June 29, 2011

Wordless: Cowgirl

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Free and easy

I don't know why I like this postcard of a cowgirl like I do. Maybe it's because she looks like a girl who doesn't give 2 hoots what anyone thinks.

June 28, 2011

Evelina by Fanny Burney: Review

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I'm trying to get my thoughts together about Evelina by Fanny Burney. It's quite a story. Where do I start?

Sweet Evelina has lived her whole 17 years in the country with her adopted father, Reverend Villars, until her natural grandmother, Madame Duval, wants to get her paws on her. The Reverend is nervous letting her go off to London under the influence of Madame Duval. Many years before Evelina's mother was coerced into a marriage with a ne'er do well by the woman. Her mother ran to the safety of the Reverend and begged him to take care of the infant Evelina just before dying. She's been coddled by him her whole life. Now Evelina is about to enter the world without his protection. What could possibly go wrong?

Plenty. There were times Evelina read like an episode of the latest reality TV show. There were relatives behaving badly, boys who can't take no for an answer, crazy pranks, world class snubbing, and social faux pas up the ying-yang. Where was Snooki during all of this? She missed some fun times. It is over the top in every way. Evelina gets into scrapes again and again. She has no idea how to behave and her mistakes cause her more than embarrassment. And she's soooo preeeeetty that men fall at her feet, grab at her hands, kiss her in carriages and molest her on the street. These guys need to learn some manners.

Evelina is a pretty, country rube in need of a hero and she finds one in Lord Orville. Orville is well breed and as exciting as oatmeal. There are a few Three's Company misunderstandings before Evelina gets her fella. Most of the misunderstandings arise from her complicated family tree. She's got a Daddy that won't own her, a former French barmaid for a Grandma, and a bucket load of bad-mannered cousins. She tries to keep them all under wraps but that just confuses Lord Oatmeal.

Evelina is a epistolary novel. Most of the letters are from Evelina to the Reverend. Sometimes I wondered why in the world she was telling him all that she does. Wasn't she worried she'd give him a stroke? Evelina is the naive darling of the story but the supporting characters are where the money is. Madame Duval, Captain Mirvan, Sir Clement Willoughby, the Braughtons, Mrs Selwyn are all cringe worthy but entertaining.

Jane Austen was a fan of Fanny Burney's work and there are the shadows of her novels in Evelina: the misunderstandings, the unsuitable girl and the man of rank. Austen, however, was much subtler in her satire. Evelina is a romp in comparison to Austen's novels.

Anyway, Evelina is pretty silly but an interesting look at British society in 1778. Recommended.

I read this free ebook copy from Girlebooks.


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June 26, 2011

Lazy Sunday Thoughts: Books, Blogging and Lady Thoughts

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funny pictures history - Untitled

So, on Wednesday there was a Big Ta-do about an article written in a smaller US publication by a woman complaining about how book bloggers are ruining publishing and we're just a bunch of yakking women reading fluff. I don't have a lot to add to this conversation that hasn't already been said by others. But I do want to express how sad I am that this was written by a woman about women. It's upsetting to see a member of my sex marginalize the women she observed at a book convention as the young and the mommies. The implication being that these groups are silly, because, you know, this group of people can't possibly have anything important to say about literature. We better leave that to the people who know better than us, even though we're the ones doing all the reading. It's kind of like how we had our men vote for us, so they made sure the right people got into parliament. The good old days before we got the vote.

In happier main stream media news, book bloggers. including John from The Book Mine Set, were mentioned in this article in the Globe and Mail. Yay! The topic is reading challenges and why people enjoy them. There were dissenting views of people who see them as competitive or vain, a view I don't understand.

