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coming to a close

November 14, 2011

Many things are coming to a close, including this blog. I’ll keep it up for awhile, however, and if you want to find me at my new home in the blogosphere, please drop me a quick note at nevertravelledblog (at) gmail (dot) com and I’ll send you the new link.

Temporary Lull

November 5, 2011

I’m going to be pretty quiet here on the blog front for a bit. Some changes happening in real life. Feel free to email me if you want to connect, but otherwise, I’ll be back with booktalk soon.

Happy Halloween

October 31, 2011

Some things:

  • The bedroom is *almost* painted. Some touch-up today and then later we will need to do the trim, but can I just say how freaking great it is that the whole room is one single color? Love it. Photos soon.
  • Thanks for all the input on the wardrobe. The consensus says: skirts and dresses are IT this winter. As an experiment, I may wear skirts and dresses all this week to see how it goes. I need more dresses. Thrift stores are great for that.
  • According to the weather man, we have one more day (today) of glorious Northern California fall weather (80 degrees and sparkly sunshine) and then the chill will set in. I am happy about both of these things. I’m enjoying the pretty weather, and I’m really looking forward to the real autumn weather, to which I look forward every year. Let’s hear it for sweaters!
  • It’s Halloween and if the neighborhood decorations this year are any predictor, we will get more kids this year than we did last year. Seriously, so many dressed up houses. I’m impressed. I did not do a pumpkin this year but I did get a nice little bronze one, which we’ll light as our “open for business” sign. We have to get candy today. We still have no Halloween candy. What is wrong with us.
  • I’ve had to go in to work the past two Mondays and can I just say that I love having Mondays off? I have a lot to do today, but I am soooo glad to be home.
  • Bookclub was a success. We all agreed that The Lantern was a missed opportunity for a much better book.
That’s about it. I need to take some photos of the bedroom and will try to remember to do some fashion shots this week as well. It’s also the autumn bird season in our backyard and Terri is taking so many adorable photos. I will see if I can borrow a couple from her.

Happy Halloween, all. I’m going to celebrate by reading more of Danse Macabre and going to the library to pick up We Have To Talk About Kevin, which just came in for me! I can’t wait to read this.

Book: Haunted (inadvertent re-read)

October 29, 2011

D’oh. I already read this one. I couldn’t remember all of it so I kept reading, but yep. Already read it, three years ago.

Not as scary this time around, but I think that’s mostly because I already knew what was going to happen (or at least, suspected, as I was suspecting that I’d already read it).

Pretty creepy, though. Haunted house plus creepy ghosts. I liked it, although was bummed I wasted an RIP book on a reread! Not even a planned reread. Oh well. Next up, Danse Macabre by Stephen King.

Group Read: The Lantern (last set of questions)

October 24, 2011

First I have to say thank you to Carl who sent me his copy so I could participate! Here’s the main group read postWell, I didn’t get around to doing the first two sets of questions, but I have finished the book so I’ll participate in this last round. It’s my bookclub book and we’ll be discussing it next Saturday so I might add an addendum later.

