August 31, 2011

RIP Challenge 6: It's Time

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It's one of my most favorite times of the year. Carl's RIP Challenge! This is the 6th RIP Challenge (my 5th) and they just keep getting better. The challenge runs from September 1- October 31. I love how the challenge gets me in the mood for Halloween every year. 

RIP stands for Readers Imbibing Peril and there are many "perils" to choose from. I am going with:

Carl says,

Peril the First:Read four books, any length, that you feel fit (my very broad definitions) of R.I.P. literature. It could be Stephen King or Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Ian Fleming or Edgar Allan Poe…or anyone in between.
I know I can read 4 spooky books easily. Here's a photo of my potential books.

Shown are 
  • The Man in the Picture (A Ghost Story) by Susan Hill
  • The Woman in Black by Susan Hill
  • More Maritime Mysteries by Bill Jesome
  • 4:50 from Paddington by Agatha Christie
  • Three Act Tragedy by Agatha Christie
  • The A.B.C. Murders by Agatha Christie
  • Graveside Al by Alan Maitland
  • The Legacy by Katherine Webb
  • Drood by Dan Simmons (that's a Big One!)
  • Uncle Silas by Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu (not shown). **I had to add this one after seeing it on so many participants' lists!**
I'm also going to take on:



Peril of the Short Story:I am a big fan of short stories and my desire for them is perhaps no greater than in autumn. I see Poe and Lovecraft in my future for sure. You can read short stories any time during the challenge. When I can, I like to read short stories over the weekend and post about them around that time. Feel free to do this however you want, but if you review short stories on your site, please link to those reviews on the Book Review site.


I've loaded up my ereader with a bunch of short stories from Project Gutenberg
  • Curious, if True by Elizabeth Gaskell
  • Edith Wharton (Afterward, The Eyes, The Debt, etc.)
  • The Shunned House by H.P. Lovecraft
I plan on reading these as a break from Drood which is over 700 pages. Yikes! There's a peril for you!

I might be adding to this whole list yet. I like to read whatever strikes my fancy.

How about you? Will you join us? Grab a sweater,  your favorite hot beverage and a candy apple or two, head for a cozy spot with a spooky book and settle in with us for the season.



Cold Comfort Farm by Stella Gibbons: Review

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Flora Poste's parents just died in the annual Spanish Flu epidemic, leaving her with £100 a year and no house to live in. Her friend Mrs Smiling suggests getting a job but Flora seems to think the right idea is to go live with some long lost relatives. After dashing off a few letters, the only promising response is a enigmatic missive from Cold Comfort Farm in Howling, Sussex about "coming for her rights." Flora trots off Sussex aiming to find out just what those rights are.

When she gets there she meets the Starkadders, a cast of characters straight out of a Thomas Hardy novel (or an Oprah Book Club selection), the head of the clan is Aunt Ada Doom who ain't been right since she saw something nasty in the woodshed... or maybe it was the potting shed... Anyway if anyone attempts to leave Cold Comfort Farm she pitches a fit and yells "there will always be Starkadders at Cold Comfort." So there they all stay, snarling at each other until the end of time.

Flora, unimpressed with all the raging dramatics, sets herself the task of civilizing this brood and turning Cold Comfort into a profitable venture. It won't be easy but Flora won't give up until everyone at Cold Comfort is exactly how she wants them to be.

Have you ever wanted to knock some sense into characters in a book when they are behaving like idiots? There have been many moments where I thought the solution to characters' problems was a good dose of common sense... or Prozac. Flora Poste does everything I wished I could. She's practical, sensible and ready take on the craziness of Cold Comfort Farm.

And just who are these people? There's Meriam, the hired girl, who gets knocked up every spring when the sukebind is in bloom and a peculiar feeling takes hold of her. That feeling is personified in the form of Seth, the heart throb of Cold Comfort. As soon as he was described, Colin Farrell popped in my head. His mother Judith, lays on the bed staring at the ceiling as she obsesses over Seth, even though she has other children. She's a lot like Mrs Morel from Sons & Lovers- totally inappropriate. Amos, her husband, preaches hell-fire to Howling. Reuben, another son, is fixated on farm. Adam is the farmhand who worries over Elfine. Cousin Elfine is the fairy-like creature promised to Urk but wishing to marry the local gentry.

