November 29, 2012

A Month in the Country by J.L. Carr: Review

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month in the countryTom Birkin, a veteran of World War I, finds himself in Oxgodby, a small English village. His job is to uncover and restore a medieval mural rediscovered in their church. Tom has a good idea of what he’ll find behind the layers of paint and grime- a depiction of the Judgement. He doesn’t know just how good the artist was or how the painting will affect him.

Tom has some issues. He has a tick from “shellshock” and his wife runs around on him. He’s just in Oxgodby to do a job and get paid, not become an object of curiosity. Right from the get-go Tom is adopted by the friendly Ellerbeck family. They get him involved in village life and Tom is good natured enough to go along with it. Over a few weeks, some of Tom’s wounds are healed by goodwill of the people and the quiet solitude he finds in the country church.

A Month in the Country is a quiet story of a man who needs someone to reach out to him, not in a touchy-feely sort of way, but by finding a few people who can bring him back into the world again. The Ellerbecks have just enough pushiness to accomplish this. They’re the sort of friendly country people Tom feels he can’t disappoint. Carr’s characterizations are written in such a way that even though people like Tom rarely reveal much about their personal lives, I still got a strong sense of who they are. I was impressed by that.

The parallels between the painting of the Judgement and Tom’s war experiences are obvious and even one of the characters mentions it. As more of hell and the descent of the people into it is revealed in the painting, the more Tom becomes part of Oxgodby.

A Month in the Country is told as a retrospective, which is interesting. Tom will sometimes say, “I didn’t know this then…” or “I hadn’t met this person yet…” It was a little disconcerting but made me pay attention to that event or person when they appeared. For that reason, I would like to reread it, since I think I’d get more out of it with a second reading. It’s a short book anyway.

It’s a quiet book, not a lot happens. The most thrilling part is an awkward conversation between the Reverend and Tom (which he totally deserved). There’s some unrequited love and a thin thread of a mystery surrounding the painting, but these things are just in the background. It’s really about finding peace within oneself in unexpected places.

If you enjoy quiet British period pieces like I do, then you’ll like A Month in the Country.

Ratings:

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November 25, 2012

Lazy Sunday Thoughts: Makeup Pin

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Holiday PinitDoit 2

Hey all! I’ve been working on a Pinterest post for both Virtual Advent and Trish's Pin It and Do It (Holiday Edition), but I did do a more personal pin this weekend. With the holidays coming, it’s time to spice up my look. There are about eleventy-billion makeup tutorials pinned on the site. I picked a couple to try.

First there was this makeup tutorial for green eyes. Didn’t look too difficult. Also, this pin about false eyelashes. That one I knew would be challenging. Here are the results.

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I don’t think these photos do justice to how much makeup I had on. It was a lot. That green eyeshadow is really green. I might have to tone it down for real life.

Then there were the eyelashes. Oy. I’ve never done false eyelashes before, so this was an experience. This was the “good eye.” The other one had a particular RuPaul-esqueness to it. How do people wear those gigantic ones? These eyelashes were cut down quite a bit too. I admit to cheating a bit and using YouTube to explain to me how to do it. The girl in the video made it look so easy. It’s not easy. I’m not sure if I’ll be attempting this one again. We’ll see.

For comparison, here’s how I look after I took it all off.

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Anyway, it was fun to try.

Anyone else wear false eyelashes? Any tips?

PS- I hope all my eye photos didn’t freak you out. I can seeeeeeeee you!

November 23, 2012

“Etsy Love” Gift Guide 2012

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Are you one of the brave souls who’ve tackled the crowds for the big sales today? Or are you like me and avoid all that like the plague? Perhaps you’re an online shopper. I know that even here in Canada, Black Friday is becoming A Thing with lots of sales at the mall and online. My inbox is full of flyers for “events”.

But really, do you want to buy what everyone else is buying? How about something unique? Every Friday I link to a interesting bookish item I found on the online marketplace Etsy, where you can find all kinds of handmade or vintage gifts.

I’ve created a Pinterest board of all the bookish items I’ve linked to in 2012. If you are interested in something, just click the “pin” and you’ll be taken to the shop where you can buy it. I hope you have a look at my Book Lover’s Gift Guide.

etsy love 2012

Disclaimer: I have not been compensated by any of these sellers to be featured in the gift guide. I have not done business with any of these shops. Always read the shop policies and feedback before ordering.

Image courtesy of Kittisak/ FreeDigitalPhotos.net

November 21, 2012

Les Miserables by Victor Hugo: Thoughts

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les miserablesI don’t think my hands will ever be the same. I have shooting pains in them from holding this sucker open. Recovery will be a long process.

