Book Review #3 – The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson

Hey there,

It’s time for another book review from the clearly picky and somewhat pretentious bibliophile, ME! This time the review is for The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson.

After having read ‘We Have Always Lived in This Castle’ by Jackson, loving it, loving how it was written and the way the reader experiences the characters, I was pretty excited to jump into another book by her. This one is apparently her most famous novel and was also turned into two different movies over the years. I remember watching  the movie ‘The Haunting’ as a kid (I used to love horror movies…) but I didn’t remember it so I didn’t know what to expect with this book. It’s considered one of the best ‘ghost stories’ ever written.

Here is the book description from Goodreads:
First published in 1959, Shirley Jackson’s The Haunting of Hill House has been hailed as a perfect work of unnerving terror. It is the story of four seekers who arrive at a notoriously unfriendly pile called Hill House: Dr. Montague, an occult scholar looking for solid evidence of a “haunting”; Theodora, his lighthearted assistant; Eleanor, a friendless, fragile young woman well acquainted with poltergeists; and Luke, the future heir of Hill House. At first, their stay seems destined to be merely a spooky encounter with inexplicable phenomena. But Hill House is gathering its powers—and soon it will choose one of them to make its own.”

Okay, first and foremost, this book doesn’t read in the same manner that WHALINTC does. I didn’t find it as smooth and I wasn’t as drawn into the characters as I was with the other book. I didn’t form any attachment or genuine interest to the characters as I thought they were rather flat and uninteresting, personally. And I know that Jackson intended the reader to dislike the characters, but I disliked them to the point where I didn’t even care what happened to them. Not even at the end.

I also wasn’t as excited to get through this book as I was with WHALINTC. I read that previous book in one sitting, but I fought through the end of this one  for a few days. Considering this novel is so short, and that the end of the book is where “the good stuff” happens, I take that as a negative.

I didn’t find this book to be spooky at all. The way the haunting occurs is very abrupt but not in a shocking way. I would have preferred a slow description with a climactic build to get to the “scary parts”. I didn’t feel frightened for the characters, I just wanted to experience more. And don’t get me wrong, here: I have a great imagination, and I’m one of those easily spooked types. But this book did nothing for me in the “scary” department. I was thoroughly underwhelmed with what is supposed to be one of the spookiest books of all time.

Overall, I didn’t hate the book, I just wouldn’t read it again or recommend it to anyone. My expectations were so high after WHALINTC that this book was a big let-down for me. I’m grateful I only paid .99cents for it on my Kobo.

Rating: 3/5
Pros: Jackson’s great writing, great description of the setting, interesting dialogue
Cons: No “hooks” to keep you reading, disliked the characters, wasn’t scary, didn’t care for the ending

Currently Reading: Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard

Book Review #2 – The Miniaturist by Jessie Burton

Hey there,

It’s time for another book review!
I finally finished The Miniaturist by Jessie Burton,  which wasn’t by any means a long book, but just goes to show the difference in time I can dedicate to reading on a weekend versus a weekday.

I will not divulge any spoilers in this review, but there will be a few vague details in order to emphasize my opinion; this is simply a forewarning!

The Miniaturist was an easy read. The story is written in a logical and enjoyable format that allows you to slide through chapters without difficulty and makes you want to continue reading. It’s about a woman named Nella (Petronella) who is married off to a man in Amsterdam. In her loneliness in a new city (a religious one, at that) with a new family, her husband gifts her a cabinet which is a replica of her house. She then proceeds to reach out to a miniaturist to start furnishing this house, and many secrets about the family are revealed in the process.

Firstly, this book was one  that I wanted to finish. Each chapter had me interested enough that I desired continuing the story. Burton didn’t have me gripped, but certainly had my attention. But there were too many issues I had with this book to say that I loved it or would recommend it to someone else.

Firstly, we are living in a mega-Calvinist Amsterdam in 1665 and a woman is allowed to walk around, converse and do business on her own? Poppycock.

Secondly, this plot was so  predictable! At no point was I like, “Oh my gosh!” by the least. I knew exactly what was coming, I knew exactly what to expect, and nothing surprised me. I was really disappointed by that. In my opinion, that’s poor character development, which is so sad considering how interesting each of the characters were.

Third (and a slight spoiler), why should I care about the Miniaturist’s name? Why is that important? What is the significance? Yeah, wow, I get the “coincidence”, but truly, who cares? How does it add to the plot? I really didn’t understand the Miniaturists’ “deal” and don’t truly understand why they know what they know, by the end of the book. It’s like Burton didn’t know how to explain it either, so “poof”… let’s just forget it and say goodbye. What? WHY!?