There's one more odd character who does not live on Cold Comfort Farm but in staying in the village, Mr Mybug. He is an intellectual writing a book about how the Bronte girls were a bunch of drunks and brother Branwell wrote all the books. He is obsessed with sex and nature. He sees sex in every flower or insect. When he tries to talk about these things with Flora, she ignores him, not because she's a prude just not interested. He reminded me a lot of the old perv in The Children's Book who liked to lecture naked and seduce unsuspecting young women. I guess that was a thing back in those days.

Of course, Flora takes them on one at a time and tidies them up. While I loved Flora, I wished that maybe she didn't always get her way. Or was forced to make some compromises.

Cold Comfort Farm by Stella Gibbons was written in 1932, though it is set "in the near future." It has a distinctive 1930s vibe but then Gibbons throws in something off, like a war that never happened or how everyone has an airplane. It always made me stop and say, "Huh?" and then I'd remember, "Oh yeah, that's fake." It's quirky. I love the quirkiness. Cold Comfort Farm made me laugh especially since I've read my fair share of overwrought rural dramas. It was nice to find a character willing to do what I always wanted.

Recommended.

Thanks to Jill for the copy (who was not a fan of CCF.)

Ratings:

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August 29, 2011

Insatiable by Meg Cabot: Review

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Meena Harper has a gift; she knows when people are going to die. It isn't the most pleasant skill to have but Meena does her best to warn people about their impending doom. Too bad she can't see what's coming for herself. First, at her job writing for the soap opera Insatiable, her nemesis gets the promotion she was expecting. Her boss then announces a new storyline they'll be writing involving vampires. Meena does not want to write about vampires. They are so overdone. What next? Well, she's attacked by bats. It's the cherry on top of a terrible week. 

There is a positive to being swarmed by bats- being saved by a tall, handsome stranger. Meena can't stop thinking about him. It appears her luck is changing when her hero turns out to be the guest of honour at her neighbour's party and a Prince! Jackpot! Prince Lucien has a few secrets he's keeping from Meena, however. Like how he's a vampire, not just any vampire but the boss of all vampires. The reason he's in New York is because a rogue vampire has been killing young women. A big no-no. He's there to find out who would dare defy him and dole out the proper punishment. He had no intention of falling in love.

As Lucien struggles with a shift in power, Meena has no idea she's about to end up in the middle of a vampire war. Will she be able to save herself and the ones she loves from becoming vampire chow?

I'd forgotten that I had read one other Meg Cabot book, Queen of Babble in the Big City, and was sure this was my first. That was a long time ago. I didn't know what to expect. For the most part, Insatiable is a fun book with a spunky heroine who occasionally does dumb things. At times, it was a bit silly, especially toward the end. The only real problem I had with the book was when the characters' thoughts would wonder off in the middle of something. They'd suddenly be thinking of something unrelated, while in the midst of staking a vampire or something. It was a little odd.

Insatiable is a fluffy bit of fun. The vampires can be silly and so can the humans. If you like your vamps, less Twilight and more Love at First Bite, you'll enjoy Insatiable.

About the Audio: Insatiable is narrated by Emily Bauer. She has a nice cheerful voice and was pleasant to listen to.

Ratings:

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August 28, 2011

Lazy Sunday Thoughts: Sticky

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Blech! Oh the humidity! Hopefully you all made it through #Irene2011 without too much trouble. Last I heard the Bostonians were calling it a super-tropical storm. We're not supposed to get too much here, just rain and wind. There are some advantages to sticking so far out into the ocean like we do. But, lordy, it is sticky! I didn't bother turning on the flatiron this morning. There is no point. I have to live with Robert Plant hair for now.

It was a long week, since my man was working away. It was just me and the kid (and dog + cats). We ate many burgers and pizzas. I also watched all the chick-flicks I've been missing: Jane Eyre which I liked, and Sex in the City II which I made me wonder if it was necessary after SitC I. I mean, weren't we all caught up the first time?


Anyway, there were no new books delivered this week, which isn't a bad thing. I keep having the same panicky feeling whenever I stand in front of my bookshelves. "Where do I even start? What do I want to read? Frig it, I'm going to the library." It's a reaction that doesn't make any sense but I do it every time. I think, "Well, I can't read that one until, I read that one and I don't feel like reading that one. This one is for when ____, so I can't read it now. I should read the one from my mom, no for review, no for a challenge." And then I give up. Is it just me?

I actually did read some books this week though. I finished The Lantern by Deborah Lawrenson (so good), Rules of Civility by Amor Towles (audio- also good), and Cold Comfort Farm by Stella Gibbons (funny!). So it was a good reading week.