This week I spent about an hour going through the books at my local thrift store. That section is getting huge now! I don't often shop there but it's a bit of a change from going to my used book store. The kids book section was where I had the most success. I'm going through a nostalgic period where I want to read the books I did as a kid just to see if I still like them, so I bought a Sweet Valley High (Elizabeth Betrayed, doesn't that sound dramatic?), Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing, a Choose Your Own Adventure book (they were so much fun!). I also picked up Ella Enchanted, and Far Enough Island by Lesley Choyce (a Nova Scotia author), newer titles. I will be sharing them with the kid. For myself, I bought The Blue Castle (a brand new copy to replace my scruffy one), More Maritime Mysteries, and Barometer Rising by Hugh MacLennan. I realize now that I chose all books by Maritime authors for myself. Weird.


And finally, I heard tell that the postal strike will end soon. Yay! I can order books again! Somewhere my husband just got a cold chill and a feeling of doom.


June 22, 2011

Supernatural Noir edited by Ellen Datlow (Short Stories): Review

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Do you like those old movies where the down on his luck detective meets the dame with the legs? Do you also like ghosties and ghoulies and things that go bump in the night? Yes? Then Supernatural Noir is the collection for you.

The collection is a variety of supernatural stories with a dark twist. The characters in some of the stories aren't the kind of people you'd usually root for- gangsters, drug dealers- people on the seedy side of life. Some are just people who've hit rock bottom. Obviously the stories are quite dark.

Not all the stories are set in the past, in a smoky office with a rotary phone. Some are set in modern times, in strip clubs, on the road, in hotels. There is quite a variety and like all short story collections if you don't like one there's always the next one.

And...I liked some stories but not others. Some were uncomfortable to read. Some were quite literary. Some were even a bit funny. My favorite actually did have a down on his luck detective and a dame with legs. In Dead Sister by Joe R Lansdale, a detective helps a woman track down a ghoul who has been taking advantage of her dead sister. I liked this one mostly because of the voice. The detective was a Texan and I could practically hear the twang as he narrated the story. He also had a dark sense of humour which balanced out the horror aspect.

Besides the ghoul in Dead Sister, you'll find homicidal garden gnomes, a haunted carousel, fairies, shape shifters, witches and wizards in the collection. A real grab bag of the supernatural world. It was interesting to see each author's take on supernatural noir.

By the time I finished Supernatural Noir, I had discovered a couple of new-to-me authors who I'd like to read more from. Be warned: this is an adult collection (not for the kiddies), lots of sex and violence are between the covers. So if that bothers you, you might want to steer clear of this one.

Rating


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June 21, 2011

22 Britannia Road by Amanda Hodgkinson (audiobook): Review

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"Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way." Yes, Mr Tolstoy, you couldn't be more correct about the unhappy family in 22 Britannia Road by Amanda Hodgkinson. They are truly unhappy in a unique way.

Janusz just found his wife and child who have been living in the forests of Poland for most of the previous 6 years. When Janusz last saw them, he was leaving them in Warsaw to fight the Germans during World War II. He had given them up for dead but now he believes he can have the family he always wanted. There are a few problems though, he's still trying to forget the girl he had a lot of sex with fell in love with back when he was in France. While he was frolicking in the haylofts, his wife Silvana and son Aurek were eating bark and witnessing horrific acts of inhumanity that can't be unseen. Now Janusz thinks he can have a picture perfect life with a pretty house and a garden and a car. It's all very American Dreamy except it's in Jolly Olde England with tea and crumpets and whatnot. While Janusz is working hard to be your average Brit, Silvana is tamping down all her memories and secrets from the war. Big Secrets. And those secrets she really wants to tell to the debonair Tony, the local pet shop owner (and smuggler).

Rather unfairly all my sympathy was with Silvana. Sure, lots of bad things happened to Janusz but if they were giving out awards for Most Horrific Experiences, Silvana would have him beat. So when Janusz was thinking about all the pretty flowers he wanted to plant and wondering why his wife wasn't quite ready to make some more babies, I was mentally squishing his head. Of course Silvana has some Big Reasons of her own for not being down with Janusz's plan.

The story alternates between the past and present of both Janusz and Silvana's experiences (with a few of Aurek's thoughts tossed in). The mystery of what happened during the war is revealed slowly throughout the novel. Once everything is out in the open that's when things start falling apart.

