October 30, 2012

Short Story: The New Mother by Lucy Clifford

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anyhowstoriesmor00clifiala_0036I gave The New Mother by Lucy Clifford a whirl after reading about it in this Guardian article. Yikes, is it ever the stuff of childhood nightmares. It’s a surreal story with lots of weird oddities that are twice as creepy by being unexplainable. Like, who is the girl with the pear drum? The devil? And the guy following her with the dogs at the end. Wha? Then there is the new mother herself with her glowing glass eyes and wooden tail. Wooden tail, y’all! (I just turned Southern, apparently.)

This story dates back to the days when parents would scare the beejebus out of their kids in order to keep them in line. Imagine a mother reading this and saying, “The end… Now you know what happens to naughty children. Have sweet dreams, children.” Aw, the good old days.

Anyhow… here’s the run down. Two perfectly nice children encounter a girl with a pear drum (a guitar-like instrument). She tempts them into becoming “naughty” by dangling the chance of seeing the tiny people she has hidden inside the pear drum over them. Only naughty children can see them. So the kids go home and become progressively bad over several days, making their mother crazy. She threatens to leave them, but they wouldn’t be alone for long- the New Mother will come. The kids decide to take their chances and keep misbehaving. I think you can figure out what happens.

The New Mother comes from an 1882 collection called Anyhow Stories (moral and otherwise); the moral being don’t be bad or your parents will leave you in the hands of monsters.

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October 29, 2012

Lazy Thoughts on Monday: Pins

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Obviously I was too lazy for thoughts yesterday.


So, just a couple more pins before Trish's Pin It and Do It is done for October. First up, I made up these boot cuffs. They look nice but I’ll have to see how they perform in real life.

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And file under My Weaknesses... I signed up for The Count of Monte Cristo Readalong hosted by Estella Society. I’m not going to read-read it, but I did get the audio version from Lit2Go on iTunes. I can’t resist Edmund Dantes. 

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So that’s it for now. I will actually write about books soon.

October 22, 2012

Uncle Silas by Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu: Review

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silasMaud lives on an estate with her father, the elderly Austin Ruthyn who has a long lost brother Silas that no one talks about. Her Dad sometimes makes references to Silas and some past bad doings. He also keeps talking about a trip he plans on taking in the future (death). Austin talks in riddles all the freaking time, actually. You would think having grown up with someone like this Maud would be a little quicker, but she’s not the brightest bulb on the tree. Instead, she says things like, “Oh, a trip? When will you be back and can I come with you?” He just looks at her like, “Maud, you are so dumb.”

Meanwhile, before death comes to take him, he hires the worst governess ever. She’s old and French, because old French ladies are the worst, right? She spends her time insulting Maud and trying to have her kidnapped. Austin doesn’t believe Maud when she complains about all this, perhaps because she’s proven that she’s too stupid to live? Maud just has to put up and shut up, and avoid areas where she could be disappeared. Somehow the governess is caught stealing and told to hit the road at last (but you know she’s going to show up later).

Finally, after Lord knows how many pages, Austin dies. The will is read and surprise! Maud’s new guardian is Silas. Silas, it turns out, was accused of murdering his bookie in his house. Nothing came of it, but the scandal surrounded him all his life and he lives a pauper on his brother’s land (now Maud’s). Austin’s brilliant idea was that by giving Silas his only child (and an heiress), he’s proving to the world what a great guy Silas must be. He didn’t have any qualms about handing this extremely naive girl over to a possible murderer. Now we know where Maud gets it.

