A February Kind of Saturday

February 2018 Chrisbookarama


Back again.

It's February. It's my birthday month. Yes, birthday month. I'm choosing to celebrate the month. Why not? I have the whole month since my birthday is at the end. February is short, and it's February which needs some pepping up. I'm using it as an excuse to do things. Should I get red in my hair? Yes, it's my birthday month! Order some books? Yes, it's my birthday month! Yes, to everything!

Also there is Galentine's Day!



February is it's usual self. The weather is terrible. It poured rain, then it froze. Good times.

Last month I read a book! Yay! I read Vanished by Karen E Olson.

I read the first book in this series: Hidden. I didn't get around to reading the ones in between. I don't think I really needed to. I knew from the first one what Tina was running from, and what her relationship with Zeke was about. There were some things that happened in the other books but all that I needed to know was that Tina's still on the run.

Tina is trying to stay off the radar of her nemesis, Tony DeMarco. Unfortunately, Tina is recognized and must drop everything and run. Tina suspects part of the sudden interest in her whereabouts has something to do with a college student who went missing in Paris after using a hacked ATM. With the help of her friend Spencer, she heads to Paris, a place with a lot of personal history. It's also where Zeke was last spotted.

Vanished is a quick read. The pacing is fast, perfect for someone who no longer has the attention span for reading sprawling tomes. Tina is still kick ass. I appreciate that she's not a twenty-something and sometimes feels her age. I like her weed smoking friend though I don't 100% trust him. There is something about him. But every time Tina trusted someone, I thought bad things would happen. I'm much more skeptical than she is, I guess. Ha!

I'm interested to see where Tina's adventures will take her next. Will she ever have a normal life with a house and a dog and a regular bank account that's not a hole in the floor? Probably not.

Thanks to Netgalley and also Karen for the review copy. (Disclaimer: Karen is an internet friend.) All opinions are my own.

In other book news, I am reading (well, listening to) Looking Backward by Edward Bellamy. It's a Librivox recording. I'm finding it entertaining- and also a little depressing, considering it's a story about an imagined year 2000.

I've been doing some sewing. Thinking about getting a serger. If you have one, I'd be interested in your thoughts on that. Maybe I'll do a post on my sewing adventures in the future. Maybe, if I don't get lazy.

Later!

One Word 2018

I know many people have already posted about their One Word for 2018, but I've been pondering mine. What do I want for myself this year?

There is a lot about the world that we can't control. There are even things about ourselves we don't have absolute control over. How do we take charge of our lives and guide ourselves in the direction we want to go when so much is out of our hands?

I've been trying to not feel so anxious about, well, a lot of things. It's a struggle for me. The world is an unpredictable place. I'm lucky to live where I do and have the things that I do, but that doesn't mean that I don't feel that anxiety creeping over me.

On a personal level, I've been working on and off at the same job for a few years now. I could easily see myself doing this for a long time. The thing is, I'm not super pumped about this idea. It's not really where I want to be. So, what am I going to do about it? That is the question I am asking myself everyday.

That brings me to the word I chose.


Direction.

You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself in any direction you choose. You're on your own, and you know what you know. And you are the guy who'll decide where to go. -Dr Suess

First, I need to figure what direction I am going. I am the guy who'll decide where to go. Where is that?

If you do not change direction, you may end up where you are heading. -Lao Tzu

This is good advice for me. I don't want to end up where I am heading at this present time.


If one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams, and endeavors to live the life which he has imagined, he will meet with a success unexpected in common hours. -Henry David Thoreau

I like this one. I will advance confidently in the direction of my dreams. Thanks, Henry!

Direction feels like the right word to me. I can apply it to many parts of my life. Not just work related. I want to direct my health, and my creative life too. That's the plan. 

Did you choose One Word for 2018? 

Oh Hey, It's 2018! Here a Review: The Grave's a Fine and Private Place.

Well, I'm still here so I must have paid for my domain again this year. Oh and my blog turned 11 on January 6th. It's a pre-teen, guess. It will go through a growth spurt any day now.

