July 21, 2014

Media Madness Monday: The Alien’s Secret Swedish Baby*

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I'm a media junkie, not just books, but TV, movies, music, podcasts, and internet nonsense. Every Monday I discuss something that's caught my interest this past week.

On the TV

Extant. I’ve been watching this new summer series on CBS starring Halle Berry. My husband complains that it’s too slow, but I like it. The premise is that in the future Molly (Halle Berry) goes on a solo mission to space and comes back pregnant. How did that happen?

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There are other things happening on Extant. Molly has an android son her husband built when they couldn’t get pregnant. Molly’s boss is up to no good and an old co-worker faked his suicide. I’d like to see where this is going.

Welcome to Sweden. This is a cute show. Bruce (Greg Poehler) quits his job and moves to Sweden to be with his Swedish girlfriend. There are many cultural misunderstandings. I hope this one sticks around but since I like it, it doesn’t have a hope in hell.

Drunk History. Drunk History is back baby! I don’t think this season is as funny though…so far. I think the drunks are studying too hard beforehand.

Luther. Netflix! What a tool for watching all the shows you do not get on TV. I’m loving Luther. Idris Elba! Rowr! He plays the titular Luther, a London detective with issues. He let a bad dude almost die, and was suspended for it. He’s back on the job but his wife has left him for another guy. He’s got troubles. Then he meets Alice (Ruth Wilson) who is a psychopath obsessed with him. More Trouble in River City! Ruth Wilson is terrifying. She ain’t no Jane Eyre. This show has short seasons so shit gets real, real fast.

Tunes

I can’t stop listening to Brooklyn Baby by Lana Del Ray. Can’t help it.

 

Podcasting YouTube

I’ve been hearing everyone (well, certain people on Twitter) talking about Booktube. Booktube is the bookish niche of Youtube. I subscribed to 2 channels right away: Ron Lit and Audham EnTha. I liked ease with which they discuss books and they play a little background music with their videos. I have a short attention span when it comes to Youtube so I need to be kept focused. They get points for keeping me from getting distracted by shiny things.

 

On the Web

This is a thought provoking piece by actress Leighton Meester on the character she plays from Of Mice and Men.

I loved this blog post by Grease and Glamour about travel. It makes me want to be braver.

So, hey, I hope you check out some of these links!

*Wouldn’t that be a great title for a Harlequin romance?

July 19, 2014

Doing It: Mini-Bloggiesta

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Since I’m on a mini blogging break, I’ll be doing a mini Mini-Bloggiesta this time around. It’s such a nice weekend that I can’t see me hanging around on the computer all day. I’d still like to do a couple of things though.

  • Back up my blog.
  • Update reviews page.
  • Write a couple of posts.
  • Check out a couple of the mini-challenges. I’d like to check out Storify and Thinklink (that last one looks pretty intense).
  • Make sure I’ve added all recent reviews to Pinterest, Google+, and Netgalley.

That’s all I have planned. I’ll see how things go over the weekend. Good luck to everyone participating!

July 15, 2014

The Hundred-Year House by Rebecca Makkai

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It’s 1999, the new millennium is about to begin and the Devohr’s house is almost one hundred years old. At this time, it is home to Gracie and her husband Bruce. Gracie invited her Marxist scholar daughter, Zee, and her husband, Doug to live in the carriage house until they get on their feet. Zee teaches a class at the local university on haunted houses in literature while Doug works on his book about the poet Edwin Parfitt. Parfitt once stayed on the estate when it was an arts colony in the 20s.

Much to Zee and Doug’s dismay, Bruce asks his son, Case and his artist wife, Miriam to share lodgings with them in the carriage house. The two married couples try to cohabitate but secret jealousies threaten to destroy the already frayed relationships. Zee hatches an elaborate plan to find Doug a job at the university, which doesn’t end in the desired results. Meanwhile, Doug has been sneaking around the estate desperately trying to find out more about Parfitt’s stay at the house. As Y2K edges nearer, Doug unwittingly uncovers more of the house’s secrets than he bargained for, secrets that could ruin lives.

This is a complicated book to try to describe. It’s about a house, a haunted house, but the ghosts are the least interesting thing about the Devohr’s house. The Hundred-Year House by Rebecca Makkai begins in 1999, but leaps back in time to the 1950s, 1920s, and finally 1900 before the house was even built. It was interesting to learn the history of the house and its inhabitants this way. The people living in the house are influenced by the former residents in ways they don’t even know. Doug is obsessed by Parfitt, Zee by her great-grandmother’s supposed madness. Miriam feels the energy of the artists’ colony, and Case can’t get away from his bad luck which he sees as an omen. As the story progresses, ordinary objects reveal their importance, the answers to questions are hidden in plan sight. Only the reader can see it.

