October 31, 2010

Lazy Sunday Thoughts: Happy Halloween!

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Happy Halloween! I know not everyone is into Halloween like I am but I can't help myself. How can I not love a holiday that worships chocolate?

I haven't done much reading this week. My mother-in-law is in the hospital and the whole family's thoughts are on her. It's also the week before National Novel Writing Month and I'm trying to mold an idea into a story- a 50,000 word story. I might be crazy to do this! Am I crazy? Yeah, I'm crazy. When I am reading, it's writing related books. I borrowed The Elements of Style from the library and read that very quickly. I'm now into The Writing Life by Annie Dillard. A very different book from Elements.

Annnnnnnd, I finally bought bookcases! Two big ones. My husband and I already set them up and I put all my books in them. I even put them in alphabetical order. Guess what? I have a lot of books! I'll post a photo as soon as I get a chance to take one.

October 30, 2010

The Princess Bride Readalong: Milestone 5, Buttercup's Baby

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This is it. The last milestone in our Princess Bride Readalong- Buttercup's Baby. Goldman gives a long explanation of why he wanted to abridge Buttercup's Baby and why he can't. Stephen King makes a cameo appearance. Goldman has mellowed with age. He's less of a jerk and a nice Grandpa.

For reasons explained by Goldman, he can only abridge the first chapter. It's a complicated first chapter at that, jumping back in forth in time. What we get out of it are the events right after the heroes leave the castle. Westley dies again, Inigo is fading fast and Fezzik gets pierced by an arrow. Rescue arrives in the form of Westley's pirates. They patch them together and leave them on One Tree Island where they live quite awhile. Long enough for Buttercup to have a baby (a strange birth) who grows to girlhood.

At first I wasn't very impressed by Buttercup's Baby. It doesn't make a lot of sense. First, Waverly (the baby) is kidnapped, then Inigo is a young man again, then the group is leaving the castle. What the heck is going on? But then I started to enjoy what was happening. Goldman is giving us what we didn't get- an ending. Plus, he leaves us wanting more. Unfortunately, more never comes because it's only chapter one. Sad.

I wondered what Stephen King made of all this and it turns out he has something to say about it which you can read on his FAQ page.

I hope you enjoyed reading The Princess Bride with me. If you've never seen the movie, I hope you find a copy and give it a look. It's fun and sticks close to the book. Buttercup improves on film. She's useless in the book.

I enjoyed The Princess Bride and if you missed it here are the links to the previous milestone discussions:
Parts 1-4
Part 5
Part 6
Parts 7-8


If you have an opinion on Buttercup's Baby, leave a comment or link to your Buttercup's Baby post. I'll add them to the body of the post as they arrive.

Leeswammes 
Reader for Life
Cols Reads (Last 3 Milestones)
Reading Through Life
 

October 26, 2010

Fall Favourites: Picture Books

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A couple of weeks ago the New York Times made a hullabaloo when it suggested that we parents were no longer buying our kids picture books because we're all pushing them to read War & Peace. I beg to differ. When a 25 page picture book costs twice as much as a 200 page novel, I get Scroogey. Yeah, I know I'm a bad Mom because I consider the contents of my wallet over art. Sorry.

However, when my daughter was born, I was fortunate enough to have a niece just starting school and guess what she brought home? Scholastic book orders. My niece was young enough to get the book orders with picture books and her Mom let me order whatever I wanted. Most of the books are paperback versions of the hardcovers but who cares? Sometimes you can get great deals like their $2 specials. That's how we got Chick-a-Chick-a Boom-Boom. If it wasn't for Scholastic book orders, we wouldn't have all the Mo Williems books we have either.

After my daughter started school, she brought her own orders home. As the kids get older, the book orders change as their reading ability grows. We've made rules about what she can order. 1. No books with toys. We're ordering books not junk. 2. I limit the TV or movie tie-ins. She likes them but I think they are not as well written as the other ones. 3. I have the final say.

Unfortunately, she now has a teacher who doesn't do book orders all that often. I miss them. Of all the things I get hit up to buy from school, I don't mind books.

I loved the seasonal offers, especially the autumn books. All those reds and yellows. We've given away a lot of her picture books to family with younger kids now that she reads chapter books but held onto a few favourites. Here's what I found on the shelf for fall.


The Apple Pie Tree: Explains how an apple gets from a flower to fruit and then into a pie. Yum!

We're Going on a Leaf Hunt: Like We're Going on a Bear Hunt only with leaves. Mentions many species of trees.

Boo!: A Robert Munsch book. A kid makes a scary costume for Halloween.

The Legend of Spookley the Square Pumpkin: The adventures of a square pumpkin. A rhyming book.

The Lonely Scarecrow: My personal favourite. A scary looking scarecrow just wants a few friends. The artwork is gorgeous.

**Not shown because we gave it away is Leaves by David Ezra Stein: A bear is confused by his first fall.**

The last two books are chapter books but since they are also seasonal I thought I'd mention them too.

No More Pumpkins: From the Second Grade Friends series. The kids get sick of pumpkins.

The Thanksgiving Day from the Black Lagoon: Part of the Teacher from the Black Lagoon series. It's more of an American Thanksgiving book but still funny.

Do you have a fall picture book favourite?

October 25, 2010

The Little Stranger by Sarah Waters: Review

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A creepy ghost story is hard to find. I've been searching for a good one for a long time. So many are disappointing but The Little Stranger by Sarah Waters fills all my wants and needs when it comes to spine tingling spookiness.