So 2018. What is up with that? I've promised Goodreads I'd read 20 books which in the past would seem easy but now feels like a cautiously optimistic goal. I finished my first book of the year. And it was an audiobook. At least it's a start.


What did I read? The Grave's a  Fine and Private Place by Alan Bradley. It's a Flavia De Luce mystery. Flavia is back in England, WHERE SHE BELONGS, but for unhappy reasons. She and her family are trying to regroup after another tragedy. What better way than to take a vacation and find a body?
Flavia needs to put her super-sleuthing skills to the test to investigate the murder of three gossips in the local church, and to keep her sisters out of danger. But what could possibly connect the son of an executed killer, a far too canny police constable, a travelling circus, and the publican's mysteriously talented wife? -Goodreads
I was glad that Flavia returned to her old haunts, although this is still an out of town mystery. She again uses her chemistry knowledge to make sense of the baffling clues. We see more of the other characters inner lives as Flavia begins to mature into a more self-aware person. She is realizing that the people around her are more than just objects in her orbit.

The Grave's a Fine and Private Place feels like a reset, like it's setting up for the next chapter of Flavia's life. The mystery was kind of secondary, in my opinion. I figured out quite a bit before the end, which isn't what usually happens when I read these novels. It will be interesting to see where this series goes next.

As always, the book is narrated by Jayne Entwhistle.

I was given access to this review copy from Random House Audio via Volumes. All opinions are my own.


In other reading related news, I think I'm going to join Reading Rambo's Readalong of Looking Backwards by Edward Bellamy.

Published in 1888, Looking Backward is the story of a young 19th-century American who wakes up in the eve of the 21st century, in the year 2000. Guided by Dr. Leete, Julian finds out all there is to know about this new utopian society marveling at the invention of credit cards and ‘cable telephone.’ -Goodreads
That sounds... interesting. It's weird to read a book about the year 2000 written in 1888 in the year 2018. It might melt my brain. Also, it's weird to think of all the babies born that year are turning 18. What is time even?


Hopefully I'll be seeing you all again soon. In the year 2000...

Hello and Happy Holidays!



Hello all! The last time I posted was October 30 and here I am a couple of days before Christmas. I guess there is something about holidays that prompts me to post. Most likely I won't post again before the new year, so I'm going to make this my wrap up post for 2017.

In 2017, I posted 19 times. That's pretty sad. It was the worst year for blogging for me. I felt like I had nothing to say. In January, I celebrated my 10th Blogiversary. So that was something. I read 15 books, according to Goodreads, which honestly is more than I thought. There wasn't anything on that list that truly knocked my socks off. I started what feels like a million books only to lose interest in them soon afterward which did not inspire me to pick up anything new.

I've given up Twitter completely. I think I went on there during the Readathon just to say hi. Twitter changed their platform so much that I left. I don't need to see everyone's likes. It's not Facebook.

2018 could be different. You never know. In January I have to pay for my domain name. I'm debating whether or not to do this. Is it worth holding on to this url for a handful of posts? On the other hand, I don't want anything weird to happen to my domain name. There are people who buy tiny, expired domain names and sell them. You just don't know who might end up picking it up. I don't want to inadvertently traumatize anyone who still has me in their blog feeds. So I'm probably going to keep it.

I've been crafting a lot. I've knitted several pairs of socks and mittens. I've cross stitched so much stuff. I've designed and stitched my own pieces. I'm definitely going to keep doing those things in 2018. I am planning to knit my first sweater. I'm also thinking about sewing more. Especially clothes. I'm disgusted with what is available in stores. The fabric is so cheap now that after a couple of washes things fall apart. Not to mention the wastefulness of the fashion industry and how terribly they treat their workers. I'm going to give it a try and see how it goes. I just bought fabric for a t-shirt.

At the moment I'm reading my online friend Karen E Olson's new book Vanished (via Netgalley). It's available on February 1. I always enjoy her books so it's going well. Since I was poking around on Netgalley anyway, I also downloaded The French Girl by Lexie Elliott. Maybe 2018 will be the year of the Thriller/Mystery for me!

