October 31, 2011

The Name of the Star by Maureen Johnson (audiobook): Review

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Never have I read a Maureen Johnson book. Nope, never. I follow her on Twitter though and she's...err... a character. When I saw that her book The Name of the Star was available on my library's download site, I decided to give it a listen. Social media works, my friends, if you use it to entertain people not spam them.

Anyway...

Rory is an American high school student attending her first year at a London boarding school. She's trying to get herself acclimated to not only a new school but a new country: getting a grip on the school system, manoeuvring the bathroom jungle every morning, making friends, and avoiding the Jack the Ripper style murderer. Yep, Jack is back. 

Rory's arrival coincides with the discovery of a serial killer. Not just any serial killer, one emulating London's most famous murderer with a twist, he seems to be invisible. When a body shows up at the school, Rory finds out she might be the only person who may have spotted him. Maybe even spoke to him. Strange, since her roommate didn't see him even though she was with her at the time. What does it mean? Is she in danger now?

My first Maureen Johnson and I was quite pleased! Yes, it has a couple of young adult tropes I usually hate (missing parents, teens with inexplicable freedom) but I barely noticed. Johnson makes it all seems totally plausible. And thank goodness no maudlin navel gazing. Rory doesn't get all "Woe is me! Why?! Why?!" Her new abilities come as a shock but she knows she can do some good with them.

Rory and Co. are characters I enjoyed reading about. Rory is charming and brave. Boo is hilarious and I have a soft spot for Callum. Stephen is someone I think we'll get to know better as the series progresses. Yes, this is a series but we aren't left hanging at the end. The reader gets closure while at the same time a hint of what is to come.

While the beginning was a little slow, the pacing picked up toward the middle and just kept up. Johnson's quirky sense of humour shines through. I giggled quite a few times. There's plenty of suspense as well, I kept finding reasons to leave my headphones on. "Sure, I'll clean the bathroom now." (A chore I hate.)

So, I tip my giant silk top hat to Maureen Johnson. Well done, Madam, well done.

About the Audio: Nicola Barber did an amazing job. Before I read her bio, I had no idea she was British. That explains how perfectly she does the British characters and how different each accent sounds. I especially loved Callum's. Rory's Southern drawl is fantastic too. I would listen to her read other books in a heartbeat.

Ratings:

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Thus ends Readers Imbibing Peril for me this year. 
Happy Halloween everyone!

October 30, 2011

Soggy Sunday Thoughts

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It's a cold miserable rain out there today. A good day to stay inside and bake the girl some cookies for her class Halloween party, Chocolate-Ginger cookies specifically. Thankfully, that snow storm that hit the US is skirting by us as it moves over New Brunswick and onto Newfoundland. We're quite lucky. You don't have to shovel rain.

Yesterday was a different story. Although it was chilly, it was a perfect day to do all those backyard chores like raking leaves and garden cleanup. I managed to get the last of the vegetables out of the garden. It was a disappointing growing season. Things took forever to grow or didn't grow at all. Plus my turnips were attacked by worms. I did get the last of the carrots out of the ground and harvested my puny Swiss chard. The carrots are lovely and will keep awhile but the chard won't. I made a Swiss chard, bacon, and mushroom quiche for supper. Can't wait to eat that. 

Speaking of food, I'm loving/hating the food photos people are pinning on Pinterest. So many good food ideas! Take a look at the things I've pinned to my food board already. I have so many new recipes I want to try and some I won't but would love it if someone else made it for me. ;) 

In book news, I've listened to two audiobooks this week: In the Name of the Star by Maureen Johnson and Zone One by Colson Whitehead. Both were excellent though very different books. Also great Halloween reads. I'm going through a phase where I'm having a hard time writing reviews. The thing is I am reading lots and enjoying the books but it feels like I've said it all before. Hopefully this is temporary. Let's not dwell too much on that.

Anyway...

Hope your Halloweeners and yourselves have a great day tomorrow if you do the spooky stuff. Wherever you are I wish you a snowsuitless one!