22 Britannia Road examines the cost of war on the survivors, especially those who've been separated by time and tragedy. Although I wouldn't say I enjoyed 22 Britannia (is that possible considering the heavy topic?), I did find it to be an engaging story. There were a few things that bothered me about this debut. Maybe it's me or the fact that it was an audiobook, but there were a few inadvertently funny scenes, you know, the kind that were supposed to be serious and poignant but gave me a case of the giggles. That really wasn't the author's intention. It was rather a slow go at times too.

If you're in the mood to read something gloomy or are interested in the post-World War II era, 22 Britannia Road is for you.

About the Audio: Narrated by Robin Sachs. It was a little weird hearing such masculine voice impersonating a Polish woman but somehow he made it work.

Rating:

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June 19, 2011

Lazy Sunday Thoughts: Dads and Cupcakes

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Happy Father's Day to all you Dads out there! My daughter just made her Dad breakfast in bed, maybe a bit earlier than he would have liked but it's a nice gesture.



Last weekend wasn't so lazy. I participated in 2 runs that weekend. Here's a photo of part of the crowd waiting to start the children's fun run on Saturday. My daughter ran in her very first run- about 2 km. She was so proud! On Sunday I ran in the 5 km adults' race. I'm not much of an athlete. In fact, I'm clumsy, uncoordinated, and hate just about every sport, but putting one foot in front of the other I can do (usually). Peer pressure got me into running last year and for some reason I'm still doing it. I huffed and puffed my way through the run but finished so I'm happy about that.

This week things were back to normal. I finished Supernatural Noir, a collection of short stories, and 22 Britannia Road, an audiobook. 22 Britannia Road was a bit of a Debbie Downer, especially since I thought it was a different book. Bit of a mix up on my part. I'll have reviews of those soon. 

Even with the mail strike on, I did get a book delivery this week: Fitzwilliam Darcy Rock Star by Heather Lynn Rigaud. It looks cute. And yes, it's another Pride and Prejudice redo. Speaking of Jane Austen, I'm reading Why Jane Austen? by Rachel M Brownstein. She looks at the Jane Austen mania from an academic point of view. It's interesting but not light reading.

And how does a person rate a book like Fitzwilliam Darcy Rock Star and one like Why Jane Austen? Both could be enjoyable in their own way even though they are very different. I've decided to start rating my books here on Chrisbookarama with cupcakes and apples. I have an explanation on this page at the top of the blog. Please have a look!


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I enjoy so many different kinds of books. I like silly books and serious books. Hopefully, this will help my readers find the kind of book they're in the mood for at the moment.

What do you think? Are ratings systems helpful to you?

June 16, 2011

Don't Breathe a Word by Jennifer McMahon: Review

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Oh my! This book is crazy!

I requested Don't Breathe a Word by Jennifer McMahon from a Shelf Awareness campaign. I didn't know much about it other than there was a missing girl and rumours of fairies. It sounded mysterious so of course I wanted to read it. 

Phoebe is in love with Sam, a man whose sister disappeared 15 years earlier. The local kids believed Lisa was abducted by fairies she had been communicating with in an abandoned village in the woods surrounding the town of Harmony. Sam believed she was kidnapped by some pervert hiding in the woods. When a frightened girl calls Phoebe and leads her to a mysterious Book of Fairies, she starts doing a little research of her own trying to piece together the events that lead to Lisa's disappearance.

The story alternates between Lisa at 12 years old and Phoebe in the present time just after the book is found and her happy life is turned upside down. Phoebe never had it easy. Her mom was an alcoholic who neglected her. Phoebe grew up having horrible nightmares about a shadowy figure hiding under her bed. Fifteen years earlier, she was drawn to Harmony during the hoopla surrounding Lisa's disappearance and ended up staying. Eventually she met Sam and they started a life together. His family seemed like the perfect opposite to her own until Lisa disappeared. 

