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Slade House by David Mitchell

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Slade House by David Mitchell Slade House by David Mitchell
Narrator: Thomas Judd, Tania Rodrigues
Published by Penguin Random House Audio Publishing Group on October 27, 2015
Source: Library
Genres: Horror
Length: 6 hrs 54 mins
Format: Audiobook
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Keep your eyes peeled for a small black iron door.

Down the road from a working-class British pub, along the brick wall of a narrow alley, if the conditions are exactly right, you’ll find the entrance to Slade House. A stranger will greet you by name and invite you inside. At first, you won’t want to leave. Later, you’ll find that you can’t. Every nine years, the house’s residents — an odd brother and sister — extend a unique invitation to someone who’s different or lonely: a precocious teenager, a recently divorced policeman, a shy college student. But what really goes on inside Slade House? For those who find out, it’s already too late...

Spanning five decades, from the last days of the 1970s to the present, leaping genres, and barreling toward an astonishing conclusion, this intricately woven novel will pull you into a reality-warping new vision of the haunted house story—as only David Mitchell could imagine it.

Maybe I should have read The Bone Clocks first. Maybe I just don’t get what makes people love David Mitchell. (Do people love David Mitchell?) Maybe it’s just not my typical genre?

I read Slade House for the RIP XII Group Read. I don’t know if I expected it to be spookier or more interesting or what. It was fine, but when I wasn’t listening to it, I didn’t think about it. I didn’t feel the need to share bits of it with anyone or tell my daughter she needs to read it – she’s a horror fan.

Slade House is a type of haunted house story. Basically, every 9 years a victim is lured into the house. Each time we get to know the victim; they each have a distinct personality, their own quirks, tragedies, or fears that make them relatable. We get some standard spooky house fare, portraits, creeky stairs, mysterious women looking out the windows, warning disembodied voices. But once they eat or drink something they are good and trapped and the Grayer Twins eat their souls. The Grayers are psychic adepts who are feeding their own immortality with other’s souls. There’s a complete system of how they do it involving a lacuna in the attic, a space where time stands still and an orison which is some kind of reality bubble that lets the twins seperate their victims’ souls from their bodies.

I listened to the audio version and the narrators were wonderful. They kept me involved in the story and I think the set-up with basically five different stories forming the novel kept me interested too, just to see who the twins got next. And wondering if there really were weapons in the cracks.

Discussion questions posted at Estella’s Revenge:

1. Slade House is broken up into five parts and is narrated by five characters. Which one did you like best and why? I think my favorite part was the section narrated by Sally. The world the Grayers create for this version of Slade House, with its college Halloween party, is the most fully formed. And I liked Sally and felt bad for her. She just wanted to be loved and to fit in. Also, I love how she comes back in a later section. She was stronger than any one would have given her credit for.

2. In my opinion, this is not a traditional”scary” book. Each new guest in the house reveals more about Slade House and the Grayer twins. Did you find any of it unsettling? I didn’t think it was particularly scary either. The first section with the little boy had some unsettling parts, but once the rhythm of Slade House was established, it became a bit predictable.

3. This quote, discuss: “Grief is an amputation, but hope is incurable hemophilia: you bleed and bleed and bleed.”  You grieve when you lose someone, but you no the loss is final. When there’s still hope that the person will be found, you never can get closure. I don’t know if I’ve ever seen it referred to exactly in that way, but it feels familiar.

4. Norah and Jonah…sympathetic or nah? Not really. I don’t feel like we really got a chance to know them as people.

5. We didn’t learn much about what Norah and Jonah do between each nine–year cycle, but we do know that they have a lot of freedom and many resources at their disposal. What would you do with a gifted existence like this one? Travel. Learn new skills.

6. The ending. What did you think? I actually liked the ending. A bit melodramatic, but that fit.

It is fun enough and for a semi-spooky October read it worked. I did like the ending, the last little bit that makes you wonder where the story will go next.

About David Mitchell

David Mitchell is the award-winning and bestselling author of The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet, Black Swan Green, Cloud Atlas, Number9Dream, Ghostwritten and The Bone Clocks. Twice shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize, Mitchell was named one of the 100 most influential people in the world by TIME magazine in 2007. With KA Yoshida, Mitchell co-translated from the Japanese the international bestselling memoir, The Reason I Jump. He lives in Ireland with his wife and two children.

Reading this book contributed to these challenges:

The Haunted Season by G. M. Malliet

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The Haunted Season by G. M. Malliet The Haunted Season by G. M. Malliet
Narrator: Michael Page
Series: Max Tudor Mysteries #5
Published by Dreamscape Media on October 6, 2015
Source: Library
Genres: Mystery
Length: 9 hrs 21 mins
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Lord and Lady Baaden-Boomethistle have been in residence for some weeks now, and the villagers are hoping for a return to the good old days, when the lord of the manor sprinkled benefits across the village like fairy dust. Father Max Tudor's invitation to dinner at the hall comes as a welcome novelty; it will be his first time meeting the famous family that once held sway in the area. Before he has time to starch his clerical collar and organize a babysitter, a sudden and suspicious death intervenes, and the handsome vicar's talent for sorting through clues to a murder is once again called into play in this charming and clever story.

I skipped #4 in the Max Tudor series, mostly because Father Max was getting married and having a baby and I just didn’t want to read about the new family, but I just couldn’t pass up the cover for The Haunted Season. Apparently I didn’t need to worry about the baby. He is so well-behaved and calm and peaceful that he barely causes a ripple in Max’s life. And I guess I shouldn’t be surprised, his mother after all is nearly perfect and a healer to boot. Hmm, that sounded meaner than I meant it to. I don’t dislike Awena, and in all honestly she’s not in much of this book.