October 26, 2011

Sucks to Be Me by Kimberly Pauley: Review

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Mina is a typical teen. She has a bff, a crush, and her parents are vampires. I guess that last one isn't so typical. Mina's parents are just like everyone else's, except for the blood drinking part and she really doesn't want to think about that. There are a lot of disadvantages to have vampire parents: you can't sneak in late at night because they don't sleep, you can't talk behind their backs because of their super hearing, and forget about drinking because they can smell it a mile away. Mina doesn't mind those things so much but she has gotten some shocking news. She must decide whether or not to become a vampire. Right now

First, Mina needs to go to vampire class to learn the ins and outs of vampirism. In class, she finds she's the only kid with vampire parents. Everyone else is itching to 'turn' and start their lives as the undead. She's not so sure. Can she leave her old life behind? Her best friend, Serena? The boy she has her eye on, Nathan? And speaking  of boys, what is the deal with that super hot vampire in training? Mina has only a few weeks to decide whether or not she can trade her old life for this new one. Is there a way she can have both?

Sucks to Be Me by Kimberly Pauley is super cute. It's a nice Saturday afternoon read. It's the kind of book teens would enjoy reading and their parents not mind seeing them read. Sucks to Be Me is the diary of Mina Hamilton (yes, her parents named her after the Dracula character), full of her deepest (ahem) thoughts and silly ramblings. Even though she has big decisions to make, she always keeps her sense of humour.

I liked the premise of Sucks to Be Me. Pauley adds another layer to the difficulties of being a teen with the vampire parents but never loses focus on the typical stuff. Mina still goes to school, and dates, and does homework, and wants to go to the prom. Her parents might be vampires but they aren't jerkwads. They are a big part of her life. They are there for her in a way that amplifies just how absent other parents in YA literature are. This gets Pauley two thumbs way up from me. Also the boys are normal (even for potential vampires). No one is fighting to the death for her love.

Still, I felt there was some oomph missing, a lack of tension. That's not going to keep me from looking for the second in the series or recommending it.

Ratings:

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October 25, 2011

That's Not My Name

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Are there some authors whose name, no matter how many times you write it, you just can't get right? I have a few. I have to look them up every time. Their names just won't stick in my head. Not really hard ones either, like Niffenegger or Bohjalian. Easy ones, like these.

Edgar Allan Poe: It's not the Edgar and it's not the Poe. It's the Allan. There are a billion ways to spell Allan: Alan, Allen, and probably some modern parent spells it Allyn. A school teacher somewhere is crying.

Ernest Hemingway: I'll spell it Hemmingway if I'm not careful. I blame this on my Canadian education. I was taught to put double consonants before 'ing'. 

Margaret Atwood: Attwood. It just looks like it should be Attwood.

George Eliot: Again it's Elliot. Clearly, I have a problem.

Virginia Woolf: She has the same problem as old Edgar. It could be Wolf, or Wolfe. Who would think of Woolf?

Daphne du Maurier: Or is it DuMaurier? Du Maurier? duMaurier? I give up.

H.P. Lovecraft: This is more of a typo. Every time I type Lovecraft, I end up spelling it Lovercraft. Looks cute though. Lovercraft, like Hovercraft but with Love. Also, could be a good stripper name.

Oscar Wilde: I should know by now that Oscar would be fancy and have a name like Wilde not plain old Wild. He's like Anne Shirley that way. 

Often these mistakes have caused me embarrassment, especially as a book blogger. Well, I'm only human. At least, I get close. The Ting Tings have a different problem when it comes to names.



So what about you? Do you have a list of authors whose names you don't always get right? Or is it just me? 

October 24, 2011

The Castle of Wolfenbach by Eliza Parsons: Review

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Spooky castles, damsels in distress, evil villains, murder, seeeeecrets, and even a pirate, these are the gothic elements you'll find in The Castle of Wolfenbach by Eliza Parsons.

On a dark and stormy night, Matilda stumbles to the Castle of Wolfenbach in search of refuge. The servant there warns her of the ghosts who harass visitors and indeed Matilda hears rattling of chains and moans from another part of the castle. She is unimpressed with these Scooby-Doo antics and next morning investigates these sounds on her own. Lo and behold, she finds a lady and her maid hiding in the abandoned wing. Immediately, they become besties and she tells the lady her tale of woe. 

Matilda is an orphan raised by her uncle. Everything was kittens and rainbows, until he turns V.C. Andrews and plots with the housekeeper to rape her. Matilda flees with her servant Albert. And the castle is as far as she gets. The lady is sympathetic, she too has a tale of woe, but...she'll tell it another time. In the meantime, she writes to her sister who just happens to be looking for a companion for a trip to England. How serendipitous! Things are really turning around for Matilda.

One morning, Matilda makes a visit to the lady to hear her story only to find her rooms are trashed, her maid murdered, and the lady missing. Oh noes! What happened here?! Matilda does the only thing she knows how to do, she flees. Now she has a destination- the lady's sister in Paris. She'll know what to do! What Matilda doesn't know is that her uncle is hot on her trail.