After being called to the crumbling estate of Hundreds Hall for a medical emergency, Dr Faraday becomes drawn into the lives of the inhabitants: the elderly lady of the manor Mrs Ayres and her children, Roderick, a war veteran and Caroline a spinster. Caroline isn't much to look at but Faraday is attracted by her air of self-sufficiency. She's not like other women of her class, but this might be due to circumstances. The massive estate has only the family and one maid, a fourteen year old girl, taking care of it and they are failing badly. Roderick is struggling under the burden of the upkeep of the house, selling pieces of the land a little at a time to pay their debts.

The family cut costs by living in part of the house and limiting the use of electricity, but they are not beaten and try to 'keep calm and carry on.' These are physical discomforts that can be overcome. What they end up fighting are the spiritual battles against a malevolent force that threatens to destroy them. Faraday doesn't believe in spirits. He believes there is a madness taking over the residents of Hundreds. The question is when you finish reading The Little Stranger, what do you believe?

I totally bought into the supernatural elements of The Little Stranger. So much so that I had trouble sleeping. I felt like something was going grab me in the dark! Waters builds tension by writing long stretches of perfectly normal things like "let's go get drunk at a dance" or "bills! bills! bills!" then Bam! "something weird is going on." And you know they are coming because those chapters start with something like "Caroline told me later..." or "I was away at the time these events occurred..." You just know something is going to happen. Even then those events start out as a something the characters see out of the corner of their eye and builds into something that raises all the hair on the back of your neck.

That's not to say there isn't anything happening in between the scary parts. The Ayres are struggling in a time just after World War II where England is on the verge of great change. It's a time of opportunity for the hardworking middle class. The gentry are crumbling away like their great old houses. The Ayres can't afford the house and yet they won't let go of it.

Dr Faraday himself is a man in a between state. His family were uneducated, his mother worked as a nanny at Hundreds. Faraday worked hard to educate himself and become a doctor. He no longer fits in with the people he grew up with and yet he cannot be an equal to the gentry living at Hundreds. This complicates and adds layers to his relationship with Caroline.

Faraday narrates the story and whether he is a reliable narrator is up the reader. His medical opinion of the Ayres's situation actually impedes his ability to see what is going on. He never listens to what they tell him. He's quick to write it off as fatigue or stress. His solution is to put everyone in the mental hospital. In his darkest moments, he questions if there is more to it all and interestingly seeks the opinion of male colleagues. The women he pats on the head and tells, "You're tired." I wanted to smack him. He's impotent in the face of something he can't understand or explain away and stubbornly refuses to consider any other view.

What or who is the little stranger will depend on how you view the story. Waters is brilliant with her way of leading the reader in a certain direction yet leaving us to decide for ourselves. She doesn't beat us over the head with explanations. I love when an author believes in the reader's intelligence enough to do that. As for me and what I think it was (Spoiler highlight): Faraday's unconscious is the little stranger or poltergeist. His desire for the estate breaks free and manifests itself as a different thing for each character. Each had a weakness that it could exploit. He didn't do it on purpose but it happened. The last line reveals that he knows this somewhere inside himself. What did you think if you read it?

I loved The Little Stranger. It was so well written and intriguing. It's a little bit Shirley Jackson, a little bit Evelyn Waugh. I highly, highly recommend it.

Borrowed from the library.

October 24, 2010

Lazy Sunday Thoughts: A Novel Experience

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I am the Queen of Procrastination. If you need an excuse not to do something, I can help you with that. NaNoWrMo is coming up next month. What is NaNoWrMo? It stands for National Novel Writing Month, a month to write a whole novel. After contemplating NaNoWrMo for months now and coming up with every excuse in the book (Christmas is coming. I need to shop/bake/clean. Then there are the school concerts and activities...), I took the plunge this morning and signed up. It's official. I am writing a novel.

Let's face it, writing a novel is like deciding to have kids, if you wait for the perfect time you'll never do it. All the planning in the world can never prepare you for the unknowns lurking around the corners. Sometimes you just got to do it and hope for the best. So that is my attitude at this point.

After signing up I received an email from NaNoWrMo that starts off like this:
Well, you did it. You've gone and pledged your November to the pursuit of the month-long novel.
The word pledged is pretty scary. Especially since I have no idea what to write. I have a few thoughts floating around in the ether but nothing has turned into a fully fledged thing you could build a novel upon. But not to worry because apparently that's okay:
It's okay to not know what you're doing. Really.
Good to know because that's where I am right now.

I need your help. Have any of you done this before? Have you been where I am? Where do I begin? What is your best advice?

Oh and be my buddy, please. I'm Chrisbookarama (surprise!)

October 23, 2010

The Princess Bride Readalong: Milestone 4

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Welcome to week 4 of The Princess Bride Readalong! We will be discussing Milestone 4 this week. Please see this post for the full schedule. If you haven't read up to this point, remember beyond this paragraph there may be spoilers. 

We come to the end of The Princess Bride this week. Next week, we'll discuss Buttercup's Baby. I'm a little leery of it, as it's only a chapter of a non-existent book. Oh Mr Goldman, do you ever stop playing tricks?

So... Fezzik and Inigo have difficulties finding Westley since the passageway to the torture chamber is riddled with booby traps. They use their skills to defeat the traps but find that Westley is dead. Inigo has a plan. They take Westley to Miracle Max. Remember him? He was the last miracle man fired by the King. Max makes up a concoction to restore life to Westley but it's unclear how it will affect him or how long it will last.

Westley comes to life but has little use of anything other than his mouth. Inigo and Fezzik create a diversion which scares the Brute Squad. The noise also gets the attention of Humperdinck who hurries the wedding along. Buttercup is now a married woman. Da-da-dum! She falls into despair and attempts to kill herself but Westley stops her. Reunited again!

Inigo gets his revenge after being stabbed by Count Rugen. He overcomes his wounds and makes his speech- many times. Count Rugen dies of fear.

