January 31, 2013

Speaking From Among the Bones by Alan Bradley

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(I seriously almost wrote “by Flavia de Luce” in the title of this post, that’s how real I think she is.)

Flavia is up to her old tricks trying to solve mysteries and what not. First, she discovers a body, like she does; Bishop’s Lacey is a murderous town. The body is Mr Collicut, church organist and ladies’ man. Who wanted the handsome devil dead? And why would someone stuff him into the recently excavated tomb of St Tancred? While out and about piecing the mystery together with Gladys (her bike), she comes upon new clues of the person her mother was. The mystery of her death is one Flavia can’t solve.

The Flavia de Luce mysteries are always a lot of fun and Speaking From Among the Bones is no exception. With every book, Flavia and the reader learn a little more about the family’s past. It’s not enough for a clear picture just yet. I’ve been suspicious of the death of Harriet since the beginning though. The whole “fell off a mountain” business sounds like a scenario from 50 Ways to Say Goodbye: Caught in a mudslide? Eaten by a lion? Fell off a mountain? Sure, let’s go with that one. Will we ever learn the truth? By the end of this book, there is a glimmer of hope. Maybe in the next book we’ll find out. Maybe.

The De Luce family is as eccentric as ever with the sisters still horrible yet loving in their own way to Flavia and their father distant and mysterious. Dogger is an enigma, but Flavia sees a bit of the man he once was in Speaking Among the Bones. The family once again is in danger of losing their home and the house goes up for sale. Can they save it from ruin?

The murder of Mr Collicut seems almost like an aside in Speaking From Among the Bones. Flavia and her family are much more interesting. I’m looking forward to the next book in the series. I think we’re finally getting somewhere.

About the Audio: The narrator is once again Jayne Entwistle. I think I’m getting used to her as Flavia.

My thanks to Random House Audio for the review copy of this audiobook.

Ratings:

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January 29, 2013

Get Ready, Armchair BEA is Coming!

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Even with Book Expo America luring so many book bloggers to New York for a week in June, there will still be lots of folks staying home and wishing they could join the fun. What to do?! Well, if you’re a book blogger you can get involved with the virtual event hosted by book bloggers, Armchair BEA. Mark your calendars for May 28- June 2, 2013.

What can you expect this year?!?  You can expect another week filled with introductions to new blogs, daily discussion topics, and a multitude of giveaways in addition to a bird’s eye view of Book Expo America itself!  Last year, we boasted more than 50 sponsors, hosted 250+ giveaways thanks to those sponsors, had greater than 600 participants, and had an infinite amount of fun.  You can expect all this and more in 2013!

The Armchair BEA Team is looking for a International Committee Liaison and 2 Commenting Committee Co-Chairs. Please consider volunteering for these positions. Thanks.

January 21, 2013

Revenge by Yoko Ogawa: Review

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Revenge by Yoko Ogawa was the last book I read in 2012 and it was the best. Since its publishing date is January 29th, this could be your best first read of 2013.

Revenge is eleven stories all connected to each other in some way and all extremely creepy. The stories are told in first person and I never knew who the narrator might be until I was into the tale. A man or woman, boy or girl. Even the point in time is unclear. The narrator of one story could be a man who was a child in a story earlier. Objects important in one story pop up in another. It’s discombobulating, but at the same time fascinating. By the end, the stories came full circle but I didn’t want them to end. I thought, “Nooooo! It can’t end now.” If I have any complaints, it’s that there is not enough. 173 pages is not enough!

Okay, so the book is titled Revenge but there is not a lot of revenging. The revenge is often subtle (although there was that one lady…but never mind). The people in the stories seem ordinary enough, until they say or do something so bizarre it made me say, “Yeah, that person is not right.” There is a wisp of the macabre throughout the stories. There is a quiet eeriness about them, with a little murder here and there to keep things interesting. In some ways, they remind me of the stories of Daphne du Maurier or Shirley Jackson.

With a title like Revenge, I was sure I was going to like it but I am actually surprised at how much I liked it. The writing is crisp and the theme deliciously creepy.

Thanks to Picador via NetGalley for the review copy.

Ratings:

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January 17, 2013

Bookish Art: Penguin Postcards

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Postcard Poster

I don’t know if I mentioned it, but for Christmas I got a box of Penguin book cover postcards. I had plans for them. A while back, How About Orange posted this project she made with her postcards. I liked how she did it, but I did mine a little differently.

I used a poster picture frame from Michael’s and plain brown paper as a background. It was a little challenging getting it all together. I picked postcards of authors or books I enjoyed or ones that were the most interesting looking.

I have the perfect place for it too. Right next to my bookshelves.