Maud’s older cousin Lady Knollys, and one of the only people who has any sense, is not happy about this arrangement. She tries to talk Maud out of it. Maud is all, *tears* “My father wanted me to do my duty, and for some reason I feel it is necessary to go live with a creepy old dude I don’t know and might have stabbed some other dude to death.” Lady Knollys, if she wasn’t a lady, would have done this:

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But she doesn’t so Maud goes off to Creepyland to meet her uncle. He’s like Mr Burns from the Simpsons, but without all the money. She also meets her cousins Milly (nice but vulgar) and Dudley (douchecanoe). Gradually Silas cuts Maud off from anyone who can help her, so he can plot some nefarious doings. Maud cannot see an evil plan if it jumped up and bit her so she’s helpless and runs about wringing her hands when it happens. I wanted to *see gif above*. The last 50 pages or so actually make some kind of sense.

I like Le Fanu’s writing style, but, yikes, he can wander off like a toddler at Walmart. In Uncle Silas, there are unnecessary details that have nothing to do with anything, like Swedenborgian, the gypsy pin, dudes who want to marry Maud, and some other things. I thought they might be important later but it’s like they melted into the ether. I also can’t stand a stupid heroine and if Maud was any dumber she’d have to be reminded to breathe. I don’t know how she gets up and puts on her clothes in the morning.

Honestly, Uncle Silas isn’t a bad book. It has its gothic moments. I was hoping for a vampire or a witch or something but had to settle for an evil governess. Oh well. I didn’t love it but I didn’t hate it either. I wanted to know how Maud was going to get herself out of this pickle. Hint: luck has a lot to do with it.

It’s silly but fairly standard gothic literature.

Ratings:

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October 21, 2012

Lazy Sunday Thoughts: Uncles, Demons, and Pins

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Hello, Niblets! How is your Sunday treating you?

I finally finished Uncle Silas by Joseph S LeFanu. Finally. That book was kind of ridiculous. I’ll have more to say about that when I review it. It was not my favorite RIP read.

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As part of Carl’s Readers Imbibing Peril, I watched Night of the Demon last night. Remember on Monday how I reviewed Casting the Runes? Sure you do. I found out that the story was turned into a movie in 1957. It wasn’t nearly as cheesy as I thought it was going to be. Okay, the demon was pretty bad, but it was 1957. It looked like a cross between a fox and a bat. Karswell, the baddy, had an evil beard and Dr Holden was much more the skeptic than in the story. The character of Harrington’s brother was changed a lovely niece, Joanna, instead (of course). My favorite part was when Holden was man-splaining Joanna and she says, “I know. I have a degree in psychology too.” Dr Holden, you’ve just been served! Other than some small changes and filler, the plot wasn’t fiddled with too much. I liked it.

You can watch the whole movie on Youtube. It’s only an hour and a half. Here’s a trailer for it if you’re interested.


Just one more week of Trish's Pin It and Do It left. I did two more pins. Last night, I made a Ward 8 from Tasha’s Tumblr. It was a tad strong for me, so I wussed out and added some ginger ale. I liked it that way, actually. I’m a lightweight.

Anyway… I also made this little vampire from a crochet pattern I bought on Etsy after I pinned it.

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That’s my Sunday. How was yours?

October 18, 2012

My Bookish Box Set: Things That Bite In the Night (Audio)

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Origins of this feature:

Every so often I get emails from a certain big box bookstore that I've purchased from in the past with the declaration, "If You Liked...., Then You'll Like...." The trouble is I often wonder how these books are related. Who made the decision that these books are similar enough that having liked one, I'll like the other? Was it a real person? Or a computer generated list? I've thought about this form of marketing and believe I know a few books that belong together. If there was a box set of related books, like they do those movies at Halloween or Valentine's Day, these are the ones I'd choose to package together.

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Things That Bite In the Night (Special Audio Edition) 

Dracula by Bram Stoker

Hide your women, hide your kids! Dracula is coming to town. It’s up to Van Helsing, Jonathan Harker, Mina, and the gang to put a stop to his dastardly deeds before all of England is overrun with vampires.

My review of Dracula

Carmilla by Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu

What’s scarier than a dude vampire? A lady vampire! Females are so much sneakier with their wiles. Carmilla sets her sights on Laura, Queen of the Stupid, and nothing can stop her from having her.