Image: Andy Newson / FreeDigitalPhotos.net


August 24, 2011

Jane Eyre (2011): My Thoughts

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Wahoo! After months of waiting, I finally saw Jane Eyre. I made sure I bought it the day it came out on DVD. Then I waited to watch it when I had both Me Time and appropriate snacks. That moment happened Monday night.

Good Stuff

Wow, it was beautiful. Beautiful costumes, beautiful spooky old houses and the Moors. Mia Waskowska was lovely (maybe too lovely) and Michael Fassbender... humina, humina... The scene with Helen Burns made me cry. I thought how the movie started- Jane running from Thornfield- was a nice touch. Also, one of the most perplexing parts of Bronte's story, Jane's 'instant family', was tinkered with in a way that is more palatable to a modern (skeptical) audience. The deleted scenes- more Jane Eyre, yay!

Things that Made Me Say Hmm...

St John. He was way nicer than I remember and where was his lady friend?
The last scene with Mrs Fairfax. What was that all about?

Things I Wanted More Of...

Mrs Reed wasn't jerky enough for my liking.
More Bertha needed.
More kissy-kissy too.
I know only so much of the story can be put into 2 hours but I wanted more of everything!

It was very hard not to compare this film to the mini-series of a few years ago, which I loved. I know that's not really fair, but I did really enjoy this one too. I'll be watching it again and again.

Have you seen it? What did you think?

August 22, 2011

The Moving Finger by Agatha Christie: Review

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In The Moving Finger by Agatha Christie, Jerry is recovering from a plane crash in a quiet little village. His vivacious sister Joanna is helping him during his recovery. Both expect to be bored to tears by country life. How wrong they are!

Not long after arriving, Jerry receives an anonymous letter suggesting that Joanna is not his sister. The siblings laugh it off, figuring it's just a mean prank, but soon they find out other villagers have received similar letters insinuating a lot of *wink, wink, nudge, nudge* going on. Most of the letter recipients' reactions are the same as Jerry and Joanna's: a nasty prank, burn it and move on. However, it appears that one of the letters hits too close to the mark, when the lawyer's wife commits suicide after receiving one.

The villagers start getting skittish. Who is sending the letters? The police suspect an angry spinster with a dirty mind. Things get even darker when someone is murdered. Did the victim know who the anonymous letter writer was? As the police narrow down the suspects, one person with the ability to see the wickedness in others is on the case: Miss Marple.

It's funny, the cover of The Moving Finger says A Miss Marple Mystery but the lady is barely in it. She appears so late in the story that I thought the publisher must have made a mistake. Then she's only in the book for a dozen pages or so.  Oh well. Jerry is the narrator of the story. I really enjoyed his voice and the teasing he gives Joanna. They have a close brother-sister relationship. He thinks she's a bit of a maneater though.

For most of the book, I thought I knew who the killer was. I was positive I knew who it was. Positive! I wasn't happy about it either because 1) I didn't want that person to have done it and 2) I didn't want to have figured it out so soon. Where's the fun in that? I was sure Christie dropped the ball on this one. Luckily, I was wrong. It's amazing what a magician she was. She knew how to distract readers with some smoke and mirrors. I tip my tiny hat to you, Ms Christie!

The anonymous letter was an interesting device. I get plenty of anonymous spam but no malicious messages regarding shenanigans. I wonder what my reaction would be if I did. I hope I could be like Jerry and Joanna and make a joke out of it.

So yes, I recommend The Moving Finger. I'm enjoying nearly all of the Agatha Christie books as I make my way through them.

Ratings:
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August 21, 2011

Lazy Sunday Thoughts: Beach to Pumpkins

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Rustico Beach, PE, 1916 (?)


Hello, all! How was your week? Summer finally returned to our part of the world. I was afraid it was gone for good, but the sun was only teasing. We had some perfect beach/pool days this week, which we took full advantage of (it's so hot right now). You would think that would put me back in full summer mode, but it has not.

That might have something to do with school supply shopping earlier this week. Buying pencils and notebooks for the girl made me think of fall, which had me thinking about Halloween. It doesn't help that the stores put out their Halloween stuff so early either. Now I'm envisaging pumpkins and ghosts. I've even started crocheting a scarf! This all lead me to start making my fall reading list.