I had such high hopes for Matilda. I thought she was going to be a kick-ass heroine. I mean, she runs away from her creepy uncle even though she has no place to go. Then she faces the 'ghosts' just like a Velma and helps move a murdered corpse. What can't she do?! Apparently everything, once people are around. I get the feeling if you put Matilda on a deserted island with a coconut and a bowie knife she'd have a raft built in a week. Put a couple of people on the island with her, she'd fall in a hole. Once she gets to Paris, she spends more time crying hysterically or swooning. Boy, she does a lot of swooning. For example, a mean girl at a play gives her a dirty look and she faints.

She's not the only lady who faints at the drop of a hat. They all do. No wonder they had to wear such pouffy dresses. It was for padding. I suspect Parsons had no idea how to make her ladies express any violent emotion so she made them faint. A lot. It also gets them out of making decisions or doing things. (Note to self: Must try fainting the next time I don't want to make dinner.)

Of course, fainting is preferable to how the men react to their strong feelings. They get stabby. "I can't have my way?...Everyone dies!" The reasonable solution to all life's problems is to murder the cause of those problems. No? Oh right, that's not how normal people deal with stuff. Pardon me, I was confused. To put a cherry on top, once they confess, all is forgiven. Murdering people is ok, as long as you fess up...eventually. What a great lesson for the reader.

That sort of falls into the moral of the story, because it must have a moral. Forgiveness is part of it. Also trusting in Providence because you're young and pretty and maybe noble and everyone loves you (except those who HATE you) and also the heroine of the a gothic novel. It will all work itself out. And it does!

As for the writing, don't expect introspective characters. Their motives are skin deep and easily discarded. Parsons doesn't do 'show, don't tell' well. Behold the following passage! (the emphasis is mine):
Pierre was already in bed, and Jaqueline preparing to follow, when the trampling of horses was heard, and immediately a loud knocking at the door; they were both alarmed; Pierre listened, Jaqueline trembled; the knocking was repeated with more violence; the peasant threw on his humble garment, and, advancing to the door, demanded who was there? 'Two travellers,' answered a gentle voice, 'overtaken by the storm; pray, friend, afford us shelter."

I'm giving you the impression that I didn't like The Castle of Wolfenbach and that's not true. I LOVED it. It was so bad it was good. Matilda was so sweet my teeth ached but she had her moments. I wanted to know what was going to happen to her and the lady from the castle. I loved the evil villains. They were so EVILY! And the mean girls, so MEAN! And it's all plot. A fast plot with everything in it but the kitchen sink.

I can see why these type of books were so wildly popular. They were "horrid." Jane Austen's character Isabella Thorpe recommends The Castle of Wolfenbach to to Catherine Morland in Northanger Abbey. I guess I'm a bit like Catherine. There's nothing wrong with a little danger, as long it's fictional.

So, as long as you don't take The Castle of Wolfenbach too seriously you'll enjoy it.

Ratings:

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October 22, 2011

Readathon Mini-Challenge: Survey Says

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Artis struisvogel leest krant van oppasser / Ostrich reads newspaper of caretaker
Even ostriches are joining the Read-a-thon!
How is the Read-a-thon going for you? I'm doing okay. Here's a look at how:


1. What are you reading right now? Sucks to Be Me by Kimberly Pauley and The Name of the Star by Maureen Johnson (audiobook)
2. How many books have you read so far? I finished  just one so far and half of two.
3. What book are you most looking forward to for the second half of the Read-a-thon? The Hipless Boy looks like a good one.
4. Did you have to make any special arrangements to free up your whole day? Nope, I play it as it lays.
5. Have you had many interruptions? How did you deal with those? No serious ones. I'm having trouble with itunes so that slowed me down downloading my audiobook. I also had to make a lasagna for tomorrow.
6. What surprises you most about the Read-a-thon, so far? Even though I'm staying away from the computer, I'm still reading rather slowly.
7. Do you have any suggestions for how to improve the Read-a-thon next year? Nothing off the top of my head.
8. What would you do differently, as a Reader or a Cheerleader, if you were to do this again next year? Be better organized! I signed up last minute so I wasn't prepared.
9. Are you getting tired yet? Yes, I am, but I think I'm fighting a virus.
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? Using Goodreads to update my pages read is working really well!


