Monday, January 20, 2014

My Holiday Reads: A Bunch of Mini-Reviews (part 2)

Straining my brain to remember enough details for reviews turned out to be harder than I thought. Plus I'm lazy. Okay, maybe it was just the lazy thing that made me decide to split this post up. But I've taken two days and I'm ready to write a few more reviews. Aren't you lucky!

*NOS4R2 by Joe Hill*

Tom and I listened to the audiobook edition of this book on our way between LA, San Fran and New York. We'd finish up our nights with 30-60 minutes of Kate Mulgrew navigating this story of Christmas, mysterious pathways, broken lives and familial love. I have a physical copy of this book which I'm going to read and review at some point this year, so I'm going to keep this short and mainly focus on the audiobook experience. I really liked Kate Mulgrew as the narrator. I may be a little biased since I know her as Captain Janeway from Star Trek Voyager and Red in OiTNB and love her in those roles but I do think the voices she used for the central cast were excellent. Her Charlie Manx was breathy and sinister, Vic was broken and desperate but strong, Maggie is scared but brave simultaneously, and Bing/The Gasmask Man was thick-headed and aggressive. She absolutely brought the characters to life, which more than made up for the few smaller characters that she butchered the accents of, like poor Dr Patel who must have taken a hit to the head because he swayed between Indian and Irish every other sentence. But seriously, if the size of the book is daunting you maybe give this audiobook a shot.

*The Circle by Dave Eggers

Of all of these books I'm reviewing this is probably the one I wish I could review full length, because it was amazing. Unfortunately I took zero notes so it'd probably end up a pretty vague review. I had never read any Dave Eggers before, I think I'd dismissed him as being too art-literature and not something I would enjoy, but I completely misjudged him. This book is terrifying, absolutely captivating but terrifying. It really effectively examines the modern obsession with technology and the influential role some tech brands have on the way we live our lives. There were some bits that were a little sloppy or obvious (such as the identity of the mysterious young man) but the overall affect of the book is so intense and creepy that they were teeny blips on the whole.

For an alternate (and hilarious) review for The Circle click through this link.

*We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson*

I've been meaning to read some of Shirley Jackson's stories since everyone seemed to read The Haunting of Hill House last year, and even though I bought a bunch of digital editions I never got around to reading them. I was flipping through my Kindle one night when I couldn't sleep and something about this title drew me in. I clicked on it and didn't click out until I had finished it. That may sound more impressive than it actually is since this is it's only a novella (160 pages), but I still found it completely un-putdownable. It's a story about two sisters and their uncle who live in a grand house but keep completely to themselves. Why? Because several years earlier most of the family died of arsenic poisoning and even though eldest sister Constance was acquitted of murder the town doesn't trust them one bit. They may keep to themselves but they are completely content with their solitary lives. The younger sister Merricat, who narrates the story, protects the house and the family with talismans and magical charms, Constance has a green thumb that keeps the family fed and happy and uncle Julian, alive but damaged by the arsenic poisoning, relives that day constantly but is beloved by the sisters. The arrival of a cousin, Charles, shifts the family dynamic into chaos and Merricat struggles to right the status quo that they strove so hard to find. This is a gorgeous novella, the writing is beautiful and Merricat is a fascinating, if completely unreliable, narrator. 

*Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman*
(BBC radio-play)

I honestly have no idea if this audio version is even remotely like the actual book (Goodreads suggests...maybe?) but when it advertises a cast of Benedict Cumberbatch, Anthony Head, Natalie Dormer and Christopher Lee what am I supposed to do? Not buy it? Not likely. Regardless of whether the actual story is the same, the setting is the one and the same in both. Underneath London there exists another London, London Below, and this darker London is full of angels and monsters and secret doorways and marketplaces. The radio-play is purely dialogue with absolutely no narration, which does make it difficult to follow the action at times and given it is so short (approximately 3 hours) the pacing does feel off at times. I imagine if it is telling the same story ( in this story normal Londoner Richard Mayhew helps a young lady which leads him to an adventure with her and some others in London Below) there are some details missing that link sections or develop characters and add to that slightly off-kilter feel. But seriously, James McEvoy, Sophie Okonedo, Romola Garai and CHRISTOPHER LEE. Who cares if it's not perfect with a cast that perfect?


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