Meanwhile, the Prince finds Westley but Westley is clever and talks him into surrender. Buttercup ties Humperdinck up before he discovers Westley's inability to move. Inigo, Buttercup and Westley jump out a window when Fezzik arrives with horses. They make their escape and the story ends.

Finally, we have a lot more happening. I enjoyed Fezzik and Inigo's journey through the passageway and how they handled it. I wonder though- why did they stick with Westley after Inigo finds Rugen? Is it because they are lost without a leader and see one in Westley?

The end of Count Rugen was perfect! Inigo pushing beyond his physical limits to say, "Hello. My name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die." Very dramatic. And very fitting that he would die of fear since pain and fear was his fascination.

I didn't like how things were left with Prince Humperdinck. That was anti-climatic. It seems strange that neither Inigo or Westley physically destroy the major bad guys. Inigo does so inadvertently and Westley leaves the Prince unharmed.

Miracle Max and Valerie were hilarious. "Love is the best thing in the world, except for cough drops."

Goldman leaves us with 3 choices for endings. His father's of the heroes walking into the sunset,  Morgenstern's end with the heroes being pursued, and Goldman's of the heroes having many more adventures in the future. Which do you prefer? I like the Dad's and that last line: "Buttercup looked at him. 'Oh my Westley, so do I.'"

If you're ending your journey here, I want to thank you for joining me. I enjoyed reading your opinions and thoughts on the book. It was a lot of fun! If not, see you next week for Buttercup's Baby. Leave your thoughts in the comments section or leave a link to your own blog post. I will post them in the body of the post as they arrive.

Reading Through Life 
Leewammes Blog
Adventures of an Intrepid Reader
Reader for Life

October 20, 2010

This Old Thing: The Darling Buds of May

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Library sales are the sales that keep on giving. This is yet another purchase of the last library sale. The next one is coming up soon. What goodies will I find then?! I bought The Darling Buds of May without knowing a thing about it. I just liked the cover. It reminds me of Monty Python. They're all kinda cute! Here's a summary: 
Introducing the Larkins, a family with a place in popular mythology. Here they come, crashing their way through the English countryside in the wake of Pa, the quick-eyed, golden-hearted junk-dealer, and Ma, with a mouthful of crisps and a laugh like a jelly.
The Darling Buds of May is the first book in the Pop Larkin Chronicles. There was a TV series in the UK based on the books in the 1990s with Catherine Zeta-Jones. Did anyone see it? Was it any good?

It sounds like it will be a fun story!

(This Old Thing is an occasional blog feature where I highlight an older book I've bought.)

October 19, 2010

Maybe This Time by Jennifer Crusie (Audiobook): Review

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Maybe This Time by Jennifer Crusie is a book with an identity crisis. Is it a ghost story, a comedy, a romance? I don't know and I don't think it knows either.

Andie Miller is finally saying hasta la vista to her ex-husband, lawyer North Archer. It's been 10 years but she's ready to move on and get married. While she's in his office giving him his uncashed alimony cheques back, he offers her a job. If she agrees to get his 2 young wards ready to move out of their house in southern Ohio, he'll pay her $10000. How can she say no?

There's a catch. The kids are a little strange, sure, but the previous nannies insist that the house is haunted. The house does give off a creepy vibe, hidden in the woods as it is, and the housekeeper is all kinds of drunk and weird. Practical Andie is having none of it and sets out to get these kids out of the house. But...

There really are ghosts that Andie can see and one of them talks to her. Is she crazy or is this for real?

The book has great potential: two odd kids, an old house, crazy housekeeper, possible ghosts and a no nonsense babysitter. All good stuff. And all been done before. Maybe This Time is a retelling of The Turn of the Screw by Henry James- my nemesis- who I'm thinking I should give another try just to see if he did this story better.

The story was alright until just after the first seance and then it comes off the rails. If the ghosts are going to be spooky, then they should all be spooky, not explain-y. One ghost kept explaining unnecessary things to Andie. At one point, in an earlier scene, another character finds out a minor detail that the ghost later tells Andie. It wasn't needed and was kinda annoying. Spoiler (highlight): There's a big manifestation near the end that had me thinking, is that it?

There were comical bits that were enjoyable and I don't think there is anything wrong with a funny, friendly ghost and it is possible to do it well. Sophie Kinsella did an excellent job with one in Twenties Girl. The problem is Maybe This Time tries to wear too many hats by being funny, spooky and romantic. It didn't work for me.

That's not to say that Crusie isn't an excellent writer. Her characters are three dimensional and she writes a kick ass heroine. The dialogue is snappy as well. But the plot... the plot... needs a direction.

I try to recommend books to certain groups but I'm finding it hard to do so. I guess if you are a Jennifer Crusie fan, you'll want to add it to your shelf.

About the Audiobook: Narrated by Angela Dawe. PS- Hearing sex scenes read is weird!

Borrowed from library.

Edit: Yeah, I know the url says Maybe Next Time. That's 'cause I'm an idiot.

October 18, 2010

The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins: Review

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Woo-hoo! Finally, I read The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins. I don't know how many times I started this book only to end up putting it aside. I guess it wasn't the right time then because this book...she is good.

Walter Hartright is an art teacher looking for a situation because art don't pay. A friend finds him a cozy job teaching drawing to two young ladies. While travelling to his destination, at night... alone, he stumbles upon a woman dressed (take a guess) in white. She's kind of freaky and after she scurries away, two guys take off after her, claiming she's escaped from a mental asylum.

Walter is shaken up and his curiosity peaked by the mysterious lady especially after he discovers how much the strange woman resembles one of his students, Miss Laura Fairlie. Laura is pretty, blond, quiet, useless and completely uninteresting- of course, he falls madly in love with her. But, alas! it's not to be! Laura is engaged to a baron and, even though she is miserable about it, must marry him because she told her dead father she would. Tears!