My review of Carmilla

Vampires have been part of literature for quite some time now. There’s something sexy about a vampire, even though they’re the undead. If you’re going to read about them, you should go way back to the beginning to understand this fascination. These two classic gothic stories go well together and both are excellent audiobook reads. Lots of drama, lots of ghoulishness. You’ll love it!

I can’t for the life of me remember who read Dracula but there is a version read by Simon Vance (always an excellent narrator). Megan Follows reads Carmilla and she’s perfect.

October 16, 2012

The Twelve by Justin Cronin: Review

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the twelveI was lucky. The good people at Random House provided me with a copy of The Twelve. I’ve been waiting for the sequel to The Passage since I read it in 2010. That’s a long wait when you’ve had the experience I did when I read The Passage. I had very high expectations. I didn’t love The Twelve as much as The Passage, but I loved it in a different way. I mean, that was the book, how can lightning strike twice?

The Twelve, at first, jumps around in time between Year Zero, 79 After Virus, and 97 After Virus, before it finally settles in the year 97 AV. Year Zero is, of course, when the shit hits the fan and the Virals are unleashed upon humanity. In this section, the story follows a busload of survivors just trying to avoid getting torn to pieces and also handful of government officials. This all seemed rather random to me until later in the book.

In Year 79 AV, an incident in a field leads to some very important discoveries in Year 97.

Unto Year 97. Our intrepid heroes from California have made it into the Republic of Texas, where a seemingly endless supply of oil and hydro keep the lights on and the Virals away. You can never be too careful though and run ins with the creatures still occur. Alicia and Peter have joined the Expeditionary as soldiers fighting the Virals, but also believe that they can end this scourge by finding The Twelve, the original Virals, and killing them.

Unbeknownst to the Texans, a group of humans in Iowa have found a way to keep a precarious balance between the Virals and humans. They’ve tapped into a source that keeps a select group of humans forever young. This few would do anything to keep things as they are, including the kidnapping and enslavement of their own kind.

Meanwhile, Amy the Girl from Nowhere, still a young girl though nearly 100 years have passed, feels a change coming. Something is up with the Virals. She must take a journey to find out what’s what.

The Twelve still has that same mystical quality that The Passage had, yet I didn’t feel quite the same. While reading The Passage, I would go outside and not understand why everyone was acting so normal. Didn’t they know the Virals were coming? Okay, not really, but that book got right into my head like wow. I also didn’t feel emotionally wrecked at the end of The Twelve. Things are looking up for the human race by the end. That’s not to say that the terrible, awful things don’t happen because they do. Gird your loins, people, it gets rough.

For me, the book dragged a bit in the middle. Our heroes meet up occasionally to hug it out and talk about the dead. It’s a downer. Then things pick up as everyone prepares for battle. It’s not just the Virals they have to worry about but humans too. Humans are awful good at doing nasty things to each other, which is how we all got into this mess in the first place. The last 200 pages or so flew by. And just like that, it’s over. Thank goodness the storyline is concluded by the end and we’re not left hanging. There is still a lot left to do in Book 3 before the human race can go back to making episodes of Honey Boo Boo though. Don’t worry.

Cronin’s post-apocalyptic world is so well created that I forget that it’s not real. It’s North America but not North America. I loved how the characters in the future would come across a McDonald’s or hotel and wonder what it all meant. There are miraculous reunions in The Twelve, much like Jane Eyre’s cousins you just have to go with it. There are no coincidences here, everything has a purpose. It adds to the mysticism of this world.

I appreciated the reader help in the form of the prologue. It reads like scripture, but actually it’s a summing up of what happens in The Passage, in case you forgot. Also, there’s a character list at the back of the book, which I really needed.

If you loved The Passage, I don’t think you’ll be disappointed with The Twelve.

Thanks to Random House Canada for the review copy. Thank you!

