The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield

I picked this one up for the RIP challenge, as I've heard it compared to books like Shadow of the Wind and The Book of Lost Things. I'm pretty sure I'm the last blogger to read this book, so I'm not going to do much recap. This has been called a book for book lovers as our narrator, Margaret Lea, is the operator of a bookshop and longtime bibliophile, preferring the company of books to the company of people. As the novel moves forward, Margaret finds herself working with an incredibly famous though reclusive author, Vida Winter. Winter has hired Margaret to tell the author's untold life story. The novel holds certain parallels to Victorian classics that are mentioned throughout; most notably Jane Eyre, Wuthering Heights and The Turn of the Screw, to name a few.

For me, the narrative had a few moments of suspense but overall I found the twists underwhelming and the plot filled with conveniences.  The biggest problem that I had with the book was that I found it to be over-narrated; characters and ideas rarely spoke for themselves, instead our narrator told us everything, including the obvious, and never let me assess things for myself. The narration made the story too accessible, giving it an almost juvenile, corny feel:

Everybody has a story. It's like families. You might not know who they are, might have lost them, but they exist all the same. You might drift apart or you might turn your back on them, but you can't say you haven't got them. Same goes for stories.
Aside from that it was an engaging story in parts, but lacking in its delivery. I know I'm in the minority with this one, it just didn't do it for me.


Book Riot Readers’ Top 50 Favorite Novels

You know I'm a sucker for lists! Awhile back Book Riot asked its readers to vote on their top 3 favorite novels. They complied the list and posted the results. Only one of my votes made the list - The Time Traveler's Wife. The other books I voted for were Richard Wright's Native Son and Jhumpa Lahiri's The Namesake
  1. To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee (126 votes)
  2. Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
  3. Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte
  4. The Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling
  5. The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
  6. The Lord of the Rings series by J.R.R. Tolkien
  7. Gone With the Wind by Margaret Mitchell
  8. Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte
  9. The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
  10. The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger
  11. One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez
  12. The Secret History by Donna Tartt
  13. Catch-22 by Joseph Heller
  14. A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith
  15. Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut
  16. A Prayer for Owen Meany by John Irving
  17. The Stand by Stephen King
  18. The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien
  19. Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy
  20. Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace
  21. Persuasion by Jane Austen
  22. The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde
  23. The Brothers Karamozov by Fyodor Dostoevsky
  24. The Outlander series by Diana Gabaldon
  25. East of Eden by John Steinbeck
  26. The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon
  27. The Time Traveler’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger
  28. American Gods by Neil Gaiman
  29. The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas
  30. Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury
  31. 1984 by George Orwell
  32. Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoevsky
  33. Little Women by Louisa May Alcott
  34. Moby-Dick by Herman Melville
  35. The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck
  36. The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood
  37. The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy series by Douglas Adams
  38. Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov
  39. Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier
  40. Ulysses by James Joyce
  41. Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell
  42. The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky
  43. Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card
  44. Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides
  45. The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay by Michael Chabon
  46. Dune by Frank Herbert
  47. Gilead by Marilynne Robinson
  48. Les Miserables by Victor Hugo
  49. The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern 
  50. The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver (13 votes)
How many have you read? Go over here and let BookRiot know!  

Also, if you voted, which books did you vote for?


RIP VII Reading

Halloween has come and gone and with that, I read some fantastically dark and suspenseful book for the RIP VII Challenge. I participated in Peril the Second: Read two books, any length, that you feel fits my very broad definition of scary. It could be Stephen King or Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Ian Fleming or Edgar Allan Poe…or anyone in between. I read three novels, all of which leaned heavily in the mystery/suspense genre:

The Eyre Affair, Jasper Fford: Fford has created an alternate history in which the lines between reality and fiction become blurred and people can literally step into the pages of a book, meet its central characters, and experience the setting for themselves. With that they can also manipulate the outcome of the novel and even kidnap fictional characters. 

The Big Sleep, Raymond Chandler: This book was fun to read and knowing that it was one of the first of its kind, it's even more impressive. The novel has been adapted into film twice (1946, 1978) with the first staring Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall - so you know it was a pretty big deal. Bogart of course plays Philip Marlowe, one of the more memorable characters I've read in while.

The Thirteenth Tale, Diane Setterfield: Full review coming soon, but I'm sorry to report this one didn't blow my socks off as many of you predicted it would. It was entertaining but a little too straight forward for my taste. 

If you're interested in reading brief reviews of the books I read for RIP last year, you can find that here. The books I included for my probable reads came from my list below. I still plan to read the others listed eventually.
  • Rebecca, Daphne DuMarier
  • The Gun Slinger, Stephen King
  • The Big Sleep, Raymond Chandler
  • The Thirteenth Tale, Diane Setterfield 
  • Case Histories, Kate Atkinson 
  • The Eyre Affair, Jasper Fford
  • Something Wicked This Way Comes, Ray Bradbury
  • We Have Always Lived In the Castle, Shirley Jackson 
  • In The Woods, Tana French 


The Big Sleep by Raymond Chandler

"You were dead, you were sleeping the big sleep, you were not bothered by things like that, oil and water were the same as wind and air to you. You just slept the big sleep, not caring about the nastiness of how you died or where you fell."

Raymond Chandler is considered to be one of the founders of the "hard-boiled" genre, setting the stage for several generations of crime writers. This book was fun to read and knowing that it was one of the first of its kind, it's even more impressive. The novel has been adapted into film twice (1946, 1978) with the first staring Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall - so you know it was a pretty big deal. Bogart of course plays Philip Marlowe, one of the more memorable characters I've read in while. He lives in a corrupt world that driven him to become cynical; he's hard-drinking lady killer who also happens to be a private detective. Chandler himself admitted to the unbelievability of Marlowe's character when he wrote, “The private detective of fiction is a fantastic creation who acts and speaks like a real man. He can be completely realistic in every sense but one, that one sense being that in life as we know it such a man would not be a private detective.”

I do not think this unbelievability took away from the novel as whole. In fact, it is this lead character and the overall atmosphere of the novel that carries it. The atmosphere is gorgeous and descriptive and everything has that old Hollywood vibe. Although the novel takes place in LA, the setting is less concerned with the city as it is with its immediate surroundings; lavish mansions overlooking the Hollywood hills, clubs that look swanky by night and seedy by day, and of course Marlowe's own dingy office. Added bonus:
I did not predict the ending before it was revealed, which made it even more fun.
I will say that I had to pay careful attention to the plot throughout, as it changes often, taking more turns than any other 250 page novel I've read. If I lost concentration for even a page I had to go back and reread it, because you better believe something happened to change the direction of the storyline. Aside from the somewhat confusing plot, I have no complaints. Among his other novels, Chandler wrote a total of seven Philip Marlowe titles. The Big Sleep was the first, and I definitely plan to read more.

Publisher: Vintage Crime, 1939