Walter travels to South America to mend his broken heart but Laura is now in the clutches of Sir Percival Glyde and Count Fosco. She is a helpless damsel in distress. What to do! Her sister Marian, a capable, mannish brunette (who nobody loves because who can love a brunette?), tries to protect her but how can she, a woman, save Laura from the fiendish plot that ensnares them all? Oh Walter, where are you?!

My mom is a serious soap opera fan so I grew up on the stuff. I'm pretty sure the plot of The Woman in White has been used a million times by soap opera writers. Sinister foreign dude? Check! Amnesia? Check! Twins? Sort of! Collins knew how to write a pot boiler with gothic elements and I ate the whole thing up. Even if the plot felt familiar, there were quite a few plot twists I did not see coming.

The Woman in White is a epistolary novel told through a series of letters, diaries and legal documents written by several of the characters, all documenting what happened to Laura and Anne Catherick. Walter starts things off by writing the events as he remembers them. He's a dog with a bone; that guy just doesn't give up. I admired Walter's ability to track down each clue to prove to the world that this crime actually occurred. The only thing I didn't like about Walter was his love for Laura. Seriously, this girl has all the personality of a chesterfield. She gets moved around like a pretty piece of furniture. But it's the Victorian era and that's how they like 'em. Docile and dumb. Interestingly, she takes no part in the narrative even though the story is all about her. The reader is only shown Laura through others' eyes.

Laura's one admirable quality is her devotion to Marian. Marian shares the diary she kept while Walter was in South America. She is all that stands between Laura and doooooom! In fact, the only way anyone can get the better of her is when she is incapacitated. Count Fosco even proclaims great esteem for her intellect. A final showdown between her and Fosco would have been exciting but when Walter returns she's relegated to little more than housekeeper. "Time to let the men do the dirty work, Marian, to the kitchen you go (pat, pat)." I liked Walter and Marian so much I wanted to rewrite the ending and have Walter grab her in his arms and declare, "It was you I loved all along, Marian!" But, no.

Count Fosco, to give you an idea of the kind of guy he is, is a lot like Stefano DiMera, the villain from Days of Our Lives, only much more flamboyant. The guy wears a cape and keeps his pet mice in his pocket. He's completely without any scruples and is the brains behind the Fiendish Plot. He definitely keeps things interesting.

The Woman in White isn't a book you're going to finish in a couple of days. It's a big book, about 500 pages, and the writing is full of detail. At times I just wanted Collins to get on with it, but the last couple hundred pages made my patience worth it. Plot twists aplenty! It's a perfect creepy read for Halloween.

Highly recommended.

October 16, 2010

The Princess Bride Readalong: Milestone 3

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Welcome to week 3 of The Princess Bride Readalong! We will be discussing Milestone 3 this week. Please see this post for the full schedule. If you haven't read up to this point, remember beyond this paragraph there may be spoilers. 

Seems like not a lot going on this milestone. Inigo and Fezzik are lost without Vizzini. Fezzik hides while Inigo steeps in brandy. Count Rugen begins his scientific torture of Westley with The Machine. Humperdinck plots a new way to murder his bride who doesn't have two clues to rub together.

By the end of this section, Inigo and Fezzik are once again together. Fezzik joins the Brute Squad and finds Inigo in the Thieves Quarter. Fezzik tells him he knows who the six fingered man is. Inigo shows how clever he really is by figuring out where Westley is stashed but it's too late....Humperdinck has Westley tortured to death. Things do not look good for the heroes.

I found myself getting fed up with Buttercup. She is totally useless. And not too bright. Why would her fiance help her find her boyfriend? Did nothing about that seem strange to her? Gullible. Though she does have a point about Humperdinck. He overcompensates with his Zoo of Death.

Once again I was more interested in Inigo and Fezzik than Buttercup and Westley. Poor Fezzik. Hiding in the cave was so sad. I loved when Fezzik and Inigo meet up.
Then the drunk starting yelling: "I'm-waiting-for-Vizzini."

"Meanie."

"I'm-not-mean, I'm-just-following-the-rule."

"Cruel."

"Not-cruel, not-mean; can't you understand I'm..." and here the voice trailed off for a moment and he squinted. Then, quietly, he said, "Fezzik?"
Together again they are an unstoppable force. But once they find Westley, what will they do? I guess we'll find out soon.

Here's a visual for you of The Machine and the end of Westley.



So that was milestone 3, what did you think? Leave your thoughts in the comments section or leave a link to your own blog post. I will post them in the body of the post as they arrive.

Leeswammes Blog
The Bookkeeper
Reading Through Life
Adventures of an Intrepid Reader  
Reader for Life

October 14, 2010

Fall Festival Recipe Exchange: Pumpkin Oatmeal

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Pumpkins! What's more Autumnal than a pumpkin? Nothing, I tells ya. You can pie them, carve them into funny faces, and scrape them off the driveway after the neighbour kids smash them on Halloween night. Nothing smells more like fall than the odour of pumpkin guts wafting in the crisp morning air.

Let's stop waxing poetic about pumpkins and get down to the business of eating them. Before you head out apple picking or searching for the perfect jack-o'lantern gourd, you need a hearty breakfast. How about Pumpkin Oatmeal? I made this recipe up with some leftover pumpkin from another recipe.


Pumpkin Oatmeal

2 cups of water
1/2 cup steel cut oats (not instant oats)
3 Tbsp pumpkin puree (from a can)
1/2 tsp pumpkin spice
brown sugar (about 2 Tbsp)

Bring water to a boil. Whisk in oats, pumpkin puree and spice. Simmer for about half an hour or until it looks like oatmeal on low heat, stirring often. Stir in brown sugar to taste. Serve. To make it look fancy, sprinkle a few pumpkin seeds on top. (Makes about 2 bowls.)