Lisa is an imaginative child who believes fairies are leaving gifts for her. She becomes obsessed with the woods behind her house, leaving treats for the fairies. Lisa wishes to run away to the land of fairies, a happier alternative to her present situation. After a trip to the beach, the family returned home to find her father had overdosed. Now he lives in a haze and doesn't speak. Her Aunt Hazel and cousin Evie moved in to help out but her mother and Hazel have 'whisper fights' and act secretive. 

Both Phoebe and Lisa learn that nothing is as it seems, as does the reader. The plot twists and turns. I wondered what the heck was going on. And just when I thought I had it all figured out, I was bamboozled! Since I read the book in just one day, obviously it has quick pacing. I was on the edge of my seat wondering how it would all end. I was left with so many questions, trying to figure out what was true and what was a lie.

Told it third person but from the point of one character at a time, the reader knows only what that character knows. During Lisa's story I believed what she believed. She was so innocent, I just wanted to hug her. With Phoebe, I wasn't so sure. There was a mixture of skepticism and belief that Phoebe struggles with. Sam plants doubt in her mind since he is such a rational person. At times, Sam bothered me though.

When you read the word fairy, you might think of little critters hopping around on toadstools. The fairies in the book are more ambiguous. Are they real or imagined? Don't Breathe a Word is more of a thriller with supernatural elements than a fantasy story. Still, it's super creepy and you might not want to read it alone at night (like I did). 

Highly recommended

June 14, 2011

Death of a Lesser Man by Thomas Rendell Curran: Review

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Shots ring out on a quiet night in the hoity-toity area of Bannerman Park, St John's, Newfoundland. Running to the scene Inspector Stride finds respected businessman Harrison Rose dead, two bullets in the chest and one in the head. No one witnessed the incident though all near the scene of the crime heard two shots not three. Although Rose was a neighbour of Stride's, he knows nothing about the man. This was a guy who kept to himself but something in his past made him the target of a killer. Who would want a decorated hero of the Great War dead?

I wasn't in love with Death of a Lesser Man by Thomas Rendell Curran right away. In fact, I started to wonder if this was a book for me. It started very slowly with Stride asking question after question. Sometimes I thought I was reading the same questions being asked over and over. I wasn't getting a feel for Stride's personality at all and was finding him rather dull. The style of writing wasn't quite what I was used to in a mystery story but at about the halfway point I was hooked. Curran is one sneaky dude. 

Harrison Rose is an enigma. No one knows anything about him. Stride has to start from nothing and slowly build a picture of this man. That picture keeps changing with each piece of information Stride finds. Rose is a man of many faces, not just a British businessman living quietly in Newfoundland. Without even realizing it, I was one of Stride's people in the investigation, along with Corrigan, Phalen and Noseworthy. I was trying to puzzle this guy out too. I wondered just what Rose had been into to get himself killed. Even Stride started growing on me. Well played, Mr Curran, well played.

Though I was put off by the style at the beginning, I began to see just how clever it was. There are no fancy tricks. It's not remotely cozy and no one is racing through Europe looking for clues in paintings either. This is a bare bones mystery. The dialogue is what drives the plot forward. Not only does it provide answers to our questions but it shows the camaraderie and trust between Stride and his men at the Constabulary. They're respectful but good humoured. I loved the dry one liners that came out of them.

The setting, both place and time, added depth to the story. First, foggy St John's is a good place to set a noir-ish murder mystery. If you're going to spend time standing around smoking in the rain, Newfoundland is a good place to do it. Then there's the time period, just after World War II, yet the first World War is what weighs heavily on the minds of the men in Stride's circle. Those scars run deep. 

Guard of the Newfoundland Regiment
Members of Newfoundland Regiment, WWI
This is also Pre-Confederation and Newfoundland is a small colony in Britain's dying empire. Stride doesn't find the British officials particularly helpful. They aren't quick to offer information and with a killer on the loose Stride needs all he can get.