Anyway, I'm taking a little break for apple crisp and coffee then it's back at it.




Readathon October 2011: Hour 1- Hour 2

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I hope to not fill this blog with my updates so I'll be using my Tumblr, Twitter, and Goodreads. I'm using Goodreads to update my Twitter feed. This is the first time I'm doing so. Hopefully it will work!

Now for the introduction meme:


1)Where are you reading from today? Nova Scotia, Canada

2)Three random facts about me… a) I have 2 cats, b) I love spooky reads, I have a few for today c) I just started a yoga class. Maybe I'll use a few stretches later to keep awake.

3)How many books do you have in your TBR pile for the next 24 hours? There are 8.

4)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!

5)If you’re a veteran read-a-thoner, any advice for people doing this for the first time? Pace yourself! 


I just finished Brave New World by Aldous Huxley. It was okay. Kinda weird. I think I'll start Sucks to Be Me next.

Now I'm off to get coffee! Happy Reading!




October 21, 2011

Twist My Arm: Readathon

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I just jumped right in and signed up for the Dewey's 24 Hour Readathon tomorrow. I procrastinated quite enough. I might not get a lot read but you never know. We'll see how it goes.


Here's my potential book list:

*Tales of HP Lovecraft- short stories make me feel like I've accomplished something.
*Brave New World by Aldous Huxley- I only have a bit of it left.
*The ABC Murders by Agatha Christie- A whodunit should keep me interested.
*More Maritime Mysteries by Bill Jesome- Spooky stories!
*Sucks to Be Me by Kimberly Pauley- Teen vampire lit.
*The Hipless Boy- A graphic novel about a non-hipster guy in a hipster world.
*Theodora: Actress, Empress, Whore by Stella Pauley- An ebook (not pictured) historical with sexy times.
*The Name of the Star by Maureen Johnson (audiobook)

I was smart and bought snacks earlier today, spinach dip and sour cream and dill chips. And raspberries for health. :)

If you're joining in, let me know! I'll probably be on Twitter for updates. Follow me @chrisbookarama See you tomorrow!


October 20, 2011

Book Art: Paper Mobile

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I haven't had a lot to write about lately so here's a little project for you. This homemade paper mobile for my daughter's room was inexpensive and easy. 

What You Need:

Fancy cardstock (printed on both sides) and pages from a discarded book
Large paper punch (1 1/2 or 2 inches)
Thread
Wooden embroidery hoop, medium size
Thin ribbon
Small plastic hoops (found in Michael's jewellery department)
Small beads

Instructions:

Punch out hearts (or whatever shape punch you've chosen) from papers. Line hearts up vertically, singly or two hearts together. I left an inch or two between. Using a sewing machine, sew paper hearts in a row. Detailed instructions on how to do this can be found here. Leave a lot of extra thread on the top and bottom. Once sewn, double hearts can be separated and folded outward, giving a butterfly effect. Make 3 garlands of various size. Tie a small bead to first and last heart of each garland. Trim thread of bottom heart. 

Take the inner hoop from purchased embroidery hoop. Tie each garland to the hoop. You'll have to slide  the garlands around to get the look you want. Now cut three very long pieces of ribbon. Tie ribbons to hoop. Now the tricky part, getting the mobile balanced. Hold the three ribbons by the ends, leaving the mobile dangling. Is it balanced? If not, slide the tied end of the ribbons around on the hoop until the mobile hangs right. Tie the three ribbons to a small plastic hoop for hanging.

Viola! You're ready to hang it from the ceiling. Enjoy!


October 18, 2011

Couple of Things...

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Hello all! If you're looking for me today, I'll be over at Jenn's Bookshelf dealing with Murder, Monsters and Mayhem. Mostly Monsters, actually, as I'm reviewing H.P. Lovecraft's The Shunned Room. Hop on over and have a look.

The Shunned House was published in Weird Tales.

My reading is taking a backseat to my latest obsession, Pinterest. I blame this on Heather. It's easy to lose a couple of hours just looking at all the pretty things pinned to people's boards and making my own. I have boards for crafts, crochet, books, clothes and one for cute animals and babies. I'm so girly, it's ridiculous. Fun!

And... The 2011 Canadian Blog Awards have opened nominations. I've never participated before, other than to vote for a couple of friends' blogs. If you feel compelled to nominate me, I wouldn't say no. :)

Catch ya later!