If  you prefer your breakfasts on the pastry side, try this Pumpkin Cinnamon Roll recipe from Good Life Eats. These are more work but are soooo good. I didn't use all the sugar filling in the rolls but saved the extra and use it to flavour my coffee. Mmm, fallish!

Enjoy!

Visit My Friend Amy for more recipes.

October 13, 2010

Single in the City by Michele Gorman: Review

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I'm way too much of a planner to do what Single in the City's Hannah does. I could never see myself heading off to London on a whim for even a vacation let alone live there.

After losing her job, Hannah gets drunk and buys a plane ticket to London. When she sobers up instead of re-thinking this rather impetuous decision, she heads off anyway, even though she has no job, no apartment, and no friends to help her in London. And no work visa either. Sensible girl.

When she does arrive, she heads to a local pub and promptly sleeps with the first handsome guy she sees. Good decisions all around! The job search is a disaster so she asks her new 'friend' if he knows of anyone hiring. Conveniently, he has his own company and a job for her! What luck! She has the sense not to ask him for an apartment. Instead, she moves in with a bunch of easy going Australians who show her how to have a good time.

As she tries to settle in as a new Londoner, Hannah starts navigating the dating world with all its unfamiliar English rules and etiquette. Maybe romance is closer to home.

Single in the City is for the most part an entertaining read. I loved the clash of culture and felt for Hannah as she feels out to sea even ordering a sandwich. However, I found it hard to believe that anyone as capable as Hannah could so often behave stupidly. She makes really bad decisions while drunk. Why did she let her friend talk her into going to London? And why would she get drunk in a strange bar in a strange city and then sleep with a strange guy? He could have been a serial killer. Then she asks this guy for a job. Can she not see a problem there? Does she not realize how that looks?

Speaking of sex, I got the impression that Hannah slept with the guys she did not because she wanted to but because culturally she'd been trained that she should be sleeping with these guys by now. Like there's a giant sex calendar she needed to follow. When the sex scenes do happen, they aren't sexy just gross.

What other people think factor a lot in her decision making. I was frustrated with her for that. It might have been forgivable had Hannah learned not to let someone else push her into a spur of the moment decision by the end of the book but all I felt she was saying was, "Look at me, I'm a real Londoner now." I surely hope there is a sequel because the book ends without any closure.

Like I said, Hannah is quite capable. She's intelligent, fearless and upbeat. All these traits help her to conquer England. She also picks great friends. Chloe is a sophisticated Brit with level headed advice from everything from men to fashion. The Aussies were my favorites. They just want to have a good time and are there when she needs a shoulder to cry on. The only one I didn't care for was the pushy best friend from back in the States.

Despite some of my frustrations, I did enjoy Single in the City. It has some very funny scenes and the dialogue is witty. There is a scene on a country estate that could have been lifted right out of Brideshead Revisited. That was one of the funniest moments.

This is kind of a mixed review, I know, but I would still recommend it to anyone who wants some light, funny reading, as long as you can put up with Hannah's shenanigans.

Thanks to Michele Gorman for sending me the review copy.


You can follow Michele on Twitter (@expatdiaries) or contact her through www.michelegorman.co.uk. Single in the City is available through most bookshops and online, including Amazon (UK, US, Canada, Germany, France, Japan)

October 12, 2010

Prisoner of Dieppe by Hugh Brewster: Review

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Adventure. Duty. Danger. Fear. I Am Canada is a new series from Scholastic aimed at boys 9 to 12 years. Much like the Dear Canada series, the stories are told from the point of view of young people throughout the turbulent history of Canada.

When we first meet Allie Morrison in Prisoner of Dieppe by Hugh Brewster, he's a a brand new Scottish immigrant being teased about his accent. He finds a champion in the charismatic Mackie. Throughout their childhood and hard times of the Great Depression, the pair grow to become best friends. Then Canada joins the war and so does Mackie convincing Allie to enlist too. Allie admits he's not a good soldier and struggles during training. Mackie is always there to guide him.

The boys finally see action when their squadron is part of the Battle of Dieppe which ends in bloody disaster. After seeing most of their friends slaughtered, Mackie and Allie are captured and sent to a German POW camp where they learn Dieppe is just the beginning of their suffering.

Although I'm not the target audience for Prisoner of Dieppe, I was riveted by the story. At times, I wondered if I was really reading a fictional account and not a diary of a real soldier. It's very well written. The book is filled with the details of the life of a soldier and POW, but it never dragged. The pacing was quick and yet nothing is taken from the characterizations. I felt I knew Allie and Mackie; Allie, more cautious than Mackie who never thinks of the consequences, just marches in believing it will work out fine.

Prisoner of Dieppe is in easy to read style yet because of the subject matter there are some grim scenes. Brewster incorporates a boy's thirst for adventure with the horrible realities. The characters still chase girls and tell jokes. It's not all doom and gloom. There is also a glossary for all the unfamiliar terms used and photographs from the places and events mentioned in the book.

I will admit that I was a bit disappointed with the end of the story, though I suppose it's intended to show that even the bravest of us still make mistakes. The men suffered greatly under the stress of being captured and the survivors had a tremendous amount of grief and guilt to deal with.

You can learn more about Prisoner of Dieppe on the Scholastic Canada website.

Highly recommended, even if you're not a 12 year old boy or Canadian.

I won this from a Scholastic Canada Twitter contest.

October 10, 2010

The Princess Bride Readalong: Milestone 2

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Welcome to week 2 of The Princess Bride Readalong! We will be discussing Milestone 2 this week. Please see this post for the full schedule. If you haven't read up to this point, remember beyond this paragraph there may be spoilers. 

There was a lot more action in this section, The Announcement, than last week's reading. Prince Humperdink is not much of an orator, is he? Buttercup shows some potential as a leader of the people though.

