Thursday, October 31, 2019

RIP XIV – WRAP UP

Well today is the last day of RIP XIV and also appropriately Halloween. Here’s my wrap up. I did pretty well, if I do say so myself. ๐Ÿ˜Ž  I read all four books that I planned to read which makes up for being a total loser last year when I read none! ๐Ÿ˜ฉ


  • Hangsaman by Shirley Jackson: The verdict is in: I thought it was really good! I really want to read her three other early novels now. I am not a big short story fan. I know that is what Jackson is known for but lazy reader me doesn’t want to read them…but novels, yes please! Hangsaman is a coming of age novel as only Shirley Jackson could write one. It is funny at times but generally unsettling.  The main character is 17 year old Natalie Waite who goes from her dysfunctional home to her first year at an all woman’s college to possibly a mental breakdown...like in The Haunting of Hill House, Jackson leaves room for the reader to imagine what really happened in the interstices.  If you are a reader who is comfortable with a certain amount of ambiguity, this might be one to pick up and try. 


  • Slade House by David Mitchell: This is the one book that really suits the season since it is sort of a ghost-cum-horror story. If anyone has read The Bone Clocks by Mitchell, Slade House makes a nice complement to that novel but can also stands alone as a short, creepy read.  In the book, Slade House is a place that does and does not exist. It can only be accessed by certain people through a small iron door in a wall in a grubby, dark ally. Every nine years someone is invited to enter that door and find out what lies beyond, but leaving is another story...(sounds like the lyrics to Hotel California...LOL). 


  • Appointment with Death by Agatha Christie: I enjoyed this one a lot. I think the plotting of the mystery was really interesting  and the resolution was unexpected. The red herrings are particularly good ones.  The story features sadistic Mrs. Boynton who has terrorized her stepchildren all their lives. Now as adults, they are pathetic shells, still flinching at her baits and switches. When Mrs. Boynton ends up dead (was it natural or was it murder?), the list of suspects is pretty clear.  I also have a particular fondness for Christie novels set in North Africa or the Middle East as  Appointment with Death is. I think Christie does a good job of giving the reader a good sense of place when her books are set in these regions.


  • Snake Ropes by Jess Richards: This was the one non-starter for me. I think this book would appeal to fans of Helen Oyeyemi…readers who enjoy the fantastical and books with dark fairy tale overtones. That’s just not my jam but it might be yours.  The story is about two young women whose narration alternates chapters throughout the book. The first narrator is Mary. She on an island under a matriarchy where the handwork of the women is the main source of trade with the “Tall Men” who come from the mainland. Since the death of her mother, Mary has been the main caregiver of her baby brother, whom she hides for his own safety when the Tall Men arrive.  The nother narrator is Morgan. She is imprisoned in her family home, not allowed to wear shoes and forced to keep house for her narcissistic mother and her enabler father. Her only solace are the books she reads and her dreams of escape. Eventually the two stories converge and both women discover how to battle the forces trying limit their power and potential.


20 comments:

  1. I like David Mitchell, but I sort of passed on Slade House because I'm not much into creepy things, but maybe I'll have to revisit that.

    Congratulations on sticking to your original plan. Very tricky that!

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    1. Thanks for the comment reese! Slade House wasn't too creepy. If you've read The Bone Clocks, I would recommend it.

      I'm a little surprised I managed to read all four. I think it is because I told myself to only read one...this takes the pressure off and voila!

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  2. Hi Ruthiella, Great reviews of these mysteries. I have read Shirley Jackson's The Lottery and her novel We Have Always Lived in the Castle and We have Always Lived in the Castle is some book. The Christie novel interests me. I hadn't heard of this one but Mrs Boynton sounds really terrible but evil characters are often quite interesting in novels.

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    1. Thanks for the comment Kathy! I think sometimes Christie made her murder victims rather unpleasant so readers would not feel too bad about their deaths.

      I've also read We have Always Lived in the Castle and really liked it. Jackson does disfunction and off-kilter relationships very well.

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  3. Yay for completing RIP XVI. :D

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    1. Thanks Lark! I love the excuse to read thematically. :D

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  4. Congratulations on finishing all four books! I haven't read any of them, but the first three intrigue me.

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    1. Thanks for the comment jenclair! If you try any of the three I hope you blog about it and let me know what you think! :D

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  5. Oh, Ruthiella,
    I just left a comment and hit the wrong button--how idiotic!
    I am definitely making a note about the Shirley Jackson novel, as well as Appointment with Death. Thanks so much for letting me know about these two.