Part one is told from Zee and Doug’s point of view. Half their issues are a lack of communication. Part Two is Grace’s story of her terrible marriage to George. Part three was the most confusing, though the most revealing section, told from the point of view of the many artists in the colony. It was hard to keep everyone straight since there were so many voices. (And since this was an audiobook, I couldn’t flip back and forth.) And finally poor Violet’s story from the point of view of her husband. There were so many personal tragedies, yet I thought the first part of the story was often funny.

The Hundred-Year House is not a spooky story. It’s more about a haunted home’s memories than its ghosts. The ghosts are just stories, random unexplained happenings to are attributed to them. One of Zee’s students ask if it’s possible for a spirit from the future to haunt a place and this is proven to be true later in the book. I loved that idea and of course only the reader can recognize the ghost, the characters have no idea.

I completely fell for The Hundred-Year House. I loved the way it was told. It’s such an interesting way to write a story. You’re either going to love it or hate it. I say just roll with it. It will be fun. Now I have a dream of starting an artists’ colony. Do they even exist anymore? It sounds like good time.

About the Audio: Jen Tullock is the narrator. She really shines in part three where there are so many different characters. She tries to make them all sound distinctive. I particularly like the White Rabbits, who sound like a female Beavis and Butthead.

Thanks to Penguin Audio for the review copy. All opinions are my own.

July 14, 2014

Oh Hai!

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Hello! I’m still around.

Here’s what I’ve been doing.

*I’ve been ordering books, and placing holds on books like nobody’s business.

*Eating lots of local strawberries.

*I made these.

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*Watching Netflix.

*Listened to audiobook The Hundred-Year House (very good!).

*Baked these rhubarb cupcakes.

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*Bought this.

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That was my quick check in. I’ll post a review soon. Bye!

July 8, 2014

Conversion by Katherine Howe: Review

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conversionColleen is a senior year student at the prestigious private school St Joan’s in Danvers, Massachusetts. On a day in January, 2012, one of her classmates has what appears to be a seizure. It’s troubling but not a big deal until other girls fall ill. Soon girl after girl in the senior class succumb to the Mystery Illness, as the press will come to call it. Seizures, tics, yelps, even hair loss strike the girls. What is the cause of this illness? Is it environmental? Biological? Or psychological?

When prompted by her teacher to learn the real story behind the play The Crucible, Colleen discovers Ann Putnam, a girl like herself caught in the hysteria of the Salem Witch Trials. In many ways, those bizarre days resemble what is happening to Colleen and her friends in present day Massachusetts.

It’s kinda weird that I read two books about mysterious illnesses striking teenaged girls in small towns so close together. The tone of Fever is quite different from Conversion, however. Conversion, unbeknownst to me, is a young adult novel from Katherine Howe. I read and enjoyed Howe’s The Physic Book of Deliverance Dane, another Salem related story for adults. I didn’t know this one was YA until after a few chapters and I had the feeling that it was. I think it was the way the girls spoke to each other. Conversion, although it’s about girls afflicted with a serious unexplainable sickness, is lighter than Fever, and thankfully, there’s less fetishism of teenaged girls’ sexuality. Okay, I’m done comparing them, I have that out of my system.

Moving on…

Howe compares the real life case of a stress induced mass illness to the hysteria of the witch trials centuries ago. In both cases the events centred on adolescent girls. Howe creates a fictional school where the competition for top marks and university placement is high. I have to say I had no idea how crazy the US university admission process was. I don’t think anything compares to it here in Canada. It’s stressful and a lot of pressure is on these young women to get into their dream school. And, there’s some other stuff going on there too.

The “Interludes” with Ann Putnam in the 1700s were interesting. I couldn’t figure her out. She could have been a complex character but didn’t have a lot of manoeuvrability within the story as she was a real person giving a real confession. Her part in the hysteria mirrors what is happening to the girls in Danvers. Ann is swept up in the madness, even though she knows it isn’t real, she begins to believe it. Is this what is happening in 2012 or is it something else? Howe leaves some room for interpretation.

As for the modern day characters, I thought Colleen was on the Mary Sue side. The most rebellious thing she does is order beers at a bar. Her family are all well adjusted (though the youngest is virtually ignored, a running joke). They’re loving and supportive. Colleen’s friends are somewhat one dimensional, even Emma. Very rich, very privileged. Not very interesting.

I didn’t love Conversion. I wanted to like it more because of the subject of stress and teenaged girls, but the characters seemed flat to me.

About the Audio: Conversion is narrated by Khristine Hvam (Pokemon). She has a very young voice. That should have tipped me off that this was YA. She had a slightly English accent for the colonists.

Thanks to Penguin Audio for the review copy and a chance to give this one an honest review.

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