Buttercup meets the 3 assassins: Vizzini, the wily Sicilian, Inigo, the swordsman, Fezzik, the large Turk.


I liked finding out the backstory for Inigo and Fezzik. Inigo has spent years learning how to become a master fencer so that he can find and kill the 6 fingered man who killed his father. I wonder who that is? Figures the one time Domingo agrees to make a sword for someone the guy turns out to be cheap, gutless jerk. Inigo was brave to stand up to him.

Fezzik was a giant from the day he was born. His parents seemed a lot like "stage parents" pushing him to perform in fights that he hated. He's a sensitive boy and afraid to be alone.

The evil genius Vizzini uses the skills of these 2 reluctant assassins to kidnap Buttercup but the Man in Black follows them, overtakes them, and incapacitates Inigo and Fezzik. He doesn't have so much respect for Vizzini who he disposes of by trickery. Finally, the Man in Black has Buttercup to himself.

And...Aha! It's Westley, returned from the dead. Or actually he wasn't dead just posing as the Dread Pirate Roberts. But no time for a tearful reunion, Prince Humperdinck is on their trail. Buttercup and Westley head into the Fire Swamp to face Snow Sand and R.O.U.S. (Rodents of Unusual Size). After all of that, Humperdinck is waiting for them. Buttercup surrenders so that Westley can be free. Or so she thinks...

What did you think of Goldman's interruption and request to contact the publisher? Apparently, people did write to the publisher but instead of the reunion scene they received this letter detailing a legal battle with the Morgenstern estate. Seems a bit disappointing.

What were your thoughts on Milestone 2? Still enjoying the story? Leave your thoughts in the comments section or leave a link to your own blog post. I will post them in the body of the post as they arrive.

Here are other readers' thoughts:
The Bookkeeper

Leeswammes 
Reader for Life
Col Reads 
The Adventures of an Intrepid Reader 

Read-a-thon Done!

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funny pictures of cats with captions



I didn't last 24 hours. Surprise! 

A big thank you to Cheerleaders and visitors who left me comments. Thanks! 
I still only finished 2 books: Prisoner of Dieppe and Moving Pictures, although I'm half-way through Bitten by Kelley Armstrong and Maybe This Time by Jennifer Crusie.

Thanks once again to the organizers of the Read-a-thon for another great event.

October 9, 2010

Read-a-thon Wordle

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A What-le? No, a Wordle. What's a Wordle? This is a Wordle.


Reading Through Life wants a Wordle for this hour's Mini-Challenge. My Wordle is from my review of Eat Pray Love. That was fun!

I've finished another book: Moving Pictures which brings my total to 2.

The Halfway Point: Read-a-thon

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I'm about to have some pie. Pumpkin pie! Yum! I thought I'd do a check in. I've been reading most of the day. I'm reading two really great books but don't know if I'll finish them. Anyway here are some Q&A for this hour.

1. What are you reading right now? Bitten and Maybe This Time
2. How many books have you read so far? Completely only one: Prisoner of Dieppe.
3. What book are you most looking forward to for the second half of the Read-a-thon? A graphic novel: Moving Pictures.
4. Did you have to make any special arrangements to free up your whole day? Nope, just winging it.
5. Have you had many interruptions? How did you deal with those? I've had the usual interruptions, child and husband, but nothing too distracting.
6. What surprises you most about the Read-a-thon, so far? How slow I seem to be reading.
7. Do you have any suggestions for how to improve the Read-a-thon next year? Nope!
8. What would you do differently, as a Reader or a Cheerleader, if you were to do this again next year? Nothing.
9. Are you getting tired yet? Not yet!
10. Do you have any tips for other Readers or Cheerleaders, something you think is working well for you that others may not have discovered? Audiobooks! They are awesome!

Anyway time for pie!

Hour 3 Check In

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I'm just taking a break for waffles. I'm lucky that my husband makes waffles every weekend. So at least one meal is taken care of for the Read-a-thon.


How are you all doing? I'm close to finished Prisoner of Dieppe which is a quick and interesting read about a young man's experience in World War II.

A couple of other things:

Andi's Mini-Challenge Hour 3.
A six word celebration of the Read-a-thon. I'm not very good at this but here's mine:

Today we read like a mother!


Hour 1 Challenge Questions:


Where are you reading from today? Specifically various couches in my house. Generally, Nova Scotia, Canada/

3 facts about me … Oh man, never good at the facts... 1. I love waffles. 2. I love fuzzy socks. 3. I love coffee. (Sounds like a elementary school project! I'm not up for deep thoughts.)

How many books do you have in your TBR pile for the next 24 hours? I have 5 books and 2 audiobooks lined up.

Do you have any goals for the read-a-thon (i.e. number of books, number of pages, number of hours, or number of comments on blogs)? Nope, just read as much as I can. When things get tough, visit blogs and Twitter.

If you’re a veteran read-a-thoner, any advice for people doing this for the first time? Pick short books, take breaks, occasionally talk to humans.

Chrisbookarama Begins Read-a-thon

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Yawn! grumbles I just rolled out of bed for the 24 Hour Read-a-thon which is starting soon. I put my coffee on but I'm still in my pjs. Mmmm, coffee smells gooooood.



So today I might be posting more, though I'll try not to be too annoying. I hope you'll forgive me for today. Since it's Read-a-thon day, I'll be posting The Princess Bride Read-a-long post tomorrow. It will just get lost otherwise. I have it all set up so please come back for that tomorrow.

I'll be checking into Twitter quite often. If you want to follow me there I'm @Chrisbookarama.

Good luck and catch you later!