Ratings:

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October 15, 2012

RIP Short Story: Casting the Runes by MR James

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Paris. Notre Dame Cathedral Tower. Chimeras and Man

I’m enjoying the short stories from MR James I’ve been reading for Carl’s Readers Imbibing Peril 7. His writing style immediately draws the reader in.

In Casting the Ruins, the story begins with a couple of memos to a scientific association from a man angry that he isn’t allowed to discuss his paper with the group. The man in charge, Mr Dunning, thinks this guy is a wing nut since he believes himself to be an alchemist. The letters, having been read by the secretary’s wife, prompt a discussion among her husband and some other members. The alchemist, a Mr Karswell, isn’t a very nice guy and there was an incident a few years back; after Karswell received a bad review of a book on witchcraft he wrote, the critic who wrote it dies a bizarre death. Everyone agrees that it’s a good thing Karswell doesn’t know about Mr Dunning.

The point of view then switches to Mr Dunning, who starts seeing the name “Harrington” everywhere. This freaks him out. After a little investigating, he learns that Harrington is the name of the dead critic. Harrington’s brother is more than happy to relate to Mr Dunning the circumstances surrounding his death. They seem eerily similar to what Dunning is experiencing. The two are then determined to interfere with Karswell’s evil plans and save Dunning from the same fate.

This was a good one. There’s an evil dude, some mysterious happenings, some intrigue on a train, and an appropriate conclusion. The only part I had trouble with was how easily Harrington and Dunning believe that Karswell is using magic to mess with Dunning. Seriously, it was the first thing they thought of: “Hey, this guy has you under a spell” “Yes, indeed he does!” Maybe it was the first thing people thought in 190-, who knows?

Casting the Runes is a quick, creepy read. Give it a try!

October 14, 2012

Lazy Sunday Thoughts: Fallish Thoughts

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Fall Lake Photo

Is it crazy that it’s October 14th already? I really need to get started on my Halloween projects and decorating. It’s feeling fallish with the weather going from sunny and warm to cold and windy. I actually like cold and windy, makes me feel hardy. The photo above was taken on a morning when it was sunny for about an hour before it started pouring. I figured I should get out and take some photos before all the leaves are blown away.

Windy days are great reading days. After a busy day yesterday, I curled up last night with The Twelve and joined the Readathon for a little while. I finished it! I have to get my thoughts together on it so I can write a decent review.

I made another Pin It and Do It project this week, Crockpot Applesauce. I had a bunch of apples that were heading south so I knew I better do something with them quick. I made a batch and put it in the freezer. It was easy and delicious.

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That’s about it for me. How was your week?

October 13, 2012

Non-Readathon

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Everybody else is Readathoning and I miss it. I've been reading off and on all day in between visiting family and errands though. I'm home for good now so I'm jumping in for awhile. So, it's not official but I can't resist.  What am I reading? Take a look.


October 11, 2012

Audiobooks: Whadhesay?

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You know I like free audiobooks, right? Well, I do. I really like the variety of books found on a certain free audiobook site. However, all narrators are not created equal. These volunteer narrators, God bless ‘em, aren’t getting paid and are in it for altruistic reasons. I appreciate what they do, honestly, but I’m human and have my favorites.

I recently found an audiobook, a mystery, that I was interested in and from the description believed it was narrated by one of my favorites. She read 2 or 3 parts and then they started switching up narrators, a lot. I’m ok with 2 people narrating, but this book had 30+ parts and multiple narrators, all from different parts of the US and elsewhere in the world. I have trouble with accents, I realize this is hypocritical of me as I have an accent myself; I can’t listen to myself on any recording, “that’s not me!” So, I’m throwing giant bricks in this glass house, yes. There was one lady who had a very thick accent and I was sure I would not be able to understand what was going on. I did, actually, adjust to her way of pronouncing certain words, although I’m sure I missed a lot before I did. Then the narrators switched again. I had to readjust.