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    1. Thanks for the comment Judith! Technology is both a boon and a bother, isn't it. I hope you enjoy both books when and if you get around to reading them. I for one am excited about checking out Jackson's other early novels now. :D

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  6. Ruthiella: congrats on reaching your goal! I so seldom reach any of mine that on the rare occasions when I do I find it positively exhilarating!
    It looks like your RIP choices added up to some very nice reading. I was particularly interested in your take on Hangsaman. As I think I mentioned in a previous exchange, I had tried it years ago and set it aside. Sounds like I should definitely give it another try.
    I've read Bone Clocks and Slade House and liked both o.k. -- intriguing idea, Slade House, a house that is, and isn't, there -- but don't think either novel is quite up to Mitchell's "straight" fiction (although I've yet to read The Thousand Autumns. You liked it, no?). Loved the Hotel California analogy BTW.
    Ive read very, very little of Agatha Christie's mysteries; judged by how beloved she is, I suspect I've missed a lot of reading enjoyment. Maybe I'll finally give her a serious try; since I love evil characters, Appointment may be a good place to start.
    Snake Ropes? Well, if I had world enough and time -- maybe! Those "separate plot strands that leventually ink up" things CAN be pretty good on occasion but when they don't work they REALLY don't work. I do think, however, that it's time for me to try Helen Oyeyemi. She seems to be everywhere these days and I've read none of her stuff.

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    1. Thanks for the comment and the congrats Janakay!

      Hangsaman was a total win. I look forward to trying Jackson’s other three early novels soonish. I like her discomforting and off-kilter style.

      I did like The Thousand Autumns. It does delve into Bone Clocks/horologist/anchorite territory somewhat but it is also a really good historical novel and a rather tender love story. I definitely preferred it when I didn’t know exactly what was going on in the Mitchell universe – The Bone Clocks pretty much opens the lid on all the shadowy metaphysics - but now that I know, I’m in for the ride.

      Agatha Christie is a weakness for me. I can see where other readers would feel her books don’t live up to the hype. Appointment with Death would not be a bad place to start, however. The nice thing too is that novels are short.

      I would love to hear what you think of Helen Oyeyemi. I read Boy, Snow, Bird a few years ago and maybe a quarter of the short stories in What Is Not Yours Is Not Yours. I also have a copy of Mr. Fox that I need to at least try. Her style isn’t what I enjoy but I can understand how other readers love her work.

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  7. Hangsaman is definitely now on my "try again" list, as is the Christie you just reviewed. I almost bought Oyeyemi's What Is Not Yours when I first saw it reviewed but was pretty busy then and passed; I may reconsider that decision! Oyeyemi is just so much the flavor of the month and I'm just SUCH a slave to fashion that I feel morally obligated to give her a try! (besides, I don't want to risk missing a great new writer). I'm definitely susceptible to the fairy-tale/mystical strain of writing but it does have to hit my personal quirks just right, otherwise it strikes me as just too cutesy and heart warming (if case you haven't noticed, I tend towards the cynical school but try to keep it in check!).
    Re Mitchell: I know exactly what you mean. Sometimes the half-hint and air of mystery beats the big reveal. Still, I've worshipped at the Mitchell shrine since Cloud Atlas and, as you say, I too am in for the ride!

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    1. Hi Janakay! Oyeyemi is definitely not cutesy and heart warming in my experience. She definitely leans more towards the weird and dark side of fairy tales.

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  8. Oooh! That Christie books sounds great. ๐Ÿ™‚

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    1. Thanks for the comment Carol! Appointment with Death was pretty good. I hope you give it a try. :D

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  9. I'm not much into horror, but love mysteries and the Christie sounds so perfect I think I'll get it for next October's mystery month. I like inventive plotting and ingenious red herrings. She really is incomparable.

    Sounds like you had a better good RIP, Snake Ropes notwithstanding (the title alone gives me the creeps!).

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    1. Thanks for the comment Jane! There is something about Christie that is incomparable, you are right. Even her weaker efforts are pretty good IMO. And she is very good at misdirection, I think.

      I am pleased with my RIP results! And since Snake Ropes had been languishing on my shelf for a few years now, I am really glad I finally read it at least. :D

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  10. Hi Ruthiella,
    I so admired The Haunting of Hill House--loved the ambiguities! I am right now inscribing Hangsaman on my list of books I need to read--pronto--but probably not before 2020. Thanks!

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    1. Thanks for the comment Judith! I am glad to hear you are adding Hangsaman to your TBR. I think it will not disappoint you if you admired that "what just really happened?" aspect of Jackson's writing. :D

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