2017 is almost behind us. I'm looking forward to a new year. Let's hope it will be a good one. I'm wishing you all good things, good books, and happiness. See you all on the other side of the calendar.


Final RIP XII Post: Two Shorts and Stranger Things 2



It's my last RIP check in and I think I did pretty good this year.

The 24 Hour Readathon happened last weekend and although I didn't officially participate I read a little just to be a tiny part of things. I completed two short stories.


The Open Door by Mrs Oliphant. A British officer retires and chooses to rent a house in Scotland with his family. On the property there are the ruins of an old house, including the remnants of a doorway. Everything is hunky-dory until the winter months arrive. While the officer is away on business, he gets an urgent message: he must return home, his son is dying of "Brain Fever"! He finds his son in bed and anxiously waiting for him. The cause of his condition is his worry over the strange voice he heard over by the ruins. It's up to Dad to discover the source of the voice and save his son from... I dunno, death by ghost voice?

This is a pretty typical haunting story. There's a ghost who's stuck between worlds and needs to find his way to the light, sort of speak. There's a skeptic who looks very foolish. There are locals who the hero treats condescendingly. There's a sense of urgency that you have to buy into. It was...fine.

The Shadows on the Wall by Mary E Wilkins Freeman. This story seemed very familiar to me and about halfway through I realized it was a Night Gallery episode I saw when I was a kid. That episode terrified me. I was afraid of shadows for a while afterwards.

In the short story, a group of siblings gathers for the wake of their dead brother. He had been ill, but the night of his death he and his brother had an argument. The three sisters are afraid of this brother, since he's known to have a temper. Two of the sisters are the first to notice the strange shadow, then the third sister sees it. Finally, the brother notices the shadow and his reaction is one the sisters' feared.

This haunting isn't typical and Freeman gets points for originality. I can see why it was used as the basis for that Night Gallery episode. It's a great visual. The dialogue, however, got on my nerves. There is a lot of whispered, "No, don't speak!" and gasps and shudders from the sisters that were very Victorian fainting couch adjacent. It definitely didn't have the effect the show had on me.



If you watched the first season of Stranger Things, then no doubt you are aware of the second season streaming on Netflix right now. My husband and I watched the whole second season this weekend because we're party animals like that.

It's a year after the events of the first season. Most people in Hawkins have no idea how much danger they were in and the government would like to keep it that way. The people who do know are living with the aftereffects. Joyce is worried about Will who is still suffering the effects of being in the Upside Down. Nancy is wracked with guilt over what happened to Barb. Mike is still searching for Eleven. Eleven herself is in hiding and trying to work out how she fits into a world she's never been a part of before. Meanwhile back at the lab, scientists are doing a terrible job at fixing the mess they made.

You'll read a lot of examinations online (if you look) of whether or not this season is as good as the first. There's also much talk of what critics wanted to see and didn't. I took it for what it was and enjoyed it as much as the first season. They expanded on some storylines, created new ones. Some characters faded into the background, while new ones were introduced. The season starts out slow, but by the end it's as much of a thrill ride as the first. It's pretty great!


The World of Lore: Perfect for RIP... and an Update


Hey all! I'm sitting on my couch trying to will a cold away. It's not really working. Now would be a good time for a post.

Last weekend was Thanksgiving here in Canada and it was a good one.The fam and I not only had a great turkey dinner but went to a pumpkin patch and took a day trip to look at the leaves.

Not a bad view

The weather was unbelievable. Just perfect for outdoor activities. I'm so glad we got to enjoy it.

The Readathon is next weekend and though I wish I could participate in the 10 year old (wow) event, I have plans with my family. October is a busy month for me. We have a lot of birthdays in our family that month. I hope everyone else reads a lot of books for me! Maybe I'll lift my Twitter ban and drop in that day to cheer you all on.

Anyway I read another book for RIP XII. It's a perfect fit for the challenge and the season.

