven dwarfs drawn by John Wayne Gacy and a smut film; plays death metal music, and dates goth chicks. So it inherently had a few aspects too it that were just a bit too cliche for my taste while the story was being set up. They were mostly too cliche for my taste because I was a part of this culture as a teen and in my early college days and I guess I’m still there at heart…just don’t dress the part. It was just a bit overdone. But once Hill got comfortable with his story and the whole goth, shock thing was dropped and we met our real, vulnerable characters, I really enjoyed the rest of the ride.

Heart-Shaped Box is the story of a rock star with a past. Jude Coyne has lived a life of sex, drugs, and rock and roll. Needless to say he’s been with many women throughout his career and has taken to naming some of them after the states that he met them in. His current live-in girlfriend is Georgia and Jude’s found more comfort in her than he’s found in anyone else in awhile. His only other true relationships are with his two German Shepperds. He hasn’t spoken with his father in over 30 years after suffering a horrible childhood with him, two of his best friends and former band mates are dead, and his only other friend is his assistant, but he’s more of a secretary than a friend.

So here’s the RIP part…As I mentioned before, Jude’s a collector of all things macabre and can’t turn down an offer of something new to add to his collection. The assistant friend mentioned above one day finds a suit for sale on an eBay-like auction site. Here’s the catch – the suit belongs to a dead man who has been haunting the house that it occupies. The auction says that the man never got to wear this suit in his earthly life and will follow the suit wherever it goes. Jude buys the suit for $1000, essentially buying a ghost to add to his collection. Well, Jude gets his ghost. The suit arrives in a black heart-shaped box. Shortly after Jude awakens at night to find a man sitting in his hallway wearing the suit with his eyes scribbled out and swinging a razor blade on a chain. But there’s more to the ghost than Jude knows and both his life and Georgia’s is at stake…as the cover says “sooner or later the dead catch up…”

I’ve heard plenty of people say that this novel scared the crap out of them and kept them up all night. I can’t say that it did that for me, but that’s nothing against the author. I’m rarely truly freaked out by books. This book did have my heart pounding with suspense at certain parts and I was definitely flying through some pages. I tend to not scare easily though. The only things that truly frighten me are “jump out at you” moments, so movies and haunted houses will do the trick! Now there were scenes in this novel that repulsed me (and I guess repulsion is a cousin of fear) and be warned that there are topics that arise in this book that are quite disturbing. But I think that Hill handled everything well, and I have to say that I will be reading Mr. Hill’s next novel whenever it is published. I know that he has a collection of short stories coming out soon called 20th Century Ghosts and it is already available in the UK!

*Oh, and a quick note totally unrelated, Lisa Snellings-Clark has Orange Poppets Available!

My Reading Spot And A Package Arrives

Today’s been the perfect, gloomy, RIP reading day and I spent it finishing up Joe Hill’s Heart-Shaped Box. I’ll post my full review later. It was my least favorite of my RIP reads so far, but that doesn’t mean that it wasn’t a good book. It started off kind of weak for me, but it got progressively better and it really hooked me about half way through…but like I said, full review coming later. Anyway, I thought I’d share my reading spot with you and invite anyone else who would like to to do the same…because, well…I’m a bit of a voyeur when it comes to people’s books and anything associated with them :p

My new reading spot is one of my favorite things about this house that we’re renting. For the first time in my life, I have a back patio. I’ve always wanted one. It has a tin roof, and on a rainy day like today, you just can’t beat the sound of soft rain on a tin roof for reading weather. We have a Wisteria vine that is sadly not in bloom starting off and I’m hoping that it will vine itself throughout the wooden beams of the patio and there’s a Bougainvillea behind the swing that you can’t see in the picture. We have two swings which is odd, but I like to read on the swing that I took the picture from where the little skeleton guy is sitting. Part of the reason is because our neighbor is a garden freak and I like the view of her plants and the birds that visit them. So here it is, my reading spot…complete with hanging eyeballs and a skeleton for Halloween.

So onto the package arriving. No, it was not a package of books! It was a package from Lisa Snellings-Clark..I know, another shocker. I am so pleased with this purchase! They’re amazing. It’s a pair of Harlequin candlestick holders painted in shades of blue and gray and they are so much more beautiful in person than I imagined them to be. They’re huge! About 18 inches tall. She offers these in bronze and silver sometimes during her sales for $30 a piece and after actually seeing them, this is an amazing price. So I highly recommend them next time they’re available 😉

OK, that’s it for me until it’s book review time. Off to get ready for the Saints game…God I hope it’s better than the last two…I can’t take any more games like those.