1. Now that it’s all said and done; what did you think of the book? Did you see the ending coming?
I have to say, at some point I kind of stopped caring about the ending because it didn’t feel very suspenseful. It wasn’t surprising, it just sort of… ended. Was Bene supposed to be a ghost at the end? I think so… but it didn’t seem to matter much.
2. What do you think of the characters? Lawrenson took us on a twisty little ride there, I had trouble deciding who was good and who wasn’t for a while there! What do you think of Dom? Of Sabine? Rachel?
I thought Dom was interesting but ultimately overplayed (really? all this because he feels guilty? whatever). Sabine: crafty, probably the most interesting character. Rachel: meh. Typical. Crazy ex-wife, crazy all the way through, bizarre ending for her. I thought Eve was interesting too, but underdeveloped.
3. Pierre was such a conflicted character. In the end, do you think he killed Marthe and Annette, or did the fall to their deaths because of their blindness?
I thought it was pretty obvious that he killed them. Why else the elaborate coverup?
4. The book is being compared to Rebecca and Daphne du Maurier’s writing. Do you think the book lives up to that description?
Not really. Rebecca is such a masterful work of suspense and dread and gothic atmosphere. This book started well, but didn’t really go anywhere. I wish Rachel had been killed somehow (well, killed more dramatically or evilly) — as it was, the book just felt utterly deflated. Like Christian rock (sorry, Christian rock fans). It’s supposed to be all dark and atmospheric but in the end it’s all just a big misunderstanding with a happy ending and everything. Meh.
5. Did you have any problems with the book? Narration? Plot? The back and forth between two different characters and times?
I didn’t so much have problems with the book as I was just disappointed. I think that’s a bigger failure. I wasn’t very entertained, although it was mildly interesting. I thought the back-and-forth narration was a gimmick without any big payoff. The book would have been fine without it, with Marthe’s story told in some other way. You expect a big payoff, after all this hype and drawn-out storytelling. But I think I just felt cheated at the end. The big reveal was a big nothing, Pierre dies without any drama, Dom is forgiven (and never had anything to worry about anyway), the ghost storyline never really develops, there’s no serial killer… I feel cheated. Disappointed. It was a Red Tent book. It could have been so much better.
6. Do you think Lawrenson tied both stories together well in the end? Is there anything she could/should have done differently?
I think it totally could have been tied together better. I saw somewhere that someone was speculating that perhaps Pierre’s descendants killed the modern-day girls. That would have been something. Or Marthe was truly a ghost, trying to get closure. But no. Instead, it all felt very flat. I did not feel any drama around Benedicte’s storyline, and didn’t feel compelled to understand why she needed to stay around in her house. So she got jilted. So she had an abortion. So what?
7. One problem I had with the novel is the reliability of the narrators. Do you think any of them were telling the truth? Which ones?
Who knows. This question never occurred to me. I felt like there was supposed to be some big mystery built up, but it didn’t pan out at all. I mean, every single mysterious line she spent all this time building up, fell flat. Not even a local serial killer! Most of the girls were found safe! BORING.
Needless to say, I am disappointed with this book. There were parts that I liked — I loved the descriptions of the house, of Provence, of the perfume-making, of the old traditions. I loved Benedicte’s love story and didn’t mind that it ended badly, but wished it had somehow carried over to the rest of the novel. I know it was supposed to, with the lantern and all, but somehow it felt forced and disconnected. I liked Eve and I even liked Dom, although I think he wimped out in the end. I would have liked him better if he had turned out to be a Heathcliff, all wild and passionate and out of control. Instead, he’s just a remorseful schmuck who got played by a narcissist.
I wish this had been a different book. I wish the ghosts had been real (Bene doesn’t count because I don’t see her doing much haunting — or at least, no haunting of consequence — the lantern thing was silly). I wish there had been a real murder that Dom was running from. Or something more morally ambiguous than helping someone with assisted suicide in a Swiss hospital. I wish Eve had uncovered something truly horrible. I wish Sabine knew more than she really did. I wish the artist guy had been a serial killer. I wish the house was forever unsellable because the bloodstains would never wash out and everyone knew it was haunted.
Or something.
Anyway — I guess I didn’t hate the book, but I am bitterly disappointed in it. I am going to be curious what my bookclub feels about it. I hope they aren’t too bummed by it.

Book: The House Next Door

October 23, 2011
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I’ve seen this book listed on many “best horror” or “best haunted house” booklists — it was kind of difficult to track down (I had to have it brought up from deep storage at the Oakland Library — that in itself made me love this book already! Deep storage at the library! I want to go down there!) So, so worth it!

You may recall I read an Anne Rivers Siddons book earlier this year and liked it quite a bit. Rather typical Southern suburbanite storytelling, but a good solid novel and very likable. This book was nothing like that book, except that it’s set in a wealthy Southern suburb.

Colquitte and Walter are a very self-satisfied couple in a moderately wealthy neighborhood. They love their house, they have good friends on the block, they have nice careers and play tennis at the club on weekends. They have no children by choice, because they like their peaceful happy lives just the way they are, thankyouverymuch. They love their view of the wooded lot next door, and are devastated when they hear that it’s been purchased and a house is to go in soon.

At first, everything seems okay. They end up admiring the house very much — the way it is described reminds me of Fallingwater by Frank Lloyd Wright — a remarkably beautiful modern home over a stream, which seems to just grow out of the natural setting. They like the architect, Kim, and become friends with him. They are not so sure about the buyers, a chipper yuppie couple named Pie and Buddy, but they seem harmless and friendly, and so everyone goes about settling in the little couple into their beautiful new home.

But then the bad things start. First it starts with small animals found dead on the lot, brutally murdered by an unknown predator. Then Pie loses her baby. Then the puppy. Then the housewarming party — and the Big Bad Thing That Happened. (side note: the big bad thing was pretty bad, but also a classic example of a humiliation very much of the time. Sure, it would be humiliating anytime, the thing that happened, but people’s reactions to it were very ’70s, which was amusing). Pie and Buddy depart in haste, their lives completely ruined. However, they survive relatively unharmed, compared to what happens to the next couple who move in.