Of course, accents are just a small part of it. Some narrators put a lot of personality into their reading. It helps distinguish the dialogue and the differing characters. Some though never vary any of what they’re reading. It all sounds the same. Droning.

So, my experience was one of frustration. I continued to listen to the book until the end but I’m still not 100% sure who killed the guy or why. I lost the thread of the plot somewhere. I don’t think I’ll be reviewing this book. I will not be listening to a book with multiple narrators on this site again. I might make an exception for books where it was written with differing points of view in the first person, if the narrators keep to their distinct personalities.

One good thing about all of this was that I now have a bigger list of narrators I want to listen to again and ones I want to avoid.

Image courtesy of healing dream / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

October 7, 2012

Lazy Sunday Thoughts: Pumpkin Thoughts

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Giant Pumpkin

Today’s post is pumpkin heavy. I have pumpkins on the brain. It is that time of year. We took a trip out to Ye Olde Pumpkin Patch (not a real place) and picked out our pumpkins, got lost in a corn maze, all that fun stuff. There is most definitely not a pumpkin shortage on the island. There were pumpkins as far as the eye could see. You got to wonder what happens to all those pumpkins after October 31. I don’t think they get turned into carriages.

Pumpkin Patch

I successfully Did 2 Pins for Trish's Pin It and Do It Challenge. The Pumpkin Molasses Cookies were a great hit. They were so soft and spicy. The healthier Pumpkin Muffins were okay. Maybe I made them too soon after the cookies. Comparisons are never fair.

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In book related news, The Twelve by Justin Cronin arrived in the mail. I tried to put off reading in but I just can’t resist. I started it last night. I also got a little something from Nimbus Publishing and since I rarely get book swag, I just had to take a photo of it. It had chocolate!

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That’s Kin by Lesley Crewe, chocolate, sticky notes, and a tote. Thank you very much!

October 4, 2012

The Black Count by Tom Reiss: Review

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black countThe master of the revenge story, Alexandre Dumas, based many of his characters on his father, General Alex Dumas, who died when he was four years old. He worshiped his dad and this wasn’t just because he was his dad and took him fishing that one time. The guy was a genuine HERO.

Alex was born in Saint-Domingue (Haiti), the son of a slave and Alexandre-Antoine Davy de la Pailleterie, a ne’r do well French nobleman hiding from his family. And what a family that was, full of soap opera-ish villainy. They were greedy and underhanded, and yet seemed to always bungle every venture they ever tried their hands at. After nearly everyone who counted in the family died, Antoine pawned his favorite child, Alex, for passage back to France. [But it’s all good, because he actually sent for his return (no, it’s not really okay). He outright sold his other children.]

Antoine was now a Marquis and spent money like a rap star, money he didn’t actually have. Alex benefited from this appearance of wealth, was well educated, and quite a sensation in Paris. As a young nobleman, he flirted with ladies, fought in duels, etc, etc. Most people liked Alex, who was charming and good looking, with the exception of the racist asshats he ran into occasionally. It seemed as if Alex was headed down the path the rest of the family had taken, until he had a falling out with his father.

After cutting ties with his father’s family, Alex joined the army. He didn’t just buy himself a place either; he started at the bottom and worked his way up quickly. He was good at it- smart, brave, as well as compassionate. It was good timing for Alex, because things were about to get very bad for anyone in France with a title.

Alex performed well during the Revolution. He acted bravely, yet humanely. These were crazy times. Ruthlessness was the order of the day. Alex gained the nickname, Mr Humanity; it wasn’t supposed to be a flattering title. He believed in the tenets of the Revolution, liberty and equality. After all, he had briefly been a slave and now here he was, a mixed-race person, the leader of armies. However, he wasn’t willing to shed innocent blood if he could help it.

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It was also during this time that he met and married the love of his life, Marie-Louise. After a brief honeymoon, it was back to the army. Things looked good for Alex, despite a few close calls with the guillotine. He was on his way to greatness, until that jerk Napoleon showed up.