Not to mention, each of the “big things” in the book were so anti-climactic. I found the writing was poor when it came to preparing the reader for something exciting. It would start with a character screaming, “Come quick!” and then roll slowly into an unexciting description that has the reader going, “Oh, that happened, okay…”

Also, the description of the baby being born made me want to vomit. No thanks! Let’s give a trigger warning before that nonsense!

I was so excited to read this book because, firstly, the cover is all kinds of beautiful, and secondly, so many Instagrammers raved about it. I’m starting to think that me and Bookstagrammers aren’t reading the same books. I’m going to go by gut-reads from now on, and maybe avoid these suggestions… haha!

Rating: 2.5/5
Pros: Easy to read, keeps the reader’s attention, interesting characters
Cons: Inaccurate for the time period, predictable, anti-climactic, no real resolution

I wouldn’t tell people not to read the book, it just wouldn’t be my first recommendation to them. It would be one of those books that I suggest if they have nothing else to read.

Did you read the Miniaturist? What are your thoughts about it? Let me know in the comments!

xo
C

Book Review #1 – We Have Always Lived in the Castle (Shirley Jackson)

Hey there,

I don’t know why I never did this before. As a bibliophile, and as a blogger who’s focus is ‘books, beauty, and Parisian dreams,’ why have I never blogged about a book review, before? Yes, I’ve given suggestions, and yes, I’ve shared my monthly book stacks, but I never took the time to write a review. Maybe because I’m not sure if that’s what my particular readers are drawn to… let me proceed with this book review, and you can let me know what you think!

We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson

This purchase was a cover purchase. I don’t do that too often, because more often than not, the cover is significantly better than the story. But there was just something haunting about this cover that I had a gut feeling the story would match. I wasn’t disappointed: the story was indeed haunting.

I read this book in a day. The writing is superb in that it’s descriptive but not heavy, and flows in a way that makes you want to keep reading. It’s written from the perspective Mary Katherine “Merricat” Blackwood. Let me give you a spoiler-free synopsis.

The Blackwoods are a family of three: Uncle Julian, the oldest in the house, and a crippled man who suffers from dementia. Constance, the oldest child in the Blackwood family, a protector, a caring head of the household. And Mary Katherine “Merricat” (and her cat Jonas), a curious child who believes in the power of words and intention. The Blackwoods weren’t always a family of three. There were many more Blackwoods in this house, until they decided to have some sugar with their dessert. There was arsenic in the sugar. But Uncle Julian only took a little – he lived. Constance doesn’t take sugar – and she washed the bowl. And Merricat was sent to her room without dessert. Who put the arsenic in that bowl? Why did Constance wash it? And why does the village fear and hate the remaining Blackwoods? And who is Cousin Charles, and what is he doing here, visiting?

This is a book of mystery, of intrigue, of suspense and a little bit of magic.

I loved Merricat; I thought she was a fascinating character with so much depth, and seeing the world from her perspective made my mouth drop at a few points.

Once you reach the halfway point in this book, it becomes something you don’t want to put down until the end. There are too many questions and it would have kept me up at night if I hadn’t made my way through it.

That being said, unfortunately the end of the novel was not what I expected, and not in an, “Oh my gosh, what an ending!” kind of way. There was some predictability and outcomes I guessed, and the end itself I didn’t guess, but was also rather disappointed with. I expected more. I wanted more. The story keeps you haunted all the way through, until those last two chapters, and then you’re begging for more.

Despite that, the book was an easy, enjoyable, and engaging read. I really loved it. It’s one of those books that I will probably read again, and will likely pull out every Autumn, as it seems to fit the weather and the ‘mood’ of this season.


8.5/10
Pros: Well written, easy read, amazing characters and dialogue, haunting storyline, suspenseful
Cons: A little confusion in chapter 9, some questions left unanswered, uninspiring ending

 

Currently Reading: By Gaslight by Steven Price
Initial Thoughts: Okay, so I see how this storyline could be interesting, but my God, it’s complicated and all over the place. Not to mention, the lack of QUOTATION MARKS (WHAT?!) add to the madness and confusion. Why would anyone choose to exclude quotation marks? Let’s see if I actually make it through this book…

 

What do you think? Should book reviews become a more frequent thing on lifeofcloud? Let me know in the comments! And if you’ve read this book, as well, please share your own review, below!

xo
C

Announcing: My September Book Stack!

Hey there,

Can you believe it’s October, already? While this month surely flew by, this last week definitely took it’s sweet time. I’m already counting down to the long weekend, before I need to grab a stress day from work!