Like I said, the pacing is quite slow and a 300 page book felt more like 400. It took me much longer than usual to read a book of this length but in the end I was satisfied at how it all turned out. This is the third Inspector Stride Mystery but you don't need to read the first two. I am interested in reading them, though not right away.

If you like your mysteries on the noir side and appreciate a slowly told story, I think you'll enjoy Death of a Lesser Man.

Recommended.

Thank you to Taryn at Smash Publicity for the review copy.

June 13, 2011

This Old Thing: Frenchman's Creek

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This Old Thing is a feature of mine where I highlight an older book, often a used book. This time around it's Frenchman's Creek by Daphne du Maurier.

Frenchman's Creek is one of du Maurier's better known books though I've yet to read it. I've looked for it but couldn't find it at the local bookstores or library. I took a peek on ebay, which I hardly ever do, and found a seller in the UK with this book up for bid. I hate bidding. I just want to buy what I like- I get no thrill from getting into bidding wars. Anyway, luckily it was just me and some other guy interested in this book and I won it! Yay! It was around $8 and most of that was shipping. So that made me happy. Then I just had to wait for it to hop over to me from England.

Here's a description from Goodreads:
Lady St. Columb is bored with fashionable life at Court so she sets off for the peace and freedom of her husband's Cornwall estate. Quite unexpectedly, she stumbles on the mooring place of the white-sailed ship belonging to the daring Frenchman who plunders the shores of Cornwall. It is only a question of time before this philosopher-pirate captures the heart of the lovely Lady St. Columb. 
Sounds swashbucklingly good! And very Beach Read worthy (though I won't be taking this vintage copy to the beach). Can't wait to read it.

June 9, 2011

A Northern Light by Jennifer Donnelly: Review

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I've read a few books by Jennifer Donnelly now and she always impresses me but A Northern Light is my favorite by far.

Mattie Gokey is a girl with potential but with little means to make something of herself. She lives in the North Woods with a bereaved father and three younger sisters. During the past winters, her father worked as a 'jack' in the woods but with the death of her mother from cancer, he feels he can't leave them alone so long. They barely get by on the little they produce on the farm, the milk and eggs they sell to the camps and hotels in the area open only in the summer. Hard times are made harder still when her older brother runs away.

Still Mattie dreams of going to university in New York to become a writer. A dream encouraged by her teacher Emily Wilcox and best friend Weaver Smith. Circumstances arise that have Mattie working at the Glenwood, a fancy hotel for the sporting set of wealthy society. A couple, Grace Brown and her beau, go out in a boat one evening and never come back. Grace's battered body is found but there is no sign of the young man. Mattie holds the only clues to what happened in her possession, the love letters Grace urged her to burn.

The story alternates between the day Grace's body is found and the previous four months of Mattie's life. Mattie contemplates how she's gotten to this point- engaged to be married instead of planning for New York.

Poor Mattie, the odds just aren't in her favour. I suspect Mattie's story is the story of thousands of girls at the turn of the 20th century. Life was hard and every member of a family had a duty, especially girls without mothers. That Mattie even gets to go to school at her age at all is a small miracle. The burden of taking care of her family is a heavy one. The weight of being told 'no' to her dreams takes its toll and she begins to bend under it. Dreams aren't for girls like Mattie.

A Northern Light is beautifully written. There were passages that were so simple yet were brimming with meaning:
A hawk's work, I thought, wondering if the robin had seen the brilliant blue of the sky and felt the sun on its back before its wings were broken.
Isn't that beautiful? And so apt. Over and over Mattie sees that blue sky before being broken herself.

Donnelly uses many literary references in A Northern Light like Dickens, Bronte, Dickinson but the one that stuck out for me was a brief mention of The House of Mirth by Edith Wharton. Mattie could be compared to Lily Bart, even though they have different lives they are both enslaved by their societies and buffeted about by circumstances. The question is will Mattie give up the way Lily does or will she fight for her dreams? Grace's death is a watershed for Mattie. Here is a young woman whose life has come to a sudden, brutal end- an end to all her own hopes for the future.