By the time of his death at just 40 years old, Alex not only lived in poverty, but saw all the he had worked so hard for, freedom and opportunity for men of all races, scattered on the wind by the hand of one megalomaniac. But he would not be forgotten. Alexandre Dumas would recreate his father in the characters of The Count of Monte Cristo, The Three Musketeers, and Georges. In this way, he would live on forever.

I loved this biography by Tom Reiss. Reiss give the reader a sense of time and place. These aren’t just places on a map and dates on a calendar, you’re there with young Alex in Paris or on the battlefield against the Austrians. Alex himself isn’t just an historical figure, but a real flesh and blood person. I was fangirling all over Alex by the end of the book, especially after reading the parts of the love letters to his wife. They were only together long enough to get her preggers, but when he was away he wrote to her with such devotion. Yikes! Can I have a French general write me letters, please? When Alex becomes a prisoner of war, Marie-Louise sends frantic letters to everyone she can to try to get him back. This is a love story that should be told. Someone please get on that, okay? I would read the hell out of that book.

Not only is The Black Count well researched with attention to detail, but full of heart and humanity. It’s hard to believe that this was the life of a real person and not a character in a Dumas novel. Even if biographies aren’t your thing, give The Black Count a try.

This was a review book via NetGalley from Crown Publishing.

Ratings:

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October 2, 2012

On My List: Bookish Movies

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I’m surprised by the number of book related movies I’ve watched and reviewed on Chrisbookarama over the years. Not only do I like to talk about books, but the films made from them as well.

Here’s a list of the top movies reviewed on my blog.

Rebecca (1940). Alfred Hitchcock’s film based on Daphne du Maurier’s classic novel. Such a great movie. It’s worth watching for creepy Mrs Danvers alone.

Jane Eyre (2006). BBC’s slightly sexy mini-series. Toby Stephens and Ruth Wilson, Mr Rochester and Jane, have perfect chemistry. This is my all time favorite version of any film interpretation of the story, and there have been many.

Bleak House (2005). BBC makes the best mini-series. Dickens honking big book of a honking big court case gets turned in a TV series (as he always meant, I’m sure). Gillian Anderson does an excellent job as Lady Dedlock.

House of Mirth (2000). Gillian Anderson plays the ever unlucky Lily Bart in this adaptation of Edith Wharton’s tragic novel. Pre-Downton Abbey Elizabeth McGovern also stars in the movie.

Wuthering Heights (2009). Sexytimes on the moors with Cathy and Heathcliff. Heathcliff is the most awful person in the world but Tom Hardy makes a girl think, “I could change him.”

Little Dorrit (2008). I enjoyed the movie version of this other Dickens door stopper more than the book. Amy (Little Dorrit) tries to get her broke family out of jail, but some people just can’t be helped.

Jane Eyre (2011). An Oh-so-plain Mia Waskowska (yeah, right) plays Jane to Michael Fassbender’s Rochester. He’s pretty hot but I wasn’t quite buying their bad romance. Still, it’s a beautiful looking movie.

Have you watched any of these movies? What did you think? Any favorites?

October 1, 2012

Challenge Roundup for September 2012

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It’s been so long since I even thought about my challenges that I can barely remember which ones I’m still doing.

The 6th Canadian Challenge. Just 2 more for this challenge: Shadowy Horses and Brown Girl in the Ring. Way back in July, I reviewed Under the Same Sky too but since I haven’t done a Roundup in ages, I’m added it here. I have lots of Canadian books, I just need to actually read them. 3/13

Carl’s Reader Imbibing Peril. Again just a couple for this one. I have high hopes but I’m not reading that much lately. Brown Girl in the Ring counts for this one too and The House of the Vampire which I reviewed on Project Gutenberg Project. I also read 2 short stories: A Ghost and The Stalls of Barchester Cathedral. 2/4

I really got to get it together and read!

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