Invasive Procedures by Orson Scott Card and Aaron Johnston

You might say that I lucked out when I stumbled across my “favorite author”. Orson Scott Card manages to publish about two to three books a year, has about 50 books under his belt, and has written books, poetry, and short stories in just about every genre imaginable. His first publication of this year was Space Boy (my review), a very limited run by Subterranean Press, that was enjoyable but doesn’t even compare to his latest collaboration with screenwriter Aaron Johnston, Invasive Procedures.

Invasive Procedures is the story of the dangers of genetic manipulation. It can certainly be classified as science fiction as Card dots his i’s and crosses his t’s when it comes to the science aspect, but I’d consider this one more of a bio-medical/political thriller. The setting is Los Angeles in the near future. Geneticist George Galen has created a group of super humans called “Healers”. Galen is the villain of the novel, but he’s a charming villain, the most dangerous kind. His Healers are giants, around 7 feet in height, have the bodies of gods, and go throughout the community recruiting the sick and homeless in a cult like fashion for Galen’s genetic experiment – to help the human race evolve.

Here’s where the story gets interesting. Galen has developed a virus that cures deadly genetic diseases such as Parkinson’s, Sickle-Cell Anemia, etc. Viruses work by attaching to DNA and changing their structure and Galen has developed a virus that will do just that for these diseases. However, the virus he has developed is deadly to the general population and causes near immediate death. It can save the life of the few who need it, but can cause the death of the many to whom it is toxic. In steps Frank Hartman. Frank Hartman has been recruited by the Biohazard Agency, an FBI-like governmental agency, to develop an anti-virus to or vaccination to Galen’s virus. Galen soon realizes the plans that the government has to stop his advancement of the human race and one thrilling novel ensues.

I’ve always said that I love Card for his characters, and this novel is no exception. Frank Hartman is one of the strongest heroes I’ve read in a while. Joining him in his race against Galen are Galen’s test subjects, a group of homeless people that he picks up, offering them a hot meal and a bed, and while he does give them that, they also get much more than what they thought they were in for.

Dolores is my favorite of this group. She is an elderly homeless woman with no family who slept on a playground before Galen picked her up. She has extremely low self esteem, but a wonderful sense of humor and was a delight to read and my heart went out to her. Nick and Jonathan were two younger punk kids who were homeless heroin addicts. Both put up a tough front, but Card shows us the young kid inside just begging for help and love. Their story was touching as well. Hal, I had no sympathy for! Hal is a drunk who is arrogant and loud when he’s picked up and remains that way throughout the book…he just got on my nerves. And Byron is the last of the group. Byron was mistaken for a homeless person, but is really a tax attorney whose car broke down and he just needed a lift. He’s a great guy and another strong character.

Put all of these wonderful characters together along with a doctor forced to perfom surgery on all of them against her will while her child is held at ransom along with one of the most thrilling and forward moving story lines I’ve read in awhile, and you get a book that is heart stopping and very meaningful in these days of lightning speed medical advancement…not that I think we’re at risk of something like this ever actually happening.

This one just came out Tuesday, so it should be well stocked in most bookstores. I highly recommend as I usually do with most books :p But this one really was a 5 out of 5. It’s based on an Orson Scott Card short story originally published in 1979 by the name of “Malpractice.” OK, now back to the RIP Challenge!

Updates, Updates

As another tropical disturbance approaches Louisiana, I’m reminded that life is always uncertain. As much as I complain about what Katrina left us with down here and how it seemed to uproot life, it has done some positive things. Mainly, I’ve learned that there’s no use in harping on things. Life is going to do what it’s going to do and plenty of that is out of my control. What’s out of my control is exactly that. So…something out of my control has happened, and I’m going with the flow…my start date for my new job has been pushed back to October 8th due to the state licensure board not meeting on the date that we originally thought they were going to. I can’t start my new job until I have my licensure number, so now I have to wait until the beginning of the next pay period to start, which is October 8th. Originally, I was upset because I was anxious to get in and get started, but I’m just going to enjoy the extra time off while I have it. I still have my other job, so I’ll just continue there until the 8th.

In other news, not a whole lot lot has been going on. There have been a couple of new arrivals at the house. The first was my little black poppet who is so very, very cool and fits in nicely with the purple poppet. I think that black and purple will join forces and be mascots together for the remainder of the RIP challenge as they seemed to do well together for The Historian. I also picked up the new Orson Scott Card book a couple of days ago and I’m almost finished that and it’s amazing! But that should be no surprise coming out of my mouth. It’s called Invasive Procedures, and I should have a review up either tonight or sometime tomorrow.

Should be going to see Across the Universe tomorrow. Anyone else going to see that one? It looks like it’s really going to be a treat! I’ve been looking forward to this one for awhile now. It’s rare that films this imaginative make it to the big screen and I’m hoping that it does well.