I honestly didn’t know much about Les Miserables before I started reading it. I knew it was about poor French people and that everyone was miserable (it’s not called Les Happypants). Les Miserables is Jean Valjean’s story of redemption and his struggles to stay on the righteous path, no matter how difficult that may be. Jean Valjean is a convict, freed from prison after 19 years for stealing bread. Society is not very forgiving and he’s not too fond of society either. He meets a priest, a saint really, who has such faith in Jean Valjean that he changes his whole worldview. Jean becomes a better man but the police officer Javert only sees a convict and spends the whole novel chasing Jean around.

I don’t know if that sums up a 1400+ book but that’s the gist of it. A lot of people die in this book- A LOT. Don’t get too attached. Again, read the title.

What I loved about the book was how Hugo was able to show the inner struggles of all the characters, especially Jean Valjean. If ever there was a guy with a reason to go on a rampage, it was him. I’m not sure if he ever had a happy moment. Life was always kicking him in the balls. Jean Valjean is such a complicated character and I loved him to pieces. He could not be the man he is without Javert, his nemesis, or Cosette, his ward. Would Jean have kept running if not for Cosette? Probably not. (Click the links for my personal feelings on Jean Valjean and Cosette.)

What I didn’t like was how Hugo would build tension and get the plot really cooking only to go on about Waterloo or Paris sewers for 10 chapters. It was as if he had done this research and just had to jam it in there somewhere. Perhaps he could have just saved that for a dinner party. “Howdy stranger, come sit next to me so that I can tell you all I know about French convents.” Anyway I’m sure some troll will come along and tell me what an idiot I am for not appreciating The Ancient History of the Sewer which, I shit you not, was a chapter in this book. Troll along, troll.

However, Les Miserables is a beautiful story with lots of action and emotion. I can see why it became a musical. When people are overcome with emotion, they just gotta siiiiiiiing!

I feel like I should say more about a book that took me 5 months to read. Really, what else is there to say about it? It’s Les Miserables! You just have to read it.

November 18, 2012

Lazy Sunday Thoughts Says Au Revoir, Les Miserables!

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Freeeeeeeeeeeeeeedom! I'm done, beaches! Done Les Miserables! All 1463 pages! Okay, it was pretty good and I'm glad I read it but I've been at it since June. I was sure I was going to die before I finished that mother. But I didn't die and now I can see the movie!!!! Woot!

I feel like this right now.


Let's break out the champagne and confetti!!!


PS- My daughter read the cover which read Now a magnificent theater musical and said, "What, is it five hours long?" She gets her sarcasm from me.


November 13, 2012

Love Begins in Winter by Simon Van Booy: Review

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love begins

I bet Simon Van Booy writes fantastic love letters. I’ll never know but I figure reading Love Begins in Winter is as close as I’m going to get to it.

Love Begins in Winter is a collection of five stories about love, not always romantic love. The title story is of a cellist and an stranger he meets in a park. Both are damaged by terrible incidents that happened in their childhood. This actually wasn’t my favorite. I thought the lady might turn out to be like Clementine from Eternal Sunshine of a Spotless Mind. She was a bit off.

My favorite story is The Coming and Going of Strangers. On the surface it seems like a tale of a young gypsy boy’s infatuation with the new girl in the village, but it’s more than that. Mostly it’s about the love within his family: his mother and father’s romance, his uncle’s love for them all. I loved how the story of their lives intertwines with Walter’s trip to the girl’s house. There’s a twist at the end too.

The remaining three stories are just as lovely. Van Booy’s writing is something I just melt right into. He can turn a phase like no one’s business. Take this one:

“It was very cold outside, and each time George exhaled, he passed through a cloud of his own life.”

Whoa! A cloud of his own life. I never thought of it like that but I guess it is true.

There’s a little bit of sadness in every story. Love doesn’t solve all problems and sometimes people get in their own way. Sometimes they get their happily-ever-after, but even if they don’t there is the potential for it.

Love Begins in Winter is a perfect choice for anyone who is tired of the same old thing. Grab this book, a cozy blanket, and settle in for the night.

November 11, 2012

Lazy Sunday Thoughts Read a Book!

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I finished a book! Miracle of miracles! Yes, I started and finished Love Begins in Winter within a week, which is quite miraculous for me these days. Now I just want to read Simon Van Booy books. I don’t think he’s written many so far. Maybe I need to read books just like those for awhile. 19th Century tomes might be too much for now.

Did you hear? Trish is having another Pin It and Do It for the holiday season. Sounds good to me considering I pinned 80 billion Christmas projects. It’s time to get Doing. Did you know that Pinterest has Secret Boards now? Those are boards that can only be seen by you. Do with that information what you will.

Speaking of Pinterest, I made this Red Cowl for myself from this pattern I found on Pinterest. (The photo is a little blurry.)

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So, anyway…that’s all I have to report. This is a lazy post after all.

November 7, 2012

I’m So Over 19th Century Virgins

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Blech! I can’t take anymore of this “sugar and spice and everything nice, that’s what little girls are made of” though in this case the “little girls” are full grown women.