October 7, 2010

Let's Do the Readathon Again

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Yes, I'm a last minute participant. I hemmed and hawed about joining Dewey's 24 Hour Readathon this time around. You see, it's a long weekend- Thanksgiving here- and I wasn't sure what our plans are. Since I still don't know and I try to do the Readathon when I can I said frig it, I'm signing up anyway. If I participate great, if not the world won't end, right? So now to the books.

  • The Prisoner of Dieppe- This is a new series from Scholastic Canada: I Am Canada. It's the boys' version of "Dear Canada," Canadian history from a boy's point of view.
  • The Tea Shop Girls- The author sent me this book quite a while ago. Looks like a quick read.
  • The Fossil Hunter of Sydney Mines- I bought this one at Word on the Street. It's a kid's mystery so it should be fun
  • Bitten- Is the first in the Kelley Armstrong Underworld series. I won this from Random House.
  • The Tower, the Zoo and the Tortoise- This looks like a cute one.
  • Moving Pictures- a graphic novel.
Audiobooks. There will times when I want a break for my eyes or other activities that can't be accomplished with a book in hand will be required of me. That's when the audiobooks come in. I have 2 downloaded already.
  • Maybe This Time by Jennifer Crusie. This is a romantic retelling of The Turn of the Screw by Henry James. I love the idea of James's story but hate his writing style so maybe I'll enjoy this.
  • The Birthing House by Christopher Ransom. A couple buys an old Victorian house, haunting and possession ensue (because Victorian houses have that effect on people).
My choices in books were ones that I know will be quick but also entertaining. I have a good mix of children and adult books for whatever mood I'm in at the time. I deliberately choose audiobooks that would be suspenseful and hopefully keep me awake.

Next I must plan my snacks! Good luck everyone!

*The little pumpkin boy is a crochet pattern from Lion Brand Yarn.

October 6, 2010

Cape Gothic

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October 5, 2010

Eat Pray Love by Elizabeth Gilbert (Audiobook): Review

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Oh how I resisted Elizabeth Gilbert. I really did. Eat Pray Love seems like one of those books that make people snicker at Oprah-loving ladies-of-a-certain-age (like me),one of those touchy-feely "and then I found myself" memoirs. They're usually the kind of book that makes me want to slap someone- hard. But then curiosity overcame me, I picked up the audiobook and fell into the gravitational pull that is Eat Pray Love. Not that I drank the Gilbert Kool-aid altogether, but I'll get to that later.

So Rock Dwellers, Gilbert leaves her miserable marriage, falls into stupefying love with another man, breaks up with that guy too and ends up poor and homeless. Well, not you and me, poor and homeless. Successful New York writer poor and homeless, like she needs a new apartment and plump up her 401K. Instead of writing a book in the States, she convinces her publisher to give her an advance on a book she plans to write while travelling to Italy, India and Indonesia for a year. How does one get a job like this? Sign me up please.

For a few months she eats herself stupid in Italy, meditates it all out in Indian and tries to find balance in Bali. Along the way she thinks about herself and her place in the universe, wondering how she can find true happiness.

Eat Pray Love could have been brought to us by the makers of Calgon (Calgon: Take Me Away!). This is a woman's fantasy where Gilbert gets to eat everything she wants, goes to a place where people are quiet and then is worshiped by zexy mens. What's not to love? There was much I enjoyed about Eat Pray Love but for everything I liked there was something I did not. I spent several days trying to get a handle on my ambivalence before posting my thoughts.

Gilbert tries very hard to convince the reader of how unhappy she was in her marriage without actually explaining why. Somehow she managed to wrestle sympathy out of me despite my confusion. If you are that miserable, fill yer boots, leave. Jumping into a new relationship was an obvious mistake. The book was setting up a 'here's Liz making bad decisions' scenario with the pay off being she'd have it all figured out by the end. Okay, I'm with you there too, but did she really not know why her husband wouldn't just let her go? She's frolicking on the beach with her new lover while the hubs is trying to sell the giant house of sadness. I'd be plotting a Count of Monte Cristo style revenge not just dragging my feet on the divorce if I was that guy. This niggled at me throughout because the ex's refusal to forgive kept coming up over and over. The guy has a right to his feelings, if she has the right to leave.

The book is divided into 36 stories about each country, which made for enjoyable listening. Some stories are longer than others but they all had a point, a little lesson learned. Italy, all about pleasure, is what you expect, a funny and exciting cultural experience. I could have spent the whole book in Italy. In India, Liz gets serious about mediation and while interesting, it dragged in places. I fell asleep a couple of times. Bali was beautiful, a paradise where Liz finds the medicine man who was the inspiration for her journey. It was supposed to be about finding balance, but mostly it was about thinking about sex, contemplating whether or not to have sex and then having lots of sex.

Gilbert's writing style is lovely, conversational and often humourous, but, here's that but again, some of the scenarios were, um, woo-woo. The solutions to her problems come to her in dreams or out of the mouths of people who seem to be in the book just to offer insight into Liz's love life. She rarely suffers even inconveniences and some of her commentary is irritating: I make friends easily, my sexy lover can't keep his hands off me, all that sex I've been having is making me sick.

Despite all of that, I do appreciate the message behind it: follow your own path. Hopefully, it doesn't take an ugly divorce to discover what that is. Gilbert's own journey is beyond the reach of most of us; not many people can put their lives on hold for a year to find themselves. Maybe little journeys of self-discovery should be our goal. I found an interesting article, claiming Bali is overrun with ladies looking for themselves and writing books. Following someone else's journey defeats the purpose of a journey of self-discovery, don't you think?

About the audio: Liz Glibert narrates her own book which I appreciated. I often wonder if the person narrating is emphasizing the text the way the author meant it. I couldn't help but imagine Julia Roberts though. She's actually 8 years older than the Liz in the book. I hope I look like Julia Roberts at 42 when I'm 34 (2 years ago).