The first thing I did was browse the Gutenberg Project for anything labeled scary, horror or gothic. I downloaded some stories from Edith Wharton, Elizabeth Gaskell and H.P. Lovecraft. Those will be great for the RIP Reading Challenge, short story category. I also had a look at the library for The Woman in Black by Susan Hill which I really want to read.

Am I crazy or are you preparing your fall reads now too? Any good suggestions?

Moving on...

The past couple of weeks brought some new books in the mail. The Legacy by Katherine Webb looks interesting. The ABC Murders by Agatha Christie was one I won over the summer. Rumors and Envy are part of The Luxe series by Anna Godberson. After reading the first one, I knew I needed to get the rest (I have Splendor already). It's getting harder to find the hardcovers but I managed to find them on Bookcloseouts.


And yes, that's a Jane Eyre disc in there! I haven't watched it yet. I'm waiting for the perfect moment to watch it in peace. I'll let you know my thoughts on it after I see it.

I haven't done a lot of reading lately because I got stuck on a book I had for review. It wasn't as enjoyable as I thought it would be and ended up muddling through it. It's going to be hard to write about that one. I do have one review ready for next week and hope to be back to my normal reading self soon.

So how was your reading week?


And since I mentioned The Woman in Black, did you know it's being made into a movie with Daniel Radcliffe? Here's the trailer but don't watch it at night!

August 16, 2011

Happy Birthday, Georgette!

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Georgette Heyer was born on this day in 1902. Happy 109th, Georgette!

For today's post, you can visit my thoughts on my favorite Heyer novel, Cotillion, from way back in 2007. That's a blast from the past!


August 15, 2011

The Last Werewolf by Glen Duncan: Review (audio book)

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So what do you do if you've just found out you're the last werewolf alive and a bunch of zealots are out to get you? You get sloshed and have lots of sex. Apparently. Until stuff happens that makes you want to survive again. That's what The Last Werewolf by Glen Duncan is all about.

Jake Marlow is the last of his kind, a randy 200 year old wolfman, who's being hunted down by a group dedicated to destroying supernatural critters. They've been pretty good at werewolf hunting, since they're easier to keep track of than say, vampires (yes, they hunt those guys too). Jake knows his days are numbered. He's being watched 24 hours a day. Once the full moon appears and his true nature reveals itself, he's toast. At least, that's what he believes. Then suddenly, Jake becomes a popular guy with just about every group imaginable wanting their hands on him. I guess being the last of something does that. Jake realizes that no one has his best interest in mind so he's determined to survive as long as he can on his own. Or so it would seem...

Okay, I know a lot of people think The Last Werewolf is awesomesauce but I thought it was all right. Yes, Jake is a sophisticated werewolf with an impressive vocabulary but some some self-editing would have been nice. I have a high tolerance for grossness but there is a lot of TMI in this story. Seriously, dude, I don't need to know where you put what when you were with your girl. And it draaaaaaagged the story along. While he was waxing poetic about his lady friend's magical lucky charms, I was wondering if we were ever going to back to the vampires and the secret hunter guys that were out to get him. Get on with it!

When he got out of bed, things would happen and that's when it was interesting. There are conspiracies inside of conspiracies and hints at books that explain the origins of the werewolf. Marlowe gets pulled this way and that. At the beginning, I was annoyed with him for being so blase about everything. By the end, he actually cares about a thing or two. It made him a more appealing character, although I still think he's gross. (He's no sexy vampire.) He has several interesting encounters with various humans. The most entertaining scenes are with the bumbling French former model. I love that guy.

It is beautifully written, and I have to wonder if I should read the text version instead of the audio book. I like to read pretty sentences a few times, rolling them around in my mind. That's not so easy with audio- you get the narrator's take and sometimes the squicky metaphors have more of an edge to them when read aloud. No doubt The Last Werewolf is smart with its references to Jane Eyre and William Blake and others. This is a grown up's story even without all the sex and violence.

Yes, you must have a high tolerance for sex and violence to read this one!

So I'm a bit torn. I wish I had read the text version it for the reasons stated. I think I would have liked it more but it's hard to say for sure. Maybe once the ickiness wears off my brain in a few years, I'll read it again.

About the Audio: The narrator is Robin Sachs (also narrated 22 Britannia Road, I reviewed earlier this year) and he's a convincing werewolf. He has a voice which sounds like it's been marinated in whiskey and Camels (Marlowe's favourites).