Case in point, I’m trying to finish Les Miserables by Victor Hugo (as God as my witness, I will!) and come upon this little scene. Cosette, a young lady, daughter of sometimes prostitute Fantine and adopted daughter of Jean Valjean, wakes in the morning. All in white and in a white room. Hugo then says,

One may, in a case of exigency, introduce the reader into a nuptial chamber, not into a virginal chamber. Verse would hardly venture it, prose must not.

It is the interior of a flower that is not yet unfolded, it is whiteness in the dark, it is the private cell of a closed lily, which must not be gazed upon by man so long as the sun has not gazed upon it. Woman in the bud is sacred. That innocent bud which opens, that adorable half-nudity which is afraid of itself, that white foot which takes refuge in a slipper, that throat which veils itself before a mirror as though a mirror were an eye, that chemise which makes haste to rise up and conceal the shoulder for a creaking bit of furniture or a passing vehicle, those cords tied, those clasps fastened, those laces drawn, those tremors, those shivers of cold and modesty, that exquisite affright in every movement, that almost winged uneasiness where there is no cause for alarm, the successive phases of dressing, as charming as the clouds of dawn,-- it is not fitting that all this should be narrated, and it is too much to have even called attention to it.

First he says, we can’t discuss the virginal chamber and then goes on to describe buds, and half-nudity, and shivers of  modesty. Come on, Hugo, you don’t fool me. You’re talking about sex. I’ve noticed that 19th century dude-writers are obsessed with virgins. Alexandre Dumas, Wilkie Collins, Charles Dickens, and Victor Dumas. They can’t write about a virgin without waxing poetic about her milky white skin (no dark virgins, obvs), her lowered eyelashes, her shy gaze. Blah, blah, blah. And they’re all so good! So good and stupid! (Ugly virgins are old spinsters, like Marian Halcombe. They can be intelligent.) Let’s have a scheming virgin, boys!

Give me a Scarlett O’Hara, a Becky Sharpe. Even poor Fantine was more interesting than her kid.

I need a break from 19th century lit.

November 4, 2012

Lazy Sunday Thoughts: Counts and Stuff

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Persephone Biannually Pic

Happy Turn Your Clocks Back Day! I wish we could get an extra hour every weekend. Wouldn’t that be nice. What do you plan on doing with your extra hour (if you get it)?

Most of my reading this week revolves around Edmund Dantes. I’ve been listening to a free version of The Count of Monte Cristo. It’s a loooooong book but lots of fun. I’m just at the part where Edmund is in prison and meets the Abbe, another prisoner with seeeeeeecrets. It’s so soapy.

The other Count book is Master by Collette Gale. It’s, um, how should I put this, “an erotic retelling.” I figure since everyone and their dog can talk about Fifty Shades of Grey at the playground like it’s War and Peace, I can tell you all I’m reading Master. Not sure if it’s my thing, but I’m sticking with it. It’s weird reading them both at the same time. Weird. Anyway, it’s all Andi’s fault, let’s blame her.

Sooooo…..

On an unrelated note, The Persephone Biannually arrived in the mail. I love getting this in my mailbox twice a year. In a world where the publishing industry is constantly changing, it’s nice to see at least one publisher sticking with tradition. Not only do I find out what new books they are publishing (Patience looks good), but get a couple of free stories, reviews, and learn more about the authors. This month included an article from Shirley Jackson on the bizarre reactions people had to The Lottery. There were people, educated people, who believed the lottery was an actual event. Crazy.

One of the short stories in this issue, Ash Blonde by Sally Benson, was quite relatable to me. Hennie, the protagonist, is fighting the signs of aging. She’s feeling pretty good about herself until the end. You can think that Hennie is a silly lady, but I feel for her. I’m not too happy about the new gray hairs I’ve been finding. We live in a youth obsessed culture and it can get a girl down. I remember the first time someone called me ma’am (I wasn’t nearly ma’am material, thank you very much) I wanted to punch the dude in the neck.

If you’d like to get The Persephone Biannually too, sign up here.

That’s about it. Still watching lots of TV and I’m currently obsessed with Songza on my iPod. What have you been up to?

November 1, 2012

RIP 7 Roundup

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I didn’t even bother titling this a Challenge Roundup for October. The only books I read were for Carl’s Reader Imbibing Peril 7. That was enough of a success for me!

Here’s a list of what I read this go round.

Books

  • The House of the Vampire by George Sylvester Viebeck
  • Brown Girl in the Ring by Nalo Hopkinson
  • The Twelve by Justin Cronin
  • Uncle Silas by Joseph S Le Fanu

Short  Stories

  • A Ghost by Guy de Mauspassant
  • The Stalls of Barchester Cathedral by M.R. James
  • Casting the Runes by M.R. James
  • The New Mother by Lucy Clifford

I hope you had as much fun reading your spooky books as I did.

nrelate