Lord Baaden-Boomethistle is our deceased, decapitated by a wire strung between two trees while he was out riding his horse. We’ve got several suspects, mostly members of his family. There are a couple clues, a few secrets, and of course Max manages to put it all together, with some help from DCI Cotton, the recurring cop character.

If that was it, adding in the villagers and church members, and bit more of his new curate, Destiny, I would have enjoyed it more. There were a couple things that made me lower it a star or two. First, the miracle of the face on the wall. Not a big fan of miracles in otherwise straight forward (non-paranormal) mysteries. At the same time, Awena, Max’s wife, is actually a healer, like her touch, in addition to herbs and what-not, can physically heal people, so maybe it is partly paranormal, but overall it’s not, so those touches just don’t flow with the rest.

And the end was just not well done. To be honest, I don’t know why it was added on. There’s a big scene involving a character who is part of a theme in the series, but comes out of nowhere in this book. Instead of actually seeing the action, we end up getting an info dump where Max and DCI Cotton tell an associate what happened. It was clumsy. I think I might be done with the series.

I listened to the audio and I do think the narrator did a good job with the variety of characters – and there are a lot. I think listening to it was probably the better option, because at least when there was the long “here’s what happened,” it was kind of like we were part of the conversation too.

About G. M. Malliet

Malliet did post-graduate work at Oxford University after earning a graduate degree from the University of Cambridge, the setting for her earlier series, the St. Just mysteries. Raised in a military family, she spent her childhood in Alaska, Colorado, New Mexico, and Hawaii and has lived in places ranging from Japan to Europe, but she most enjoyed living in the U.K. She and her husband live across the river from Washington, D.C., in the colonial “village” of Old Town, Alexandria. Her hobbies include reading, hiking in the Blue Ridge, cooking vegetarian meals, and planning the next vacation. She writes full time nearly every day, and is writing a screenplay in addition to her mystery novels and short stories. She gets her ideas from people watching, particularly in airport waiting areas, train stations, parks, and restaurants.

Reading this book contributed to these challenges:

Glass Houses by Louise Penny

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Glass Houses by Louise Penny Glass Houses by Louise Penny
Narrator: Robert Bathurst
Series: Inspector Gamache #13
Published by Macmillan Audio on August 29, 2017
Source: Purchased
Genres: Mystery
Length: 13 hrs 23 mins
Format: Audiobook
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When a mysterious figure appears on the village green on a cold November day in Three Pines, Armand Gamache, now Chief Superintendent of the Sûreté du Québec, knows something is seriously wrong. Yet he does nothing. Legally, what can he do? Only watch and wait. And hope his mounting fears are not realized.

From the moment its shadow falls over Three Pines, Gamache suspects the creature has deep roots and a dark purpose. When it suddenly vanishes and a body is discovered, it falls to Gamache to discover if a debt has been paid or levied.

In the early days of the investigation into the murder, and months later, as the trial for the accused begins in a Montreal courtroom on a steamy day in July, the Chief Superintendent continues to struggle with actions he’s set in motion, from which there is no going back. “This case began in a higher court,” he tells the judge, “and it’s going to end there.”

And regardless of the trial’s outcome, he must face his own conscience.

I love Louise Penny’s Armand Gamache series. If you haven’t read it, you should. Do start at #1 though, you’ll appreciate them most that way.

That being said, this was not my favorite of the series. I liked the whole concept the book is built around, the ideas of Conscience and guilt and judgement. As always, the characters are well-done and I am happiest when a large part of the book revolves around the familiar village of Three Pines, as it does here. There are some new folks in town, most of whom have secrets, but finding out who they are and what they know/have done was interesting. Our old friends are all pretty much the same as always, which is good.

Things that didn’t work for me:

1. The construction of the story. This story jumps back and forth in time too much and too abruptly. We are at a courtroom trial in the present, but for half of the book we don’t know who’s on trial or who they killed. We jump back to the time when the figure appeared on the square and the crime that soon follows. I didn’t like the set-up and it’s not what I expect from Penny. Yes, I know authors can broaden their styles, try new things, but bah. I did listen to it on audio, maybe the transitions worked better in print. I didn’t really notice if they happened around chapter breaks or not.

2. It’s a bigger story than I like. It deals with the opioid epidemic and drug cartels. Yes, there was the murder and a small list of suspects, but I prefer a book to stay there. I don’t need the larger story, in this case it was the “war on drugs” but it could be any government/society altering scenario. They’re just not my cup of tea (or cafe au lait, since we are in Three Pines).

3. Gamache seemed a little off here. He’s always serious and caring, but I think the serious and, I don’t want to say guiltiness, but maybe the pressure of what he’s doing is weighing a bit too heavy, and repeated a bit too much.

And then there were the last two chapters, which were just excellent and almost redeemed the entire book for me.

About Louise Penny

Louise Penny (born 1958) is a Canadian author of mystery novels set in the Canadian province of Quebec centred on the work of Chief Inspector Armand Gamache of the Sûreté du Québec. Penny’s first career was as a radio broadcaster for the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. After she turned to writing, she won numerous awards for her work, including the Agatha Award for best mystery novel of the year five times and the Anthony Award for best novel of the year five times.

Reading this book contributed to these challenges:

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