Rating:
Photobucket(I feel weird giving a book like this cute little cupcakes. Pretend they're dirty cupcakes, ones that got dropped in the mud.)

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August 14, 2011

Lazy Sunday Thoughts: Open House

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Image: photostock / FreeDigitalPhotos.net
It's a beautiful Sunday here for a change! I must get out and enjoy it.

The Book Blogger Appreciation Week Awards nomination deadline just passed. I hope you all nominated your favorites. As per usual when discussing awards, the C-word comes up: clique. I just shrug whenever I see it, because people like what they like. Most of the blogs in my Google Reader are ones I've been following for years. They may have started blogging when I did or we were part of the same challenges. We read a lot of the same books. I just happen to like their writing style or we talk about stuff on Twitter. Or there is just something about that blog, a je ne sais quoi, that appeals to me. It's a chemistry that works and it's different for everybody. 

Of course, I'm missing thousands of blogs, but that's because there are thousands of book blogs. Our small community has grown into a city. It's huge. I happened to find a blog that was hosting a blog hop and I didn't recognize a single one. "Who are these people?" I wondered. There are parts of the book blog world I don't know because I did not know they were even there. It's like travelling through your city, turning a corner and discovering a whole neighbourhood you've never seen before. 

I'm a homebody by nature anyway. I'm an introvert who would rather have a couple of intimate friends than a thousand Facebook friends. The great thing about events like BBAW is that every year I discover a few blogs to add to my circle. The blogs that have that je ne sais quoi. I move a little bit further outside my own neighbourhood. 

If it seems that the most recognizable blogs get all the accolades, well, that's ok. They've done the work to get it. The "popular" blogs also have the kind of headaches this blog is never going to have. The drama that I don't want to deal with. I'm grateful to have the readers that I do. You're all so polite. :)

On that note, dear readers, I'm going to be neighbourly and have a bit of an Open House. There won't be any prizes just virtual tea and coffee. If you're a lurker, or just happened by, or a regular commenter, how about leaving a comment and I'll drop by and say hello on your blog too. Or if you don't have a blog, I'll say hello here. And please visit the other commenters too! Let's have some community building.


August 13, 2011

From My Garden

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My garden is finally producing something other than earwigs!


Fresh turnips: I steamed them (with snap peas also from the garden) and served them with butter. 


My tomatoes are getting bigger. Can't wait to eat these!


And although they aren't a vegetable, the sunflowers are blooming too. A little sunshine for the garden.

August 8, 2011

The Luxe by Anna Godbersen: Review

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If Edith Wharton and Dominick Dunne mated, The Luxe would be their gum-smacking teenaged progeny. 

The beautiful Elizabeth Holland is dead...(psst, her body was never found)...and her loved ones gather for her funeral. The tragic irony is that her funeral is on the same date as her wedding. Why they planned the funeral for this day since there's no body is a bit of a head scratcher, but never mind that. Anyway her fiance, the most wanted bachelor in New York society, Henry Schoonmaker, is a pallbearer. Her best friend, Penelope, joins the long list of mourners even though an odour of suspicion surrounds her. In fact, all of Liz's family, friends and admirers are there with the exception of one person, her sister Diana. 

What happened to this young lady, this pinnacle of female perfection? How did she end up falling into Hudson River days before her wedding? Was it just an accident or did someone have a reason to get rid of her? Flashback to the month before her death to follow the events that lead to this tragedy.

I was in the mood for something gossipy and girly. The Luxe satisfied my craving for both. It's like an elaborate cupcake: pretty to look at, sweet to taste, hits the spot for a moment. I mean, look at that cover! That dress! And the inside is much the same, beautiful girls wearing beautiful dresses doing morally questionable things. It's fluffy and a bit scandalous. I enjoyed it. I didn't get any smarter reading it, however. Do I want to read the rest of the series? Why yes, I do!

The characters are what you'd expect, girls who would push their grannies down the stairs to get what they want (except for Elizabeth who is torn by duty). Penelope is new money; she's climbing that social ladder. All she seems to wear is black and red. I kept imagining Scarlett O'Hara in that shameful red dress. Diana is Elizabeth's spoiled younger sister with a penchant for shocking novels and shocking behaviour. Elizabeth is the elder daughter of an old society family and Lina her disgruntled maid. I thought it was hilarious how each of them thought they had the others all figured out. The only person I felt sorry for was Henry, who is a bit of an ass sometimes. Henry is the not unlike the females of the 19th century novels, forced to do what they don't want to for the sake of society. I can't wait to see what tortures Godbersen puts him through in the next novel.