October 16, 2011

Lazy Sunday Thoughts: Into the Woods

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The weather actually turned around this weekend. It went from driving rain to beautiful sun and warm temps in a couple of hours. The family and I took advantage of this and went for pumpkins and a hike.


After picking out our perfect jack-o'-lanterns in training, we headed into the woods of Baddeck to hike along Uisge Ban Falls. If someone could bottle the smell of the woods in fall, I'd buy it to keep all year round.


Look at those colours! Isn't it beautiful? We had fun tromping along the trail, looking at the falling leaves and funky mushrooms. We didn't see any animals, except for a couple of poodles on leashes, but that's just as well. I'm always on the look out for coyotes. They can stay deep in the woods, thanks.

Books

On the book front, I'm reading The Castle of Wolfenbach by Eliza Parsons for the Classic Circuit. As I suspected, there are swooning ladies galore. If I made it into a drinking game, I'd be sloshed after two pages. Still, I'm loving it, all it's missing is vampires. I've downloaded The Halloween Tree by Ray Bradbury on audiobook. I'm not sure what to expect with that one. I'll get to it soon.

Books came in the mail as well this week. The folks at Simon and Schuster surprised me with The Dovekeepers by Alice Hoffman and Rin Tin Tin by Susan Orlean. Two very different books but both seem interesting. Amanda (Dead White Guys) sent me Catch-22 by Joseph Heller. I'm curious about that one.


Podcasts

In a fit of boredom over my music (and an issue with itunes), I listened to a couple of podcasts this week. I always enjoy Books on the Nightstand and the latest episode was particularly interesting. Not only did they discuss The Night Strangers (which I reviewed this past week) but they revealed how they get their podcasts to sound so good. 

I also discovered that the ladies who wrote Run Like a Mother have their own podcast now: Another Mother Runner Radio. I listened to Kill the Hill podcast and found a lot of useful tips. I'm having a hard time running lately and the hilly areas around my house don't help. Hills are my enemy. I'm going to give their strategies a try. 

That was my week. How was yours? Anything exciting happening?


October 13, 2011

The Man in the Picture by Susan Hill: Review

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I made a grave mistake when I read two Susan Hill books, The Man in the Picture and The Woman in Black, back-to-back. Even though I've procrastinated  let my thoughts percolate for several weeks now, I still have difficulty separating the two. Mostly because there are vengeful women and the story is of the "sit back and let me tell you my tale" variety. Unfortunately, I loved The Woman in Black so much that there is little room in my heart for The Man in the Picture.

You probably want to know what it's about, right? Well, here goes. Oliver is having a chat with his old professor, Theo, who up until this moment hasn't mentioned the sinister painting hanging on his wall. In it, a group of masked revellers are frollicking on a Venice sidewalk. He points out a figure in the painting who seems to be struggling with a pair of thugs. He then tells Oliver how decades ago he bought it at an auction and how later he was summoned to an estate for a little talking to by an elderly lady.

Here Theo hands the mic to the old woman so she can tell her story. She tells him all about the painting and its dirty deeds. And now she wants it back. Theo refuses and here we are back in his apartment with Oliver. Theo should have given the thing back because the painting is far from finished its evil business.

I had some issues with this story. Why hang an evil picture up if you know it's evil? Why did he bring it up to Oliver at this point? Why did it take so long for the painting to finish what it started? And the villainess's reason for unleashing this force upon the world is a little out there. Relax, lady. I would have liked to know her crazy story. I also would have enjoyed the mystery of the painting more if Oliver had found out on his own instead of having it told to him by Theo, Theo having been told all about it himself by the original owner.

The best part of the story is the last few pages but I could see that ending coming a mile away. Overall I thought the plot could have been pulled from a Twilight Zone episode. A different approach to the story would have made it more interesting. Less talking, more doing.

So The Woman in Black = awesome. The Man in the Picture = meh.

Ratings:

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October 12, 2011

4:50 from Paddington by Agatha Christie: Review

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Mrs McGillicuddy has just witnessed a murder, only no one believes her. While on her way home from Christmas shopping, she sees a man straggling a woman on a passing train. She does her duty and reports it. However, no body is found and she's written off as some old nutter.

Miss Marple knows her friend is not known to make up stories or see things. If she says someone was murdered, then someone was murdered. She works out where a person would drop a body from a train and decides the only logical place would be Rutherford Hall. Being an elderly lady, she realizes she needs strong bodies with intelligent minds to prove her theory. She enlists the help of Lucy Eyelesbarrow to find the body and Inspector Craddock to solve the crime. Lucy joins the staff of Rutherford Hall, wins the hearts of just about everyone, but she may be closer to the murderer than she realizes.