January 16, 2013

And Also Sharks by Jessica Westhead: Review

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I have a love/hate relationship with short story collections. They’re hit and miss. Most of the time I end up feeling meh about them. I find it hard to review them, since there are always stories I like and ones I don’t. It’s more challenging than reviewing novels, for me at least.

And Also Sharks by Jessica Westhead is a collection of stories about a variety of ordinary weirdos, the socially awkward of society. I can’t claim to be a fascinating socialite so I should be able to relate somewhat. Maybe too much, because I cringed and felt a second-hand embarrassment for the characters. Sometimes I even felt sad for them. I think that’s what kept me from enjoying this book. I’ve never been a fan of The Office because I always felt bad for Steve Carell’s character for the same reason. People seem to find it funny, so what do I know? I guess it’s a matter of taste.

I did like a few of the stories, like Coconut, probably because it’s less believable than the others. In it, Shelley gets back from vacation and has become so used to getting things “for free” she starts shoplifting. Eventually, it leads to kidnapping. Sounds terrible but it isn’t. What Would I Say is another one I enjoyed. The narrator is such an arse that I didn’t mind her embarrassing herself. She’s a definite fake-friend.

I’m on the fence about the rest. I didn’t give up reading it so that counts for something these days. I did enjoy the writing and the quirkiness of the stories. I think you just have to like this sort of thing.

January 15, 2013

And He's Bad, Bad Daniel Brown

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So, did you hear? Dan Brown is in the news again, since his latest, Inferno, will be out in May. I only know this because of Twitter where the news is a subdued, “meh.” Not a lot of jumping up and down about it.

I’ve read two of Dan Brown books. Yes, I admit it. They were fun. I can’t tell you what the plot of either is right now. I watched the movies too. I guess he’s a bit like Stephenie Meyer. They both have their following, both are commercially successful, and neither is writing great works of literature. Still, they’ve done well for themselves.

How do you feel about Inferno?





Good luck, Dan Brown, good luck.

January 9, 2013

The Dud Avocado by Elaine Dundy: Review

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dud avocadoSally Jay Gorce is a young American in Paris. She’s there on her extremely wealthy Uncle’s dime. Sally Jay always had a wandering spirit and with her uncle’s help now she’s able to do as she pleases. She kind of a mess though. She laments never having the right outfit for the right occasion, she’s held together with safety pins, and her hair is a shade of pink. She lost her virginity to an Italian diplomat with a wife and a mistress, though she claims to be in love with another American in Paris, the aspiring director, Larry Keevil.

Sally Jay runs around Paris night after night with a motley crew of artists and hangers’ on finding trouble in all the low and high places. She meets a variety of interesting people, some good and some not so good, but there’s never a dull moment for Sally Jay.

The Dud Avocado by Elaine Dundy is a crazy kind of novel. The situations and people Sally Jay find are unreal and most of the time it seems as if she’s just along for the ride. I liked her for the most part, I loved her dry asides, like this one after an encounter with a groupie of a film director:

She’s a handful, that babe. Bax just goggled at her. She really baffles him. He can’t figure out if she’s kidding or what. I thought I’d better come to his rescue. Besides, I don’t trust old Angela.

Her thoughts on becoming a nude model:

Later on somebody told me there wasn’t a girl in the whole world who won’t take off her clothes if she’s convinced she’s doing it for aesthetic reasons, but at the time it seemed to me I had taken one more giant step.

Sally Jay makes lots of observations like that. It’s like she’s watching a play, not acting in it. Things affect her but most of it slides off her. Only when disaster strikes, like the loss of her passport, does she realize the kind of trouble she could be in. I appreciate her desire to get as much out of life as she can, but she can be so naive at times I just wanted to shake her. I also found it odd that she almost never associates with Parisians. Everyone appears to be either American or some from some other country than France. Weird.

Near the end of the novel, I wondered if there was any point to all of this or if I was just going to be carried away on one adventure after another. Not that it’s all fun and games, there are some serious issues in this story too. Then, Sally Jay learns the hard way that she can’t trust everyone and unfortunately she loses a bit of her joie de vivre. I was left wondering if she could really be happy, even with her happy ending.

The Dud Avocado (and it takes almost to the end to explain the title) is a wild ride, if a bit dated in places, but fun nevertheless. It’s great if you’ve got a craving for the bohemian lifestyle.

Ratings:

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January 6, 2013

Lazy Sunday Thoughts: On Liking Kittens and Polka Dots

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I took a good look at my Instagram account this week and realized that it is super girly. But, that’s ok. I’m girly. In February 2013, Zooey Deschanel is on the cover of Glamour magazine.* I know this because my Celebrity Flipboard is full of stories about this. Why? Probably because Zooey uses the F-word 3 times in one sentence, (Omg, she uses the F-word! sarcasm) a sentence where she expresses her frustration with people giving her a hard time over her girly ways. She states that liking Peter Pan collars does not make her less of a feminist.

