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Book Voyeurism

I love knowing what other people are reading. If I see someone sitting in a break room or in a park with a book, I’m so nosy. I want to know what book it is. Is it good? Is it awful? Should I read it?

With the advent of the Internet, it’s much easier now to spy on people’s reading. Sites like Library Thing, Shelfari, anobii, and even Visual Bookshelf on Facebook mean that I can find people with similar reading interests – or even just friends with completely opposite taste – and see what novel they’re into.

So, if you like reading Book Sherpa, head on over to anobii.com (it’s my preferred book tracking site) and set yourself up an account and friend or neighbor me. I’d love to know what you’re reading. You can find my “shelf” at http://www.anobii.com/moogle/books.

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The Haunting of Hill House, by Shirley Jackson

Haunting of Hill House

I’ve begun my annual reading of the scary stories, which is something I like to do every year during the Halloween season. The first book I pulled off the shelf was The Haunting of Hill House, by Shirley Jackson, which I’d picked up at the used bookstore recently. I was all set for a spooky, creepy haunted house story. What I got…was something a little more extraordinary.

You see, The Haunting of Hill House doesn’t really wear its scares on its sleeve. Instead, Jackson builds suspense and tension slowly, leaving only unanswered questions instead of providing answers. She does this through masterful character development and deliberate pacing. Jackson even manages to subvert my expectations a bit, as she introduces a couple of characters toward the end of the book, and I expected certain things to happen to them. She takes things in a completely unexpected direction instead.

The story begins when Dr. Montague, Eleanor, Luke and Theodora arrive to stay at the house for a period where they’ll investigate its reported freaky occurrences. Dr. Montague has arranged the gathering, and recruited Eleanor and Theodora for events that have occurred in their past that might make them more open to paranormal phenomena. Luke is present as a member of the family that owns Hill House, which was built 80 years previously by a man named Hugh Crain.

Strange things happen, like writing appearing on the walls and terrifying noises in the night as things seem to be trying to get into their rooms. The group basically agrees that they will always stick together, especially at night, because they seem to be particularly vulnerable when separated.

It’s never really clear, though, what causes the manifestations of evil. The house itself is a character, with a wicked design that makes it impossible to find one’s way around and exerting a malevolent influence of its own. There are intimations that Eleanor might be responsible for some of the writings, and if she’s not, it’s pretty clear that something has latched onto her.

All of the horror in the book is psychological, so any reader looking for blood and guts is bound to be disappointed. But if you like a carefully crafted, ambiguous tale that leaves you yearning for just a bit more, The Haunting of Hill House is a perfectly nasty little read.

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Reading Is Sexy

readingissexy

Ever since Rory Gilmore wore a shirt like this on Gilmore Girls, it’s been one of my favorites. I actually own it in two varieties – long sleeved and boy t-shirt. I don’t have it in this pink flavor, though I’d like to.

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Hemingway’s House

hemingway

About nine years ago, I had the chance to visit Ernest Hemingway’s Key West home. It was the bright spot in a trip that was otherwise a little bit melancholy. It was fascinating to see the place where a writer I had so admired had worked…and played. While there, he wrote To Have and Have Not (a personal favorite) and The Short, Happy Life of Francis Macomber, among other things.

I found a little inspiration in seeing the room where he did the majority of his work, and enjoyed playing with the kitties that still frequent the grounds. Writing spaces have changed so much since that time. Now, a laptop and a chair are plenty enough, but I think there’s something to be said for writing things on paper now and again.

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Book to Film: Whiteout

whiteout

We all know that Hollywood is creatively bankrupt. Just look at all of the various “re-imaginings”, remakes, and movies based on toys if you have any doubt. Another source for Hollywood inspiration is books of all sorts – novels, non-fiction, graphic novels, kid-lit and comic books. Sometimes, these adaptations work extraordinarily well (The Lord of the Rings, Silence of the Lambs, No Country for Old Men), but more often, people find themselves disappointed that the movie desecrated a book they loved. As they’re about to enter theaters, I’ll take a quick look at these book-to-film projects, starting today with Whiteout.

Whiteout is a thriller/murder mystery set in Antarctica and is based on a limited-run comic book series written by Greg Rucka and illustrated by Steve Lieber. The main character is a female US Marshal who struggles against a sinister killer as well as some bitter cold as she attempts to uncover the secrets behind the murders.

I’ve actually read Whiteout, and though its my understanding that it’s fairly highly regarded, it left me a little cold (get it? Ha ha!). I liked that the central character was female and drawn realistically, but that’s about as far as it went. I never found myself particularly invested in their stories, which made it difficult for me to care whether she solved the mystery or if something terrible happened to her. It’s one of those books that I basically forgot about five minutes after I finished it.

It’s surprising, then, that someone thought there was enough mileage in Whiteout to expand to a full-length feature film. (I’d guess that the entire book takes about 40 minutes to read.) Sure, the challenges of filming a story set in Antarctica might be interesting visually, but as far as having a truly gripping story or engaging characters, there would have to be some significant work done. Considering that Kate Beckinsale was cast in the lead role – and she looks more like most “typical” female comic book characters than the one in Whiteout – it seems like the primary redeeming aspect of the book was left behind anyway.

If reviews are any indication, it looks like critics would have you steer clear of the movie, too. As I write this, Whiteout is 2% Fresh (thats *one* out of 50 reviews) at RottenTomatoes, the film review aggregator site. I suppose that’s what comes from choosing to adapt such average material in the first place.

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Music to Read By

Depending upon my mood, I sometimes quite enjoy listening to some music while I’m deep into a good book. It can’t be just any music, though. Rock music doesn’t really cut it, and R & B tends to get my toes tapping too much. When I settle in for an hour or two of reading, I find that classical, jazz and other instrumentals (movie scores, Sigur Rós, Explosions in the Sky) hit the spot. This morning, I found myself enjoying some great classical tunes from the Romantic period before moving on to Astrud Gilberto and Duke Ellington. I don’t turn the volume particularly loud, but I’m certain it’s doing its part to stimulate that ol’ gray matter.

What do you think? Do you have a particular like of music you enjoy while reading? Do you require silence? Can you read with the television in the background? With the proliferation of media in our world today, it’s harder and harder to shut out the noise.

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Our journey is about to begin…

Welcome to Book Sherpa! I will be your guide to the world of novels, non-fiction, kid-lit and other assorted awesome things. My back is strong and I can carry a heavy load…especially if I have the right book bag.

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