A Northern Light is a coming of age story with a girl struggling to reconcile her family, friends, and beau with her dreams.

Highly recommended.

About the audio: Narrated by Hope Davis. She has a nice young sounding voice but sometimes her voice had odd cracks that I found jarring.

June 8, 2011

Audiobook Meme

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If you'd like to answer these questions, visit Devourer of Books.


Current/most recent audiobook: A Northern Light by Jennifer Donnelly

Impressions: Loved it! I listened to the whole book in 2 days. I'm just trying to write my review of it but I'm finding it hard because there are so many things that can be said about it.

Current favorite audiobook: Not to sound like a broken record, but I'm leaning towards A Northern Light.

One narrator who always makes you choose audio over print: I'm not sure if I'd always chose the audio but Christopher Lee is an amazing narrator. He read The Hound of Death and brought all the characters to life. He should read every suspenseful novel. Ever. Written!

Genre you most often choose to listen to: I tend to like listening to young adult titles. I'm not sure if it's because they require less concentration or if it's because they're usually shorter.

If given the choice, you will always choose audio when &
If given the choice, you will always choose print when:
I'm combining these 2 questions together because I think my answer is the same for both. It really depends. I'd have to listen for a bit first before deciding. There are times when I start an audiobook and the narrator annoys me and I just can't listen. A few months back I started a YA title narrated by a rock singer from the region. Her accent was perfect for the story but her voice was too forceful and overpowering to be narrating a story told by a young girl. The print might work better for me. The only time I can see choosing the print over audio is if there are a lot of illustrations.

How about you? What are your answers?

June 7, 2011

A Red Herring Without Mustard by Alan Bradley: Review

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I've become quite attached to Flavia de Luce throughout the series by Alan Bradley. In A Red Herring Without Mustard, Flavia continues to run rampant in Bishop's Lacey, this time she's determined to find out who's tried to kill an old gypsy woman.

After inadvertently burning down the woman's fortune telling tent at the town's fete, Flavia invites her to stay in at the Palings behind Buckshaw, a place not unknown to the woman. She's stayed there before, until being driven off by Flavia's father. Flavia's invitation is one part charity, one part defiance. But the gypsy woman's presence is known by at least one other person: the one who's attacked her in the middle of the night. When the woman is tucked away recovering in hospital, Flavia makes it her mission to solve the case before the police.

Who would try to kill a harmless old woman in a caravan? Was it her last customer at the fete, a person with a secret? Mrs Bull, who accused the woman of stealing her baby? Brookie Harewood, last seen sneaking around Buckshaw in the middle of the night? Hilda Muir, the words spoken so ominously by the gypsy? Flavia will follow a few red herrings and uncover old secrets before finding the answer.


Flavia is still a mix of childlike innocence and wise beyond her years. Dead bodies? No problem. Skin on milk? No way! I love how she talks to Gladys like the bike is a real person. I also love her fearlessness. Sometimes I worry that she is much too neglected by her father but in this book when he does get involved I wanted him to leave the poor girl alone to do her sleuthing. I can't be pleased.

Although Flavia often gives the impression that she is impenetrable, in A Red Herring Without Mustard she expresses some dismay at her sisters' treatment of her. Not just the pranks and teasing but the belief that they hate her. She indicates that things weren't always this way. What happened to change their opinion of her? She also reveals more distress over her mother and the idea of losing Buckshaw to creditors. Maybe Flavia is maturing by showing more sensitivity.

A Red Herring Without Mustard wasn't quite as good as Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie but it's still entertaining. I'm looking forward to the next in the series.

Recommended

About the Audio: The book was narrated by Jayne Entwistle who had me convinced she was an eleven year old girl, complete with whining.

June 6, 2011

Audiobook Week Begins!

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Jen from Devourer of Books has proclaimed June 6- 10 Audiobook Week to celebrate books we listen to rather than read.