I admit that I wasn’t always a fan, but after watching New Girl, Zooey won me over a little. I like her in that show. She is quirky and spunky but she’s also just a woman trying to get by; she just also happens like kittens and polka dots. In this season’s opener, Zooey is laid off and doesn’t know what to do with herself, something a lot of women can understand. Maybe the show is silly sometimes, but I don’t think it’s ruining feminism.

This reminds me of a few blog posts, I no longer remember where or who wrote them, about the supposed problem with Pinterest, a predominately female social media. Here is everything that is wrong with women and how we’ve all failed at feminism because we’re all obsessed with cookie recipes, cute animals, and makeup tutorials, according to some people. I just don’t understand this. No one is forcing me to pin recipes, or nail art, or hair-dos, or pics of cute dudes, or shoes (omg, the shoes I pin!). I like pinning these things. They make me feel good. I do not feel oppressed when I find a pumpkin loaf recipe. Has anyone been oppressed by a pumpkin loaf? I also like to pin quotes that inspire or motivate me to do better in my life. They make me feel better too.

 

That’s not to say there are not some weird things (seriously, a book on growing bigger boobs, growing bigger boobs, people!!!) on Pinterest and that it sometimes sets unrealistic expectations. Like the lady says, “Ain’t nobody got time for that!” However, we women aren’t stupid. We know Pinterest is mostly fantasy. There are whole blogs devoted to failed Pinterest projects. It’s fun. Please, just let us have it without all the judgement! We’re not anti-feminist because we like kittens.

 

*Glamour lost some points with me when they made 2 of their cover stories “Guys Get Honest” and “The New Girl Talks Boys” Blergh! You failed the Bechdel test, Glamour Magazine!

January 3, 2013

Alys, Always by Harriet Lane: Review

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Frances, a copy editor for a failing literary magazine, is the first person on the scene of a terrible accident. She is the last person to hear the dying words of the driver, Alys. Alys, it turns out, is the wife of a famous author. Frances uses this experience as a way into Alys’s world and takes every advantage presented to her to get ahead.

I don’t know if it’s a spoiler to tell you what’s not going to happen, but mostly I’m going to tell you what doesn’t happen, so take that anyway you like.

Yeah, I dunno. I read this one to the end because I was just waiting for some twist or a revelation that would explain Frances to me, but it never happened. Frances is a sociopath. She has no empathy for anyone. She’s manipulative and cunning. Every person or situation is worked by her to her own advantage. It’s scary how she can see where every step she takes will lead her. She uses people if they can help her but, if not, she discards them.

I have no problem with characters without any redeeming qualities but Frances’s cold, clinical way of dealing with the world just made her boring. I didn’t find her that interesting. She’s too perfect as a character. I like a character to stumble and make mistakes then see how they are going to get themselves out of it. Frances is too good at what she does. The people around her have no inkling of what she is or what she is doing.

It’s interesting as a character study, she’s friggin’ creepy, but the story lacks plot as a result. Frances has a goal, it’s not hard to see what that goal is, and she works to get it, which she does. There’s not a lot else going on. No twists and turns. Frances has it all plotted out. She won’t allow the story to go anywhere else. I gave the book 3 stars on Goodreads because there is a lot about the writing I liked. I have no issues with the writing. It’s very good and I can’t wait to what else Lane will do, but that something-something in Alys, Always was missing for me.

So, Alys, Always fizzled out for me. I needed more. I don’t think it helped that I kept comparing it to Gone Girl either.

Thanks to Simon and Schuster for the review copy.

January 2, 2013

Sexy Number Six

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It’s my sixth blogging anniversary! I don’t think I ever thought I’d be blogging about books for six years. At some point, I figured I’d run out of things to say. There are days like that, but it hasn’t stopped me yet.

Coeds with Hoes

I read my anniversary post from last year this morning and looks like I had a lot to say, about reading, my goals, Twitter (I love that I thought I could do less of Twitter, I am hilarious!). What a difference a year makes. I feel like I changed a lot. Maybe not on the outside, but in other ways. Blogging and reading became secondary to all the other things going on in my life at the end of 2012.

Women dancers from Kiralfy's Carnival of Venice, "The Trail," Lewis and Clark Exposition, Portland, Oregon

I haven’t given my goals for this year much thought. I want to make 2013 the best year yet. I’m not sure how, but it’s my goal. I’m almost afraid to make any plans for fear of looking back on my seventh anniversary and wondering what the heck I was thinking. (I do think I need to meditate or something though. Serenity now!)

So this might be the year of Chrisbookarama Doesn’t Know What She’s Doing But Just Go With It, Okay? I hope you will stick with me. Let’s see what this new year brings!

Clock Image courtesy of graur razvan ionut / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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