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Familiar Diversions

I'm a librarian who loves anime, manga, and reading a wide variety of genres.

Currently reading

The Garden Plot
Marty Wingate
Progress: 492/609 minutes
On Borrowed Time
Jenn McKinlay
Progress: 201/271 pages
Mongrel
K.Z. Snow
Progress: 20/160 pages
Babbitt
Sinclair Lewis
Progress: 24/319 pages
The Sting of the Wild
Justin O. Schmidt
Progress: 12/230 pages
Princess Prince
Tomoko Taniguchi
Progress: 310/336 pages
FREE: Locke & Key
Tatiana Maslany, Audible Studios, Joe Hill, Gabriel Rodríguez, Kate Mulgrew, Haley Joel Osment, Full Cast
Progress: 91/806 minutes

We Have Always Lived in the Castle (audiobook) by Shirley Jackson, narrated by Bernadette Dunne

We Have Always Lived in the Castle: Acting Edition - Shirley Jackson

The Blackwood family used to be much bigger, but now there is only 18-year-old Mary Katherine (Merricat), her older sister Constance, their Uncle Julian, and Merricat's cat, Jonas. Merricat is the only Blackwood who ever leaves the house. She does all the grocery shopping and tries her best to act normal and unafraid, but inside she is a seething mass of rage and fear, quietly wishing all the townspeople dead as some of them taunt her. When she is not running errands, she spends all her time playing with Jonas and devising protections for her home that usually involve burying or hanging items around various places on Blackwood land. Meanwhile, Constance cheerfully and patiently cares for her and Uncle Julian, who is unable to walk and who spends his days writing about and obsessing over an event that occurred several years ago. The delicate balance of all their lives is disturbed by the arrival of Charles, Merricat and Constance's cousin and Julian's nephew.

This was a deeply distressing story.

I enjoyed the beginning. The Blackwood family's past was hinted at, and I came up with theories as to what had happened, who was involved, and how they were involved. The pacing didn't always work for me, and the book dragged more than a bit after Charles arrived, primarily because I thought I knew where Jackson was going with the story and I wanted her to finally get on with it.

As it turns out, I was exactly right about what happened to the Blackwood family - it's so easy to guess that I'm not even sure it counts as a spoiler. I was very wrong about where Jackson was planning on going with it all, however. When things finally came to a head, the results were unsettling and utterly horrific.

I don't suppose I liked the pacing after that much better, but it didn't seem to matter as much. I was compelled to find out just how far Jackson would go (thankfully not as far as I feared - I'm not sure I could have taken it). This is only the second work of hers that I've read or listened to, but it's enough to see that she's a master at writing increasingly unsettling heroines. I wouldn't call Merricat likeable, but overall she worked better for me than The Haunting of Hill House's Eleanor. I went from feeling annoyed and frustrated with Merricat and her childishness, to horror at her and Constance's relationship, to nearly crying for the both of them at the end.

By the end of the story, quite a few things are up to the reader's interpretation. Unfortunately, most of the big questions I had were never answered. Like the pacing, this didn't seem to matter as much to me as it should have. I was too raw from listening to Constance and Merricat try to cobble together a new "normal" for themselves to care that I hadn't gotten all the details about the Blackwood family's fate that I'd wanted, or more details about what was going on with Constance.

Bernadette Dunne's narration was great. I enjoyed her voices for all the main characters. The only things that irked me a bit were her voices for the town boys, which sounded cartoonish and contributed to a theory I had (and soon scrapped) that the taunting was all in Merricat's head.

 

Rating Note:

 

I wasn't sure how to rate this. I settled on 4 stars, even though it left me feeling terrible, because of how compelling it was.

 

(Original review posted on A Library Girl's Familiar Diversions.)

Reading progress update: I've listened 35 out of 609 minutes.

The Garden Plot - Marty Wingate

I wanted a cozy mystery, the garden aspect of this made me think of Rosemary & Thyme, and this was an immediately available Book 1.

 

This stars Pru, a Dallas woman in her early 50s who decides to quit her job, move to England, and become a head gardener. She managed the first two, but that last one might be out of her reach. She needs a steady paycheck in order to stay in England, so she keeps hunting for gardening work (and trying to convince her few clients to actually pay her).

 

I keep forgetting that Pru is in her 50s. I have a hard time mentally connecting that with "and she dropped everything to go live in a place where she has zero connections or even a job already lined up." I like the narrator so far, and I'm hoping there's time for some gardening details before the inevitable body discovery.

Halloween Bingo 2018: Update 12

 

This time around I've marked 13 with We Have Always Lived in the Castle. I used my basket of kittens sticker, because I thought it fit Jonas and also, in a way, Constance and Mary Katherine.

 

I'm so close to multiple bingos, but my reading is still going at a painful crawl. I can concentrate for a few pages, and then I go off and do other things. Thank goodness for audiobooks, I guess. They're helping me limp along.