If you're looking for a young adult novel with a sprinkle scandal, The Luxe is what you need.

Anna Godebersen has a website for both her series of books.

Ratings:

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August 7, 2011

Lazy Sunday Thoughts: Books and Rants

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Morning, folks! How is the world treating you? Good, I hope.

Things are good here but I have noticed a crazy increase spam everywhere I go. This week I cleaned out my spam filter for the blog and there were 279 spam comments since the beginning of June. It's gross. And really, why? Does anyone buy their pharmaceuticals or fashion knock-offs from some blog commenter? Is anyone that stupid? Then there is the anonymous spam that makes no sense. It has no links attached just some dumb request to "delete" or some such nonsense. I can't believe people go through so much effort to be annoying. Get a life, spammer!

It's not much better on Twitter either. This morning I woke up to four new followers; two were spammers. One was an author (possibly) who tweeted me "Read this" and a link. No, I will not and I've reported you for spam. That is not the way to market your book on Twitter and if someone told you it was that person is a moron. Also, different author don't whine on Twitter about how bloggers won't review your book. They have their reasons.

Wow, that was ranty. I did not expect that. Must be because I haven't had my coffee yet. 

Anyway, onto better things. Last week, I browsed the flea market (right here my Dad would ask me if I bought any fleas. har-de-har-har. Lame.) and found a couple of books to buy: True Grit, Garden Spells, and Beauty Tips from Moose Jaw. All 3 for $6! Not bad. 

In the mail, I received The Lantern by Deborah Lawrenson for a blog tour in September. It's inspired by Rebecca which was inspired by Jane Eyre. Authors sure like borrowing from each other. I hope my expectations aren't too high.

I've been listening to the audiobook The Last Werewolf by Glen Duncan. I'm not sure what to make of it yet. I know some readers have raved about it but so far I think it's okay. We'll see.

So, how was your reading week?


Close-up view of dog: Riviera Beach, Florida
For no particular reason, here's a dog from 1939.


August 4, 2011

The Wild Rose by Jennifer Donnelly: Review

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About a million years ago (okay just three), I reviewed The Winter Rose, the second in the Rose series by Jennifer Donnelly. It was a huge book but somehow there was more to tell and it ended with a cliffhanger.

The Wild Rose takes up where The Winter Rose ends with Willa Alden mourning her long lost leg and Seamus Finnegan toddling off to Antarctica (like you do). The plot is just too complicated to get into, so here's the run down: Willa and Seamus spend the novel hooking up and breaking up, there's The Great War, spies, Lawrence of Arabia, the Spanish Flu, secret babies and crazy gangsters. Toss all that in a blender and hit pulse.

Since it was ages ago that I read the last in the series, I couldn't remember much about the characters and spent a portion of my time trying to figure out who was who. And let me tell you there are a lot of characters- ones from the previous books and several new ones. There was quite a bit of recapping at the beginning as well. This all made for a slow start. But do not fear! Once the war starts, the plot picks up and we're cooking with gas. There are several subplots but they all tangle and weave though one another. When one plot ends another continues, keeping the pacing of this 600+ page tome steady.

While I enjoyed the plot, I had trouble with the two main characters: Willa and Seamus. Their 'love story' is the focus of much of the novel. I found them both incredibly unlikable. They are selfish people who manage to ruin the lives of the innocent people around them. Willa whom I'm supposed to admire because she's brave and fearless turned me off with her self-pity. She might have avoided much of her fate if she had a sassy gay friend to tell her to get over herself. Seamus's treatment of Jennie, a strong independent woman before he met her, was appalling. I was very disappointed by that storyline. In fact, there are a number of innocent characters who suffer unfairly in The Wild Rose while Willa and Seamus get bashed around and still come out smelling rosy.

However, I'm one of those people who can overlook annoying characters if given something else worth my while. I actually ended up liking The Wild Rose very much. It's set in an exciting time period with plenty of adventure in England and Africa. Donnelly is at the top of my list of authors who write amazingly vivid historical fiction. Sure, there are unlikely coincidences and parts will have you humming "It's a Small World" but it's all in good fun.

If you've read the other 2 books, you'll want to read The Wild Rose. It tidies up several loose ends.

Ratings:

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Thanks to NetGalley for the review copy.