4:50 from Paddington is the third Miss Marple mystery I've read and I'm getting the impression that she doesn't do a lot of leg work in any of her stories. She's more of a consultant once she sets Lucy and Craddock on the case. I did enjoy the brainy Lucy though. She's a 'professional domestician, or an answer to a prayer' as she puts it. She's like Martha Stewart and Nanny McPhee rolled into a young, attractive package. She saw an opportunity to make a lot of money putting people's homes in order and does quite well for herself. Plus she's fearless (and way too good for any of the men who want to marry her!). It's too bad that 4:50 from Paddington is the only Christie novel in which she appears.

This isn't my favorite of the Agatha Christie novels I've read so far. I was a little disappointed at how things ended and who turned out to be the murderer. That doesn't mean I didn't enjoy it. Christie mysteries are always fun to try and solve.

Ratings:

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October 10, 2011

The Night Strangers by Chris Bohjalian: Review (audiobook)

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I finished The Night Strangers by Chris Bohjalian a couple of days ago and I'm still trying to digest it. He had me hooked until the finish and, well, I'm trying to make up my mind about that ending.

Chip was a pilot who failed to land his plane in a lake. Thirty-nine people died. While the accident wasn't his fault, he can't live with his guilt. His wife, Emily, thinks it would be a good idea to move to New Hampshire, to a big Victorian house in the woods. The neighbours seem nice, if a little pushy and eccentric with their casseroles and obsessive gardening. Their twin girls are settling in, though they are having a hard time making friends. While Emily is getting into the swing of things at work, Chip is alone at home with the weird little door in the cellar...and the voices. 

The Night Strangers has a lot of things going on. There are three separate storylines: Chip and the plane, the house and its secrets, and the weird neighbours. I wondered how these stories were going to come together. They do, in a way. Some parts of the story take precedence, while the parts that seemed important in the beginning fade into the background.

The tension Chris Bohjalian creates just about gave me heart palpitations. I had moments where I was thinking, "Nonononononononono!!!" There is so much that the reader knows that the characters do not. It's those "don't go in the basement" moments that were nearly the end of me. He used the second person narrative for Chip's thoughts and experiences. It puts the reader right into Chip's head, which is a messed up place to be. You are Chip and you really don't want to be, especially in that plane. In the interview at the end of the audiobook, the author describes how he spent the day in a flight simulator 'dunk tank,' which he said was both "terrifying and fun." Yeah, he's a little nuts maybe, but it helped him create the terrifying plane crash scenes. 

And poor Emily. I couldn't help but feel sorry for her. There she is, holding up the fort, while her husband is turning all Jack Nicholson. Then she's got these overly friendly elderly people showing up on her doorstep with offers of cookies and, hell, yes, take my daughters for the weekend, please! She's between a rock and a hard place. Who wouldn't take the help that's offered?

Things got a little Vincent Price-esque at the end and I'll still wondering if it was a good ending or not but I really enjoyed this psychological horror story. It's a little bit Stephen King, a little bit Shirley Jackson.

About the Audio: There are two narrators for The Night Strangers: Alison Fraser and Mark Bramhall. I was unsure about two narrators when I started listening to the book but now I feel it was a good choice. Since Chip's point of view is so unique, he really needed his own voice. Alison Fraser has amazing range. I totally believed she was a 10 year old girl, a thirty-something woman, or an 80+ lady. I'm very glad to have listened to the audiobook version.

Highly recommended.

Ratings:


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October 9, 2011

Everything I Know About Revenge I Learned From Alexandre Dumas

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I can't tell you how excited I was when I first saw the trailer for ABC's Revenge. As I watched it, saw the girl with the secret identity, the bucketloads of money, the complicated scenarios, I thought to myself, "This sounds so familiar." And then I had it, Revenge is The Count of Monte Cristo! It turns out that Revenge is a retelling of the Dumas story with a modern twist: Edmond Dantes is a woman.

If you haven't seen Revenge yet I'll give you the run down. Amanda (Emily Van Camp) is a troubled girl. She's been in an institution since her Dad was convicted of treason for funding a terrorist group. He was sent to jail where he died. On Amanda's 18th birthday, she is given a box containing her father's diary. In it, he explains how he was set up by the people he thought were his friends, friends who benefited from his incarceration. Even his loving girlfriend, Victoria (Madeline Stowe) was in on the betrayal. Although he wants Amanda to know the truth, he begs her to find it in her heart to forgive those who ruined their lives.