At this point, everyone just thinks how unfortunate Pie and Buddy were. So sad! So they welcome the new couple, Buck and Anita, with open arms. However, something is not quite right with this couple. Nice people, both of them, but something isn’t right with Anita. Soon we find out what it is, and it’s pretty sad. And then the house starts messing with her. Ghostly phone calls, a TV movie that plays only in her house. And then worse things, things that happen to neighbors who try to help them. The destruction begins to grow, until it destroys Anita utterly.

By this point, Colquitte and Walter (and the reader) are starting to get unnerved. They start to wonder if they should warn the next buyers that something isn’t right with that house. But it’s such a lovely house, and the neighborhood is so nice… so the next family moves in, and you just know it’s going to be bad, bad bad. And it is. The house turns deadly.

So what is it about the house? Is it haunted? Not exactly. It’s a brand new house. What then? Could it be that the charming architect has somehow passed a curse along into his creation? Could it be the land itself, so previously enchanting? Could it be Colquitte and Walter are drawing conclusions that are maybe a tad bit hysterical?

The miasma of destruction infects the neighbors — anyone connected to the house at all. Previously happy, sunny lives are systematically dismantled and destroyed, friendships crumble, litter starts to pile up in the streets. Yes, litter! This part cracked me up too. Part of the reason this book is so effective is that it pokes into the shiny happy lives of privileged self-satisfied people who have no idea what an unhappy life even looks like, until this house is built. It’s almost as if the house is set upon destroying the cloying smugness of the neighborhood (which is sort of satisfying, I have to say).

This book reminded me of old Stephen King — full of a building dread, the small meannesses of people, the way people interact and suspicions grow. Is the house evil? Probably. But it draws out the worst in people — the seeds of evil that are always there. Quite scary in this book, and a nice mixture of dread, horror, social commentary (at least to modern eyes) and satisfaction of seeing smug rich people get theirs.

I liked this book a lot and it was PERFECT for RIP. It’s worth looking up if you like haunted house books like I do!

further thoughts about clothes (really boring unless you like clothes)

October 21, 2011

I would include photos but I’m lazy. Maybe next time.

So you know how earlier in the year I was all “all neutrals, all the time”? I have to say: I am getting SO BORED with this.

So. Bored. This plan isn’t working.

I guess I expect myself to hold onto a certain fashion (I say “fashion” with tongue planted firmly in cheek) aesthetic for a few years at least, because who has the money to change everything every year or so, right? But this can’t go on.

Also, I am getting really tired of wearing office clothes. So. Some thoughts. Stick with me here. (you don’t really have to, you can stop reading right now if you want, I don’t mind)

My office dress code falls somewhere in the middle of corporate-y. You could wear a pair of black pants, a decent shirt and a cardigan year-round and be just fine (in fact, I usually do). Jeans on Friday (and sometimes dark jeans are fine the rest of the week), nobody wears suits except the CEO (sometimes). I sometimes think I could wear the same outfit four days in a row and no one would notice.

Which brings me to my next point: shoes. I had to get rid of all of my shoes a year or two ago. I’ve been slow in rebuilding my shoe selection because I don’t have very much room for shoes, frankly. But I have decided that I need more than one pair of flats, and I need a pair of shoes that I can wear socks with in winter. I have fabulous boots, but nothing that really goes with regular pants.

Which brings me to my other point: pants. About four years ago (maybe more!) I bought about seven pairs of work pants from The Gap. They are the perfect work pant. They fit perfectly, I got them in two lengths (for flats and heels), in a few different colors, and figured I would be set for the next 10 years. And they are still great. The only problem is that I’m totally bored with corporate work pants. All I want to do is wear jeans. Or skirts and tights.

So, to my final point: I think I need to figure out how to wear jeans or tights and skirts/dresses this winter and leave the work pants in the closet for a season. I’m thinking dark jeans. I have a pair of black jeans-styled pants made out of something twill-like, and I like those too. So, jeans and whatever you call casual jeans-like pants which are not jeans. And a couple more skirts and/or a dress.

The *other* other point is that I want to simultaneously have more fun with my clothes AND feel like I’m wearing pajamas most of the time.

So everything must be soft.

That’s my plan. Non-worky clothes which are soft like PJs and which are slightly more fun/colorful than what I have now, but which require almost no effort on my part (like jeans).

I wonder how one builds a wardrobe like this with zero budget?🙂

(hello, thrift shops and H&M!) (also, my mother is supposed to come visit in a couple of weeks and I *know* she will help me with this dilemma, right, mom?)