The Haunting of Hill House

The haunting of Hill HouseI’ve just read (or been read to by David Warner as it was an eaudiobook ) The Haunting of Hill House’ by Shirley Jackson and can highly recommend it.

The best-known of Shirley Jackson’s novels, and the inspiration for writers such as Neil Gaiman and Stephen King, ‘The Haunting of Hill House’ is an eerie, chilling story of the power of fear. Donna Tartt, author of The Goldfinch and The Secret History has said that ‘Shirley Jackson’s stories are among the most terrifying ever written’

The story is about four seekers gathered together by a Dr Montague, an occult scholar, to spend a summer at rambling old pile known as ‘Hill House’, a haunted New England mansion. The group includes Luke, a bit of a wastrel, who has hopes of inheriting the estate and is there as a family member; Theodora, Dr. Montague’s assistant, a lesbian, bohemian artist with ESP; and Eleanor Vance, a friendless, fragile young woman with a dark past who is there because she experienced poltergeist phenomena as a child. She has spent the last 11 years of her life caring for her invalid mother, recently deceased.

At first, their stay seems destined to be ‘merely a spooky encounter with inexplicable phenomena’. It becomes much more than that as Hill House gathers its powers—and soon it will choose one of them to make its own.

The book has been adapted for film twice – once in 1963 (this one is better rated and follows the book more closely) and more recently as ‘The Haunting’, starring Liam Neeson, Catherine Zeta-Jones and Owen Wilson.

 Shirley Jackson was born in California in 1916. Other books include The Road Through the Wall, Hangsaman, The Bird’s Nest, The Sundial, The Haunting of Hill House and We Have Always Lived in the Castle, widely seen as her masterpiece.

She died in her sleep at the age of 48.


Young Adult books as film are big box office

MatchedThe Twilight and Harry Potter movie franchises may be finished but Young Adult fiction is still big news at the box office. With cinematic sequels due for Divergent and The Maze Runner and the final outing for the phenomenally successful Hunger Games sequence still to come it seems that dystopian fiction in particular is box office gold. But dystopias are not the only Young Adult novels getting the Hollywood treatment so if bleak futures aren’t your thing maybe you will find something else more appealing amongst this selection of some of the best Young Adult tomes currently in production:

Fallen by Lauren Kate. Forbidden love pulses at the heart of this dark paranormal romance. When Luce meets Daniel she has an intense feeling that they have met before, but how is that possible when she knows for a fact that they haven’t?

FallenMatched by Allie Condie. Cassie lives in a society where every life choice is made for her including who her life partner will be but when she falls in love with someone who isn’t her match Cassie decides it’s time to make some choices of her own. This is the first book in an exciting dystopian trilogy.

The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern. Two young magicians’ fates intertwine when they are used as pawns in the power games of their older masters and The Night Circus becomes the stage for a fantastical tale of magic, love and rivalry.Wither

Paper Towns by John Green. An unusual coming of age tale from the author of the hugely popular The Fault in Our Stars. When the girl Quinten love’s mysteriously disappears he embarks on an epic and life changing road trip across America to find her.

Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs. Photography and text are used to startling effect to tell the story of sixteen year old Jacob. Sent to a remote Welsh island following a family tragedy he discovers the remains of an orphanage and within its Thirteen reasons whycrumbling walls some very unusual photographs which may hold clues to the fate of the strange children who used to live there.

Wither (The Chemical Garden Book One) by Lauren DeStefano. Rhina lives in a world where due to faulty genetic engineering women die at the age of 20 and men at 25. With only four years left to live Rhina is kidnapped and sold into a polygamous marriage with a rich young man. In order to escape and reunite with her twin brother she must first learn who she can trust amongst the other wives and servants of her new household come prison but the clock is ticking.

Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher. Thirteen names on a list, thirteen cassette tapes and thirteen reasons why teenager Hanna Baker took her own life. Compelling, tragic and utterly believable.

Mortdecai – have you read the books yet?

Don't point that thing at meAnyone been to see Johnny Depp and Gwyneth Paltrow in the film ‘Mortdecai’?

You might be interested in reading the novels by Kyril Bonfiglioli on which the film is based and which have been reissued by Penguin (The Mortdecai Trilogy and The Great Mortdecai Moustache Mystery).

Sometimes compared to P G Wodehouse’s Jeeves and Wooster novels for their humour but altogether darker (Mortdecai has a thuggish sidekick called Jock and Mortdecai himself is more cunning than Bertie Wooster), the author’s wife also said Bonfiglioli owed a debt to Kipling.

Mortdecai says of himself: “I am in the prime of life, if that tells you anything, of barely average height, of sadly over-average weight and am possessed of the intriguing remains of rather flashy good looks … I like art and money and dirty jokes and drink. I am very successful. I discovered at my goodish second-rate public school that almost anyone can win a fight if he is prepared to put his thumb into the other fellow’s eye.”

We’ve got one title in stock and we’re ordering  more.

Don’t point that thing at me by Kyril Bonfiglioli –Portly art dealer and seasoned epicurean Charlie Mortdecai comes into possession of a stolen Goya, the disappearance of which is causing a diplomatic ruction between Spain and its allies. Not that that matters to Charlie … until compromising pictures of some British diplomats also come into his possession and start to muddy the waters.

Inherent Vice

Inherent vice Inherent vice (borrow it from us) is the first novel by Thomas Pynchon to be made into a film and it is released in the UK on 30th January.