However, Amanda cannot forgive and she transforms herself into wealthy, orphan heiress Emily Thorne. She buys back her old house, the one right next door to the present home of Victoria, her husband, and charming young son, in the Hamptons. Emily/Amanda has big plans for them.

I'm liking Revenge so far. It's pretty melodramatic but I love seeing how Amanda sets up each of the people on her revenge list. I have the feeling she's saving Victoria for last. The setting of the Hamptons is beautiful with scenes on the beach, and those big houses. Maybe you'll check it on Wednesday evenings.


Alexandre Dumas isn't a one hit wonder, not even today. His novel The Three Musketeers will once again be on the big screen. When I saw the trailer for this one, I thought, "Good grief! Are they serious?!" It looks over the top, "let's blow things up real good" silly! Then I remembered trying to read the book and how it was all about drinking and fighting. It was a ridiculous story but not boring. I think Dumas would approve of this latest version. 

It looks like it might be fun to see anyway. Lots of action. And handsome men.

Here's the trailer if you want to see for yourself.


Will you go see it?



October 6, 2011

Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs

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Jacob's grandpa tells stories. Real whoppers about an island of peculiar children and monsters. Jacob doesn't really believe these stories. Then his grandfather is killed in a way that has Jacob questioning what is real. He convinces his father to take him to this mysterious island off the coast of Wales. It doesn't seem very magical. He is disappointed until he finds the children- yes, children- still living just as his grandfather left them with Miss Peregrine. As he gets to know them, he learns he might be the only person who can protect them from the monsters.

First, sequels= Nooooooooo! And 2013, what?!!

Anyway...

I've often looked at old photographs and wondered what the story is behind them. Who were the people and what were they doing? There is something eerie about looking at a person long dead frozen in one moment in time. Ransom Riggs didn't just wonder, he made up a fantastical story using old photographs. And what as story Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children is! 

I was immediately drawn in by the writing. There is no dallying around; Riggs gets straight to it. The pacing is quick, so quick I read the book over one day. I didn't want to put it down. The world Riggs creates for the children is quite clever and I appreciated the explanation for their powers. This wasn't just, "oh, they're magic." He gives them a reason for existing.

For the most part, I liked Jacob, though he was thoughtless and insensitive after his grandfather dies. He acts as though no one else lost someone important. I just wanted to smack him for the things he says to his father. Later, he does act bravely and redeems himself in my eyes.

The photographs were well chosen and help to tell the story. I spent a lot of time just looking at them. The only ones I didn't really understand were the clown children. I'm not sure what special skill they had other than being super creepy.

Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children is just the right amount of strange and a lot of adventure. It's a perfect Halloween read. Now we all have to twiddle our thumbs until 2013 for the next installment.

Highly recommended.

Ratings:


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October 4, 2011

Tried but Not True: Or Books Abandoned

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I'm usually good at reading only the books I enjoy but there are times when reading a book becomes a chore. Sometimes these books are abandoned. The following are a couple of abandoned books.

funny pictures of cats with captions

Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy O'Toole. This was a book club pick. I knew early on I was in trouble. I would find just about any excuse not to read it and fell way behind schedule. It's one of those books where either you get it or you don't. Just like the fish slapping skit from Monty Python, either you think it's hilarious or stupid. I couldn't take Ignatius. Or his mom. It was too much.

Tris and Izzie by Mette Ivie Harrison. It's Tristan and Isolde. In High School! I thought this would be fun. I love the Tristan and Isolde folklore and that movie with a brooding James Franco so I thought I'd love this book too. Izzie and her boyfriend Mark King (ha!) are uber popular (or as Whitney would say uber pop-pop). And she has secret magical powers. In chapter one, Izzie has an awkward confrontation with some boy who has a magic wine bottle. She was so snooty about it. She pretty much lost me when she ponders whether or not she should have her boyfriend 'exile' him. Exile. Hmm. That was it for me. Maybe you just can't do Tristan and Isolde in high school. (from Netgalley)

The next one wasn't abandoned since it was a cookbook and I did three recipes from it. However, I decided to put all my negativity into one superific post.

The Treats Truck Baking Book by Kim Ima. First the good, this cookbook is so cute! I loved the retro designs and how the recipes were laid out but pretty will only get you so far. I tried 3 recipes, each a failure in its own way. When I review a cookbook, I follow the recipes exactly unless there are discrepancies. There are times when I think to myself, "I would do this or add that instead." Still, I stick to what is printed for the first try. Maybe these recipes could be improved with a few of those changes. Instinct can make all the difference.