The World of Lore: Monstrous Creatures by Aaron Mahnke 


I have been a big fan of Lore, the podcast, since its beginning, so I knew I'd be reading the book based on the series. I had the chance to listen to the audio version, which is narrated by the author of course. It's much like the podcast, most of the stories are part of that series, but laid out in a cohesive way and the gaps filled in a bit more. There are sections on vampires, fairies, ghosts, gremlins, possessed dolls, legendary creatures like the Jersey Devil. He even gets into haunted places.

The World of Lore is about folklore so the stories should be taken with a grain of salt. Not that they aren't true, just ask my cousin's boyfriend's aunt's hairdresser. If you want a more realistic delving into folklore, check out Ghostland by Colin Dickey. I would have liked more original material, but this is a great way to introduce people who don't listen to podcasts to, well, The World of Lore. (There's also an Amazon series. He's covering every format.) The non-audio version is illustrated, so that's a bonus. I might have to check that out. If you like creepy folklore, you should enjoy this one.

I received this review copy from Penguin Random House Audio via Volumes. All opinions are my own.

RIP XII: Two Short Stories of Haunted Houses


I always make a bit of time for short stories during RIP. The horror genre is perfect for short form writing. People have been sitting around in the dark trying to scare each other with their tales since forever. You don't need a lot of explanation or exposition to get your point across. "I was in this place, some creepy things happened, the end."

The following stories follow that formula perfectly. In fact, they are almost the same story but with a few details changed. Let's take a look.

An Account of Some Strange Disturbances in Aungier Street by Joesph Sheridan Le Fanu. Two Irish cousins keep house in the family's rental property in Dublin, unaware of its haunted reputation. Not long after settling in the narrator's sleep is disturbed by terrible dreams. His cousin unceremoniously vacates the house, leaving him alone to experience harrowing encounters.

The Haunted and the Haunters by Edward Bulwer-Lytton. A English gentleman hears of a haunted house for rent and spends the night there with his servant and dog. Immediately, the group is harassed by spirits. The servant flees and leaves the narrator alone to witness a ghostly visitation.

Since I read both stories within 24 hours of each other, I couldn't help but compare the two. I ended up liking Le Fanu's story more for a few reasons. First, the protagonist is a more likable character. He and his cousin are just trying to make their way in the world. Being medical students, they try to save a few pennies by staying in a recently purchased family property. They are just minding their own business when the events occur. On the other hand, Lytton's hero is looking for trouble. He's a guy with money and little else to do, so why not rent a haunted house for funsies?

I also like a ghost story where the hauntings are more psychological. In Aungier St, the narrator experiences dreams, he hears more of the ghost than he sees. In the end, the cousin relates the experience that drove him from the house to the narrator, which helps put the pieces all together. The Haunted's ghosts are right in the narrators face from the start. They are not shy! They even put on a little play for the narrator that reminded me of- don't laugh- Garfield's experience in Garfield's Halloween Adventure. (I must have watched that show about a million times when I was a kid.)

The Haunted and the Haunter's protagonist is a "rational" man and takes pains to tell the reader how he had to be courageous and not give into fear. He goes into some theories about ghosts, including some discussion of mediums and mesmerism. It's a very Victorian point of view, but also a bit like Ancient Aliens, where a quas-scientific explanation is given which doesn't hold up to much scrutiny. The alternative title is The House and the Brain, so...

The Strange Disturbances in Aungier Street, on the other hand, is just a straight up ghost story, as the narrator points out in the first sentences.
It is not worth telling, this story of mine--at least, not worth writing. Told, indeed, as I have sometimes been called upon to tell it, to a circle of intelligent and eager faces, lighted up by a good after-dinner fire on a winter's evening, with a cold wind rising and wailing outside, and all snug and cosy within, it has gone off--though I say it, who should not--indifferent well.
The narrator knows the right atmosphere for this story, and as cousin Tom is dearly departed, there is no one to refute his claims. You have to decide whether or not to believe him. It helped that I read this during a thunderstorm. Perfection!

I'd still recommend both, as they are short and available for free. On Project Gutenberg:
An Account of Some Strange Disturbances on Aungier Street / The Haunted and the Haunters.