But, September, the month from hell, is over! And with it, it’s taken away the summer weather (yay, Autumn!) and brought on the rain (yay, gloom!) and it’s brought on the September reads wrap-up!

Considering my primary fear when starting work again was that I wouldn’t have time to dedicate to reading, and considering this month has been immensely crazy, I’ve actually made my way through a handful of books, this month!



As you can see from the photo, the theme here is clearly Girl Power and I wrote a post here about all the amazing things that empowered women and their empowering books can do for someone. I think you should go read it!

Not featured in this photo (because I was too lazy to go grab them from my bed stand…) are Blog Inc (not recommended unless you don’t know where to start when it comes to blogs) and a few books on grieving (one was a re-read of a book I’ve had an read years ago).

I’m still waiting on the release of Nasty Galaxy, another book by Sophia Amoruso (inspirational girl crush alert!) as I’ve pre-ordered it and it should arrive on Wednesday (thrilled!), but October colours, scents, and weather tends to push me in a more fictional direction. I have had a Neil Gaiman book for a while called The Graveyard Book (have you read it?) and I have The Blackthorn Key which is also waiting to be read. Maybe it’s time to sit with a warm drink and indulge in something a little more fantasy-based for this month. I guess we will see where my heart will lead me when this month is up and I do an October wrap-up!

I think if I continue to make time for myself to read, write, and take it slow, I’ll continue to keep myself sane and inspired. Although waking up early is difficult in the first few moments of the alarm, it has been getting a lot easier. And I really don’t want to give up those morning moments anymore, so I suppose it’s been successful, as well.

The mornings to myself, the lunch hours reading with my food, and a few minutes in bed before I go down for the night have been rather consistent reading hours.

At 4pm, every day, when I used to get home from work, my alarm on my phone would go off to remind me to call my grandmother, as I mentioned in a previous post. Maybe if I dedicate those 15/30 minutes (sometimes 1hour) that I used to spend on the phone with her as a moment of contemplation, of dedication to myself and my own sanity through reading and writing, it can be a way to honour her, the memory of those moments together through the phone lines, and the sacredness of those post-work minutes, without mourning her.

And maybe it would get my wrap-up pile for October to be larger than this September small-pile disappointment!

Can you recommend any good books to me? I will read anything! But my favourite books genres are classic fiction, fantasy, memoirs, spiritual, Paris-themed, and self-help books!

xo
C

Bibliophile Inspired

Hey there,

This page, full of Parisian dreaming & the beauty and fashion that is infused in living that Parisian lifestyle, is meant to inspire those reading to follow their dreams, just as I am on the road to follow my own. “Empowered women empower women,” is one of my favourite quotes because it rings so true, and the effect of that empowered woman can have a ripple affect for ages.
This is one of the reasons I teach, and one of the reasons why I hope to empower the young women that I teach to be better versions of themselves, to stand up for injustice, and to change the world, one fist-raising at a time. I hope they leave my classroom feeling as though they can accomplish anything (especially anything a man can do), and make great change in their lifetimes. I want them to be inspired. My grandmother was an inspiring woman for me, as is my mother, and so, since I don’t intend of having children, I hope to pass on this inspiring spirit to my female students.

But even adults need inspiration, and I find my inspiration in books written by empowered – and empowering – women. These women, mostly based in the fashion world, all stand for the same thing: taking your life by the horns and working hard to ride it to whatever feels like success to you, the reader. Success is different for all people, and these female writers cater to that known fact, never giving a clear definition of success to the reader, only giving tips and tricks on how to get there. These women made a life for themselves that they knew they would be most happy in, just as I am working to do the same in my own life.

I’ve reviewed some of these books either in Instagram posts or blog posts, here, on lifeofcloud.net, and those that I haven’t will get a review someday soon. But in the meantime, I just want to post the names and authors of some books that have truly lit a fire underneath me and kick-started me into making change in my life. I recommend these books to women young and old, students and retired women, anyone who wants a little motivation or inspiration in their lives…

  • Parisian Chic by Ines de la Fressange
  • Leave Your Mark by Aliza Licht
  • Love x Style x Life by Garance Dore
  • Capture Your Style by Aimee Song
  • My Paris Dream by Kate Bettes
  • Always Pack a Party Dress by Amanda Brooks
  • #Girlboss by Sophia Amoruso
  • The Vogue Factor by Kirstie Clements
  • The Gospel According to Coco Chanel by Karen Karlo
  • Lean In by Sheryl Sandberg (- this book inspired my workshop at a conference!)

What are your favourite, most inspiring and motivating books written by female authors? Please share some suggestions with me, in the comments!

xo
C