1. Lemon Squares. I love lemon squares but these didn't cut it. First, the oven temperature was missing from my copy so I just assumed it was 350. Then there was too much mixture for the pan size recommended but I squeezed it in there anyway. My daughter's verdict: too mushy. They may have been better in a bigger pan. Then again, maybe not. They were really sweet too.
2. Brownies. These were good but crumbly. I didn't need to cut them. We all just broke pieces off.
3. Pumpkin Swirl Cookies. Everything was fine until I went to roll them, like a jellyroll, and instead of rolling it just folded and cracked. It made a gloppy, sticky mess and I had to throw the dough out. That was the most disappointing since at least we could eat the other experiments.

So I don't know what happened here but 3 out of 3 is enough to tell me this wasn't for me. Maybe the rest of the recipes are fine, I don't know. Maybe it was something I did, but it's pretty hard to screw up brownies. My verdict is that it's a gorgeous looking cookbook but I'll try her goodies if I'm ever in New York instead of making them. (from Netgalley)


October 3, 2011

Everything I Know About Love I Learned From Romance Novels by Sarah Wendell: Review

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Full disclosure: I'm a Smart Bitches fan. Caption that Cover? Love it, even participate. Help a Bitch Out? Love reading the plots of some of those long lost novels. I've enjoyed reading Sarah's (and her blogging partner Candy's) reviews of just about every book in the romance genre since I started book blogging. When I was offered Sarah Wendell's Everything I Know About Love I Learned From Romance Novels for review, I took it.

EIKAL (that's what Sarah calls it for short) discusses what readers and writers of romance have learned from their favorite books. No, that doesn't mean they know how to escape the clutches of a randy pirate. It means that they've found universal truths about life and love within the pages of even the most outlandish. They've learned to recognize a bad relationship, to stand up for themselves, to ask for what they want (in the boudoir and elsewhere). Of course, when they just wanted escape, they found that too.

Written in their own words, readers offer their own experiences as examples of what can be learned from romance novels. It gave me a lot to ponder and at times I nodded along with these stories. I don't read as much romance as I once did. Like many readers in EIKAL, I started reading them in my early teens and I read plenty of them. Such an impressionable age. If some people's studies are to be believed, I should be a mess. How have I not be kidnapped by pirates by now, I ask you? EIKAL reassures me that I haven't done myself severe psychological damage.

Do not read EIKAL expecting a balanced look at the romance genre. This is Ra-ra-romance! It's not like it's hard to find someone discussing how romance is rotting our brains on the internet, if you're looking for that kind of thing. It's refreshing to find an intelligent discussion of the positive aspects of reading romance. At times it is funny and others heartbreaking. Romance readers deal with some serious stuff in their real lives. If nothing else, EIKAL will make you want to read a romance just to see what all the fuss is about. And you're in luck because there is a book list in the back. Sometimes I was a little lost because I hadn't read all the books mentioned but it was still an enjoyable read.

Recommended for the curious.

Ratings:

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Thanks to Sourcebooks for the review copy.


And just because... here is Phineas and Ferb with Boat of Romance.




October 2, 2011

Lazy Sunday Thoughts: Challenge Roundup for September

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I haven't done a Challenge Roundup in ages. Mostly because I haven't read any challenge books in all that time. This month I finally did. 



RIP VI Challenge


Carl's Challenge is going well. I've read 4 books so far and several short stories. I plan on watching The Uninvited this month sometime. Right now I'm in the middle of Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children.


Peril the First
The Lantern by Deborah Lawrenson
The Woman in Black by Susan Hill
Horns by Joe Hill (audiobook)
Revenge of the Lobster Lover by Hilary MacLeod

Peril the Short Story
The Old Nurse's Story by Elizabeth Gaskell
Afterward and The Eyes by Edith Wharton

The 5th Canadian Book Challenge

I fell way behind on this one. It started in July and I only read my first book the end of September.

Revenge of the Lobster Lover by Hilary MacLeod

That's it for reading challenges this month.

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Jenn started Murder, Monsters and Mayhem month over at Jenn's Bookshelves. I have a contribution coming up myself.  A little Lovecraft. And since Lovecraft loved his monsters, I crocheted a couple for Halloween.


The instructions to make your own little monsters can be found at Craft blog.