 

Marked:

 

Killing Mr. Griffin - Lois Duncan Terrifying Women

 

Sunstruck - Polenth Blake Cryptozoologist

 

Horrorstor - Grady Hendrix Modern Masters of Horror

 

The Atrocities - Jeremy Shipp New Release

 

 

Spiral - Glynne Walley,Koji Suzuki Relics and Curiosities

 

The Wild Robot - Peter Brown Free

 

The Twelve Kingdoms: Sea of Wind - Fuyumi Ono,小野 不由美,Akihiro Yamada,山田 章博,Alexander O. Smith,Elye J. Alexander Diverse Voices

 

The Haunting of Hill House - Shirley Jackson,David Warner Ghost Stories

 

Get Well Soon: History's Worst Plagues and the Heroes Who Fought Them - Jennifer Wright Doomsday

 

We Have Always Lived in the Castle: Acting Edition - Shirley Jackson 13

 

Read but not yet marked:

 

 

Missing Abby - L.A. Weatherly Spellbound or Baker Street Irregulars

 

The Lemonade Crime: Lemonade Series, Book 2 (MP3 Book) - Jacqueline Davies,Suzy Jackson Baker Street Irregulars

Reading progress update: I've listened 332 out of 332 minutes.

We Have Always Lived in the Castle: Acting Edition - Shirley Jackson

This was upsetting. I thought this was better, in a lot of ways, than The Haunting of Hill House, but I don't know that I'd ever want to re-listen to/re-read it. And I just realized that I never did get my biggest questions answered.

 

Edit: Oh, and I need to pick a Halloween Bingo square for this. I'm going to go with 13. I don't know if Jonas was ever described, but on the cover he's a black cat.

Reading progress update: I've read 73 out of 271 pages.

On Borrowed Time - Jenn McKinlay

"What sort of married woman had Jack gotten himself involved with?"

 

Oh, Lindsey. Can we say "hypocrite"? Or has she forgotten that Robbie Vine, who she has not ruled out as a possible boyfriend, is married, too?

CrimeReads - "Crime in the Land of Gods and Monsters"

SF Mysteries/Thrillers are a favorite of mine, and although I own (but haven't yet read) several of these, there are also several here that I either didn't know were thrillers/mysteries or didn't even know about.

Reading progress update: I've listened 271 out of 332 minutes.

We Have Always Lived in the Castle: Acting Edition - Shirley Jackson

This is horrific in ways I did not expect it would be.

Reading progress update: I've listened 215 out of 332 minutes.

We Have Always Lived in the Castle: Acting Edition - Shirley Jackson

If what Julian said is true, and goodness knows he isn't exactly a reliable source of information, then I'm confused and these people are even more disturbed than I thought.

Reading progress update: I've listened 201 out of 332 minutes.

We Have Always Lived in the Castle: Acting Edition - Shirley Jackson

Nothing gets Charles more worked up than someone hurting the money. And literally everything at the Blackwood house is money to him. I'm willing to bet he's put a mental price tag on Constance, too.

 

Reading progress update: I've listened 177 out of 332 minutes.

We Have Always Lived in the Castle: Acting Edition - Shirley Jackson

I'm impatiently waiting for whatever's going to happen to happen. I can't believe I still have over 2 hours to go.

Reading progress update: I've listened 145 out of 332 minutes.

We Have Always Lived in the Castle: Acting Edition - Shirley Jackson

I've spent most of this audiobook thinking that Bernadette Dunn sounded like an actor or comedian I'd once heard, but I couldn't remember who. I finally figured it out. She sounds like Amy Landon performing the Emily Dickinson texts in Texts from Jane Eyre.

A Prince on Paper by Alyssa Cole

I had no interest in the second book in this series, but this one sounds like it might be more up my alley. And, once again, the cover gods have been nice to this author. Another thing to add to my "stuff to look forward to in 2019" list.

 

Reading progress update: I've listened 86 out of 332 minutes.

We Have Always Lived in the Castle: Acting Edition - Shirley Jackson

All right, revised theory: Constance doesn't want Mary Katherine touching the food or tea because

she knows Mary Katherine poisoned nearly their entire family and wants to reduce the chance of another poisoning. And Constance immediately cleaned the sugar bowl with boiling water not because there was a spider in it, but because she knew immediately that Mary Katherine was responsible for poisoning the sugar and was for some reason trying to protect her.

(show spoiler)

Just in via ILL: Did you know My Neighbor Totoro is a book too?

My Neighbor Totoro: A Novel - Tsugiko Kubo, Hayao Miyazaki

From what I can tell, the movie came first and this is a novelization. Considering that the visuals are part of the movie's charm, I'm guessing this will feel like the lesser version of the story, but I'm still looking forward to it.

 

It's looking like the weeks before my vacation will be filled with library books.

Reading progress update: I've listened 64 out of 332 minutes.

We Have Always Lived in the Castle: Acting Edition - Shirley Jackson

I'm not quite sure what I'm listening to. Something happened to Constance and Mary Katherine's parents a few years ago, and it's left Mary Katherine with a deep "I wish you all dead" rage against the townspeople. They really do seem to dislike her and the rest of her family, but no reason has been given yet. And Mary Katherine and Constance's sole visitor just implied that, whatever it was that happened, Constance has been feeling responsible for it. I'm wondering if Mary Katherine had something to do with whatever happened, though. There have been multiple references to her not being allowed to handle food, or tea. But she's allowed to pour milk. If I take that at face value, it's possible that Constance is overly controlling, or that her anxiety extends to food and drink. Or, hey, maybe Mary Katherine poisoned their parents and all this "don't touch the food and tea" stuff is just a precaution.

DNFing

Carpet Diem: Or...How to Save the World by Accident - Justin Lee Anderson

I'm only 35 minutes in, so you could argue that I didn't give this a fair shot, but I have zero interest in it. So I'm officially DNFing.