Synopsis: It’s a while since Doc Sportello has seen his ex-girlfriend. Suddenly out of nowhere she shows up with a story about a plot to kidnap a billionaire land developer whom she just happens to be in love with. Doc soon finds himself drawn into a bizarre tangle of motives and passions …

Joaquin Phoenix stars as Larry ‘Doc’ Sportello, ‘ a pothead private eye’ with ex-girlfriend Shasta played by Katherine Waterston. Land developer boyfriend Mickey Wolfmann is played by Eric Roberts. With Josh Brolin, Owen Wilson, Reese Witherspoon, Benicio Del Toro, Martin Short, Jena Malone, and Joanna Newsom assisting.


Go Wild in the library or the cinema

Wild: a journey from lost to foundYou can go and see the film ‘Wild’ from next Friday 16th January – it’s adapted from the author’s story by Nick Hornby. If you want to read the book, we have six copies and it’s by Cheryl Strayed.

Wild: a journey from lost to found

At 26, Cheryl Strayed thought she had lost everything. In the wake of her mother’s death, her family disbanded and her marriage crumbled. With nothing to lose, she made the most impulsive decision of her life: to walk 1,100 miles of the west coast of America – from the Mojave Desert, through California and Oregon, and into Washington State – and to do it alone. She had no experience of long-distance hiking and the journey was nothing more than a line on a map. But it held a promise – a promise of piecing together a life that lay in ruins at her feet


Deep Down Dark

Deep down dark

Deep Down Dark by Hector Tobar, Pulitzer prize winning journalist, is the un-put-downable dramatic account of the miners of the San José mine disaster in Chile.

The heart-stopping survival story tells of the 33 miners trapped half a mile beneath the surface for 69 days when the San Jose Mine collapsed. More than 1 billion viewers worldwide watched the rescue, and it is now being made into a film.

No other writer has been granted the deep and exclusive access to the miners that Hector Tobar has, and no one else can capture and recreate this unique drama so vividly, from the conflicts and the emotions that enveloped the men during their first fortnight below ground, when death by starvation loomed as their likely fate, to the subsequent weeks during which they established contact with the outside world. All the while, they remained trapped inside a still-thundering mountain that could collapse upon them at any moment.

It was written in official collaboration with ‘The 33’ and with the full cooperation of the Chilean authorities behind the daring rescue operation




Olive Kitteridge by Elisabeth Strout – review

Olive KitteridgeOlive Kitteridge by Elisabeth Strout has been showing as a mini series on Sky Atlantic. If you would like to read the book, we have a copy in stock. She has a new title The Burgess Boys, also in stock.

Here’s the New York Times review by Louisa Thomas from when it was first published in 2008.

“Elizabeth Strout brings to life a ‘hardscrabble community’ on the coast of Maine. One story takes place at the funeral reception of a man whose wife has just learned of his infidelity. Another features a hostage-taking in a hospital. Elsewhere, an old lover surprises a lounge pianist, sending her reeling back into painful memories. An overbearing mother visits her wary son and his boisterous, pregnant wife. Most stories turn on some kind of betrayal. A few document fragile, improbable romances. They encompass a wide range of experience.

The presence of Olive Kitteridge, a seventh-grade math teacher and the wife of a pharmacist, links these 13 stories. A big woman, she’s like a planetary body, exerting a strong gravitational pull. Several stories put Olive at the center, but in a few she makes only a fleeting appearance. It’s no coincidence that the two weakest stories are the ones in which she is merely mentioned. Without her, the book goes adrift, as if it has lost its anchor.

She isn’t a nice person. As one of the town’s older women notes, “Olive had a way about her that was absolutely without apology.” Olive’s son puts it more bluntly. “You can make people feel terrible,” he tells her. She dismisses others with words like “hellion” and “moron” and “flub-dub.” After swapping discontents, she says to a friend, “Always nice to hear other people’s problems.”

But as the stories continue, a more complicated portrait of the woman emerges. Olive may hurl invectives at her son, but she also loves him, almost more than she can bear. Her husband is a kind man and she loves him too, although she has trouble expressing it. She’s prone to “stormy moods,” as well as “sudden, deep laughter,” and she harbours a sense of compassion, even for strangers.

In one story, Olive bursts into tears when she meets an anorexic young woman. “I don’t know who you are,” she confesses, “but young lady, you’re breaking my heart.” “I’m starving, too,” Olive tells her. “Why do you think I eat every doughnut in sight?” “You’re not starving,” the girl replies, looking at this large woman, with her thick wrists and hands, her “big lap.” “Sure I am,” Olive says. “We all are.”

It takes extraordinary presumption to say this to a girl who is starving to death, but from Olive the remark seems well-earned. Because the main thing we learn about her is that she has a remarkable capacity for empathy, and it’s an empathy without sentimentality. She understands that life is lonely and unfair, that only the greatest luck will bring blessings like a long marriage and a quick death. She knows she’s been rotten; she has regrets. She understands people’s failings — and, ultimately, their frail hopes.

Just as Olive’s self-awareness and empathy develop over the course of the book, so does the reader’s. Strout’s prose is quickened by her use of the “free indirect” style, in which a third-person narrator adopts the words or tone a particular character might use. “The tulips bloomed in ridiculous splendor” is a narrative statement — but “ridiculous” is very much Olive Kitteridge’s word. Similarly, in a description of a pianist, the clucking of communal disapproval creeps in: “Her face revealed itself too clearly in a kind of simple expectancy no longer appropriate for a woman of her age.” These moments animate Strout’s prose in the same way that a forceful person alters the atmosphere in a room.

 The pleasure in reading “Olive Kitteridge” comes from an intense identification with complicated, not always admirable, characters. And there are moments in which slipping into a character’s viewpoint seems to involve the revelation of an emotion more powerful and interesting than simple fellow feeling — a complex, sometimes dark, sometimes life-sustaining dependency on others. There’s nothing mawkish or cheap here. There’s simply the honest recognition that we need to try to understand people, even if we can’t stand them.”