Last year, I was fairly new to audiobooks having only listened to a couple of CDs I borrowed from the library and some podcasts from itunes. I wasn't a fan of the CDs since it took time to upload the CDs to my ipod and I'm sure the last patron used the discs as coasters- they were filthy. I loved the podcasts but I was running out of new material when something happened at my local library- they got Overdrive.
OverDrive is a leading full-service digital distributor of eBooks, audiobooks, and other digital content. We deliver secure management, DRM protection, and download fulfillment services for publishers, libraries, schools, and retailers--serving millions of end users globally.
I became an audiobook junkie. I've downloaded over a dozen library audiobooks since the service became available. I've listened to Catching Fire, Dead Tossed Waves, This Book Is Overdue, Married With Zombies, Eat Pray Love and many more. An audiobook even made reading my nemesis Henry James possible. I don't think I could have enjoyed The Turn of the Screw otherwise. It's so easy to get books from the library this way; I don't even have to leave the house and it takes minutes to get them on my ipod.


Over the last year I started submitting my reviews to Audiobook Jukebox a great resource for audiobook reviews. If you haven't checked out the site, please do.

I love being able to listen to a story while doing housework, folding the laundry, taking a run. I do enjoy listening to music while doing those things but sometimes I need a book. It's funny, when people mention a book, I'll remember what I was doing when I was listening to it. "Oh yeah, I was scrubbing the floor during that one." Ha! Maybe that's a little strange but hey that's my life! And since today is cleaning day, you know I have an audiobook all ready to go.

Image: FreeDigitalPhotos.net

The Paris Wife by Paula McClain (audiobook): Review

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Heads up, people! Let me proclaim my prejudice toward Hemingway before I begin talking about The Paris Wife. I never liked him. To be fair I have him mixed up in my mind with a person I do not like so it might not be all his fault. Still, I never liked the stuff I've read. (It's always possible that the next one might turn me into a slobbering fangirl. Possible but unlikely.) I always found his books to be a lot of 'look at my manly manliness' with the boxing and fishing and whatnot. I find it ironic that there are people who give female writers a hard time when they write about womanly pursuits but we're expected to marvel at a hundred pages of Joe Dimaggio gushing. But hey, that's another story. The Paris Wife, it seems, has not endeared me to the man.

Right then. The Paris Wife by Paula McClain is the story of the marriage of Ernest and his first wife Hadley as seen through her eyes. Hadley marries Ernest after he sweeps her off her feet through his fine letter writing skills. They marry and as soon as they can head off to Paris to live the bohemian lifestyle. They struggle for many years but they always have each other, until Ernest finds success and things take a turn.

I'm leaving out a lot because I didn't know much about either of these two and I found their story more compelling that way. I will say this upfront: Hadley did get a lot from this marriage. She had her son Bumby, the rights to The Sun Also Rises, and an exciting life full of interesting people. Seriously, if she hadn't met Ernest she'd have been stuck watching her sister mentally destroy her husband. Instead, she got to live in Paris and meet people like F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald. And she was happy when things were good but when things were bad, they were very bad.

The (1st) Hemingway Wedding

Ernest comes off as a very selfish man. He doesn't take into consideration Hadley's feelings about anything. What she wants doesn't even come second, it doesn't factor in at all. It's all "Me, me, me, and did I mention, me?" It's all about his career, all about his wants. When he isn't properly admired, he gets sulky. He's like a toddler. Hadley is always trying to sooth him, thinking of his needs. Her thinking is that his success is a reflection of her. Maybe, but he rarely shows his appreciation. She isn't alone in this type of thinking. There were women throughout the book who gave up so much or put up with numerous mistresses because the men were the Great Ar-tistes and heaven forbid you be seen as a Bore! That's the worst thing a woman could be.

This next section might be a bit spoilery. Avert your eyes!