August 3, 2011

My Other Addiction: Coffee

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My addiction to coffee is strong but I wavered in my devotion this week. I don't know about where you are but the cost coffee went up here. While tripping down the coffee aisle, I reached for my regular bag of beans and saw that the price had jumped up $2 from the last time.
Image: africa / FreeDigitalPhotos.net
I like my price hikes to sneak up stealthily not shock me into clutching my pearls and heading for the fainting chair. I did not buy them this week but I know that I probably will soon. I won't be able to help myself. I realize that there are bigger problems in the world than the price of my cup of coffee but it made me start thinking about my love for the bean.

I didn't like coffee until well after I was married. My husband would make a pot for himself and it just smelled so good... "maybe just a cup"... Then I was hooked. Now I'd say I drink between 2 and 4 cups of coffee a day and these aren't little baby cups either. These are mug abominations.

"Sugar Save It.", ca. 1917 - ca. 1919 I like my coffee with a bit of skim milk and a teaspoon of real sugar. My husband prefers his black. When we were first dating, he would listen to a song called "Sugar in my Coffee, Makes Me Mean" by, ironically, Big Sugar. We've never tested that theory on him. Maybe he turns into the Hulk; we'll never know.

As readers, is coffee a part of your reading routine? If yes, how do you like your coffee? Are you an addict? Inquiring minds want to know!

In this video Julian Smith encourages coffee drinkers to not be prejudiced in their coffee choices. Enjoy!



August 1, 2011

The Tuesday Club Murders/ Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie: Review

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Since I read both of these Agatha Christie mysteries back-to-back, I figured I'd review them together.

First up, The Tuesday Club Murders (A Miss Marple Mystery). I loved the premise of this one. A group of acquaintances at a dinner party decide to swap crime stories the next time they meet. The idea is that the person telling the story knows the outcome but the other guests have to guess who the criminal is. Everyone is very excited by the idea but they ignore one guest- Miss Marple. Being polite Brits, they let her play along sure she'll have little to contribute to the fun. As they tell their stories one by one, the other guests find the solutions to the crimes impossible to figure out, except for one person...

Here's what a learned from The Tuesday Club Murders: never turn your back on a Brit, they will put a knife in it. Okay, I know that's not true but you would think it from the characters' experiences in the book. Just about everyone of them had personal knowledge of a murder, not just "hey I read this article" no... no... they had friends and relatives that murdered their spouses or friends. I don't think I want to hang out these people. They are bad mojo.

I loved the stories they told. A few times I was close to solving the crime but never quite got all the pieces to fit. It was hilarious how they all would roll their eyes when Miss Marple would say, "This reminds of someone in the village..." and then how they would be shocked when she had it all figured out. Each story had an seemingly insignificant piece of information that would break the case open. I tried to find every time but usually couldn't get it. Agatha Christie was a genius.

I also loved the idea of the Tuesday Club, despite the morbid tone of the stories. I guess that's why people play Clue instead, no one is actually murdered for that game. Still, it would be fun to have an evening of this kind of entertainment. 

Murder on the Orient Express involves Christie's other favorite detective, Hercule Poirot. Poirot is on his way to London for another case using the famous Orient Express as his transportation. The car he is staying in is filled with a variety of characters: a villainous looking American, a governess, a fussy old lady, a Countess, and several others. When the train  gets stuck in a snowbank, it is discovered that the dodgy looking American has been murdered,- stabbed 12 times in his bed!- the train's director begs Poirot to solve the case.

I made the mistake of watching the Masterpiece Theatre production of Murder on the Orient Express, before I read the book. Still, I was surprised by how much I missed just watching the movie. I enjoyed the characterization of each of the players. Sometimes they were a bit stereotypical and the characters would often make sweeping generalizations: "The English don't do the stab. They are too cold," "Women always stab," "Americans will pay anything." They also dismiss Poirot as 'that funny little foreigner.' 

One of the main differences between the movie and the book is the moralizing tone the movie takes. It's as if the producers were making clear that people must not take the law into their own hands. The book takes a different view of the crime. I'll let you see that for yourself.

Murder on the Orient Express reminded me a lot of And Then There Were None. The similarities being that a number of people are trapped together with no escape, only in the latter case all the characters are murdered. Christie came up with the idea for the book after her train had been stopped due to a flood. 

I didn't find this book to be as much fun as The Tuesday Murder Club but I did enjoy it. I wish I had read it before watching the movie though.

Recommended.

Ratings:

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