Recommended for people interested in travel, meditation or self-discovery.

October 4, 2010

The Bleeding Dusk by Colleen Gleason: Review

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Once again Victoria Gardella tangles with the undead in The Bleeding Dusk by Colleen Gleason, this time in Rome. Bonus: Now with demons.

Victoria is now the leader of the troop of vampire slayers known as the Venators. The vampires of Rome have allied themselves with demons while searching for the keys to a mysterious door, a door leading to an alchemist's lair. What could lie inside that these two warring groups would band together?

After the events of the previous book, Max is AWOL and Sebastian is nowhere to be found. Unfortunately, Victoria needs Sebastian's help and must seek out his vampiric grandfather, the super-sexy Beauregard. But will she be able to resist his charms?

So, this third book in the Gardella series follows the standard protocol with Victoria staking vamps and taking names. When she's not doing that, she enjoys long walks on the beach with various suitors (or shaking it down with Sebastian in dark, hidden places). Max is very damaged after a series of unfortunate events which makes him angsty and therefore much sexier. Oh the brooding hero. There just might be something going on there, we shall see.

The Bleeding Dusk is for readers who like their paranormal with their romance or their romance with their paranormal. If Jane Austen wrote sexy vampire tales involving meddling mothers, demons and carnivals, this would be the book.

Recommended.

October 3, 2010

Challenge Roundup for September

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Do you remember, all those books we did read in September? (Sorry Earth, Wind and Fire.) I've kept up with the challenges for this month. It hasn't been a bad month and I've enjoyed my picks for the challenges.

The RIP V Challenge started this month. I've read 2 books so far: Bespelling Jane Austen and Witchcraft. I'm in the middle of The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins right now. It's really good!


The 4th Canadian Reading Challenge continues and the end of September saw the completion of 2 more books bringing my total to 4.
  1. Folly
  2. Damaged
  3. Her Mother's Daughter
  4. Witchcraft
Another month of the Daphne du Maurier Challenge gone and one more book read. This month it was The Rebecca Notebook and Other Memories. Not my favorite, but there were some interesting tidbits in it. Other participants read several of her works this month as well. Jess took on Mary Anne, Rose City Reader joined us for the first time with Rebecca, and My Reader's Block was intrigued by The House on the Strand. Buried in Print had issues with Daphne's portrayal of women in The Birds and Other Stories. Mel U read My Cousin Rachel as her second Daphne du Maurier. Thanks once again guys!

If you're looking for something creepy to watch during October, Alfred Hitchcock's adaptation of du Maurier's The Birds is just the thing. Here he is talking about the movie in his own unique way.




How were your challenges this month?

October 2, 2010

The Princess Bride Readalong, Milestone 1

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Welcome to The Princess Bride Readalong! We will be discussing Milestone 1 this week. Please see this post for the full schedule. If you haven't read up to this point, remember beyond this paragraph there may be spoilers.

I'm in love with this book already! First the introduction, how much is fact and how much is fiction? William Goldman is a Hollywood screenwriter who has written the movies Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid and The Stepford Wives, that part is true. He wife's name was Ilene not Helen and he has 2 daughters not an only son. The biggest fib in the introduction though is S Morgenstern, the writer of The Princess Bride.

Goldman claims that his father brought The Princess Bride from Florin (not a real place) where he was born and read the book to him while he was sick. Goldman only heard the good parts from his Dad, the original was a book full of unnecessary details. As an adult, Goldman wanted to abridge this book to just those good parts to make it readable for everyone else. Here's the thing- Morgenstern is actually Goldman; there is no original novel which was 'abridged'. It's all an elaborate lie. Why do you think he did this? Does it make the reader more engaged with the story?

Despite the confusion, I think it's very clever. It makes Goldman a character in his fictional story. I like the 'sitting around the campfire telling a whopper' feel to it. It's more storytelling than novel writing.

Finally, we get to the good parts, the story Part 1, The Bride, and meet a few of the principal characters, most importantly Buttercup and Westley. We find out that Buttercup isn't the prettiest girl in the world but she's up there. Westley works on her father's farm and only says, "As you wish." Swoon! He's handsome and muscular and it takes a fit of jealousy for Buttercup to realize that she loves him. He promptly leaves and dies.

I love the characters in the story so far. Buttercup's parents argue but really love each other. Tomboyish Buttercup has no idea she has such an effect on the males around her. Westley is somewhat of an enigma. He doesn't say much other than "As you wish" and "I love you." Now it appears that he is dead (or is he?), murdered by the Dread Pirate Roberts. And what are the Count and Countess up to anyway?

Part 2, The Groom, Part 3, The Courtship and Part 4 The Preparations, all of what, 10 pages? We see more of Prince Humperdinck and it's not good. He keeps a Zoo of Death where he has animals waiting to be hunted by him. Here's a foreboding passage:
Once he was determined, once he had focused on an object, the Prince was relentless. He never tired, never wavered, neither ate nor slept.

During The Courtship, we meet King Lotharon and Queen Bella. What a perfect combination; he mumbles and she interprets- in her own way. We also find out about the relationship between Florin and Guilder, constantly at war. Unsuccessful at matching Humperdinck to Guilder royalty, they try their own backyard: Buttercup. She's completely heartbroken and won't marry for love because she has no love to give. Faced with death or marriage, she chooses marriage to the Prince. All "The Preparations" tell us is that 3 years have passed. What will happen next?

So, what are your thoughts so far? Are you enjoying The Princess Bride as much as I am? Leave your thoughts in the comments section or leave a link to your own blog post. I will post them in the body of the post as they arrive.

Here are some other thoughts on Milestone 1:

Leeswammes' Blog
Col Reads 
The Adventures of an Intrepid Reader 
Reading Through Life 
The Bookkeeper
Reader for Life