When The Other Woman came on the scene, I was glad I was listening alone at home. I was so angry the house was filled with rantings much like the R-rated part of The King's Speech. When she confronts him, Ernest was angry that Hadley would bring up the subject. "Now everything is shot to hell!" he says. He wants them both. Now if she had been down with this from the beginning-fine, but she's sick about it. He doesn't care what she wants, again it's about what he wants. He also acts as if the affair is something out of his control which drove me crazy!

You can look now. End of Spoiler.

McClain occasionally veers away from Hadley and into the mind of Ernest. I suppose it was to pry some sympathy out of the reader for Ernest, but all I could see was how he rationalized his bad behaviour. Honestly, I don't think these digressions did much for the narrative anyway. This is Hadley's story.

One of the things I enjoyed most about The Paris Wife was how vividly McClain painted the bohemian life the couple had. Sure they lived in holes, but it was nothing for them to pick up and go to Spain or Switzerland for months at a time. They ate, they drink, they laid out in the sun. What a life!

The Paris Wife turned out to be an emotional story, well worth reading or in this case listening to.

About the Audio: Carrington MacDuffie does an excellent job narrating.

Recommended.

June 5, 2011

Lazy Sunday Thoughts: Going Postal

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Mailing Letters


Canada is undergoing a postal strike, sort of. I'm not very up on union vernacular but I think they're calling it a "rotating strike" whatever that means. So far, we're getting mail. I don't know when that will stop. Despite Canada Post stating it's business as usual, I'm hesitant to order anything that will arrive in my mailbox. And as soon as I can't do something, I want to do it. What I want to do is order books.

Last week I got the Persephone Books catalogue and I drooled over some of the titles. The Victorian Chaise Lounge? Yes, please. The Home-Maker? Give it here! Then I remembered NYRB Classics and how much I want some of those. My list is growing.

So while I was getting hives thinking about all the books I wouldn't be ordering, I decided to have a look at Netgalley. Netgalley is an ebook blogger's paradise. Participating publishers provide egalleys of their upcoming titles for review. Two that looked interesting were Supernatural Noir (Dark Horse Comics), a collection of dark supernatural tales, and Why Jane Austen? (Columbia University Press), non-fiction on the fact and fiction of Jane Austen. I'll be diving into those soon.

This week I finally finished The Wild Rose by Jennifer Donnelly, another Netgalley book. My dilemma on this one is that it isn't out until August- do I post my review now or closer to the date? Hmm. I started Death of a Lesser Man by Thomas Rendell Curran after the Donnelly but I'm not sold on it yet. We'll see how that goes.

Next week is Audiobook Week at Devourer of Books and I have a couple of reviews for that. I haven't tackled her daily topics yet. I hope you check out the events even if you aren't an audiobook fan.

The Evelina Group Read discussion started on The Duchess of Devonshire's blog. Lots of opinions on Burney's book so far. I love the different thoughts and ideas brought to the table by everyone.

So that's what my reading week looks like, how is yours?

June 1, 2011

Challenge Roundup for May

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Somehow it's June 1st. How did that happen? I don't know. Crazy. Apparently, I forgot* to do a Challenge Roundup last month (which no one but me really cares about) so it might appear that I read more for my challenges. Do not be fooled.

So, okay. In April, my Daphne du Maurier Challenge wrapped up and I decided to keep the reviews over at the dedicated blog. Plus, I encouraged you all to add any of yours. Please do!

The Challenges

Once Upon a Time Challenge: I guess technically I've completed this one but I still have books I want to read for it.

Sisters Red by Jackson Pierce, a buddy read with Kelly
Princess Academy by Shannon Hale
The People of the Sea by David Thomson

The Foodie Challenge:

Simply Great Breads by Daniel Leader
Two Williams Sonoma Cookbooks

The 4th Canadian Books Challenge: I've completed it but I keep reading!

Essex County
The Canadian Housewife by Rosemary Neering

And of course I'll be participating in the 5th Canadian Books Challenge starting July 1. Why don't you join up?


I hope to read a few more books read this month for my challenges. How did you do with yours in May?

*I'm sure I didn't forget but it's possible that post was lost during Blogger Apocalypse.