Category Archives: Mystery

House of Leaves

House of Leaves by Mark Z. Danielewski was a strange book. A very strange book. It’s been on my list, so I checked the library and it was out. Placed a hold, and two weeks later it came it. While waiting, I read another book by MZD, so I was expecting something strange. And it fulfilled my expectations.

I can’t find the cover blurb because of the massive cult following this book has, and I don’t feel like typing it in.

Let me try to explain what this book is about.

Will Navidson, Karen Green, and their two children buy and move into a house in Virginia. Because Will is a world-renown photojournalist, he’s been away a lot, but has agreed to settle down. In fact, he’s going to film their settling down. These films are eventually compiled into The Navidson Record, a documentary about the house. More on that later. Then, this guy named Zampano begins to write a book examining the meaning of the documentary and the quality of the shots and the relationships of the characters, etc. Zampano is never in the actual book, just the book he was writing about the movie. Then this other guy named Johnny Truant ends up with the (unfinished) manuscript and starts compiling it. To quote TvTropes, “It’s a book about a book about a film about a house that is a labyrinth.”

The actual physical copy of the book that you or I read is composed of Zampano’s book with copious amounts of footnotes. Many of those footnotes are Johnny’s comments and eventually, his journal. Also interspersed, but still officially part of Zampano’s manuscript, are transcripts of parts of the movie. Half or more of the books Zampano references don’t exist. Another large chunk of footnotes is devoted to translating all the bits of French, Latin, Hebrew, Greek, German, I don’t even know what else, that is throughout the text.

Later in the book, the shape of the text begins to reflect what the words are describing. Dripping across the page. Being mirrored. Sideways. Struckout. Upside down. The word ‘house‘ is always blue and often sub-scripted just a bit.

The quote earlier mentioned a labyrinth. I’m going to go back and try to tell the story of The Navidson Record first to explain that. Will and Karen buy a house. A while later, they take the kids to go visit grandma. When they return, there’s a sort of closet-like space between the master bedroom and the kids’ room where before there had only been a wall. Additionally, and far more importantly, there is now a door in the middle of the living room wall that opens onto a cold (nearly freezing temperatures), dark hallway to nowhere. The two windows on either side of the door open onto the back yard and it is indeed possible to walk out one window and in the other, crossing where the dark hallway SHOULD be. But it’s not. Then, Will measures the house. And it’s 1/4 inch bigger on the inside than on the outside. Repeatedly. This definitely made me think of the Tardis from Doctor Who, but I haven’t seen that comment anywhere else. The rest of the movie documents, though wall mounted cameras, hand-held cameras, and voice recorders, the 6 ‘expeditions’ into that hallway as well as the reactions of those involved. To not give anything away, I’m going to stop there.

So, we have Johnny writing about his life and a book by Zampano that was written about a movie by Navidson about a house. And that doesn’t even bring the appendixes into it! There are 3? but they’re mostly incomplete. And there’s an index. That’s also incomplete. Or completely wrong in several cases.

My reaction? I’ve seen places where it took people a long time to read it because of the page number (709). But that’s garbage, because a good many pages have less words than this paragraph.

I read it in a day. Of course, I was at the doctor’s office all day, waiting for 90 minutes at a time, 5 times.

I really liked it. My favorite character was Tom Navidson, Will’s twin brother. Zampano discussed the Jacob and Esau story and which Navidson brother was which. I’d have to say Tom was Esau because Jacob/Will was the deceiver, and Esau got the raw end of the deal. I also really liked the character of Johnny Truant. He’s on all kinds of drugs and drinks all the time and parties out the wazoo (That word was in the dictionary!), but he’s also simply a product of his upbringing. And he’s unexpectedly educated.¬† Some letters from his mother who’s in an asylum show that he got into some nice private schools on scholarship. Despite his random drug-induced hallucinations, he’s able to make intelligent literary references. Made me happy.

I don’t see how it’s a love story at all, though. Horror, definitely. Coming of age, possibly. But not love.

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Filed under Fantasy, Menu, Mystery, Nonfiction, Other

Fire and Ice

Fire and Ice by Dana Stabenow. 264 pages, but I read it on my iPhone, so it actually had like 1160 pages or something. It was first published in 1998 and is apparently out of print? That’s the way her website sounded. Either way, it’s free on iPhones and iPads and .99 cents on Amazon and B&N.com.

I don’t typically read books like this. I consider this in the category of books advertised for adults, mysteries¬† in real life, where they speak ‘tersely’ to each other. Whether ‘terse’ ever comes up in the book or not, this book fits in that category, at least in my head. So, I only read it because I recognized the author from stuff my mom reads and it was free. Who doesn’t like free.

I like the character-Liam (love that name). I liked that he had weaknesses-the fear of flying especially. He overcame it rather easily, in my opinion, but he had good reason. The action was fast paced, especially in the beginning. One complaint I have, though, is about back story. There is alot of history, both of Liam and between him and Wy that is left until late to explain. For a good part of the book I thought Liam had been demoted for being a drunk driver in an accident that killed 5 people including his wife and son. This is wrong, and I’m glad because he really didn’t seem the type.

The key clue is mentioned at the beginning, and then later, is mentioned as missing. Liam notices, but the book never specifically explains. Then, way later, Liam is snooping and finds a scarf in Wy’s drawer. He’s surprised by what is wrapped in the scarf, but goes into a flashback and never explains! Then, obviously, that piece of information turns out to be the pivotal clue that lets Liam solve the crime. And at the end, he ties it all together like he’s known what was going on the entire time. That’s frustrating. Flashes of inspiration are great and all, but when the clues are there from the beginning and the reader is not allowed to figure out the mystery on their own at all, it’s annoying. It was a good book though.

Moses, and the raven didn’t seem to fit well into the story. He was too mystical-even talking about the voices that let him know things-but the book was in real life. He had all the answers and provided just the right advice at the exact right time to keep Liam on the right track. Like an archetypal mentor to the extreme.

Wolfe was a good villain, motivated by money and power as usual. Hmm. Liam’s my favorite, and probably John (forget his last name), the Trooper commander person. Moses or Laura is my least favorite because of lack of depth, in my opinion.

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