Trick or TREAT!

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Happy Halloween!

I managed to get one more Pin finished for Trish's Pin It and Do It Challenge. It's a good one to share now, since today is Halloween. You should make some for yourselves before the Trick or Treaters come.

It's called Apple Nachos and you can find the recipe here. Instead of tortilla chips, there are apples. Instead of cheese and salsa: marshmallow, caramel, and chocolate sauce. It's yummy! I didn't make anywhere near as much as the recipe calls for. I halved the marshmallow and caramel portion and only used one apple. It was plenty for two people. I still have a ton of caramel leftover. I also didn't add the peanuts (peanut allergy in the family).

It is very messy though!
Apple Nachos

Doctor Sleep by Stephen King: Review

Doctor SleepDanny Torrance (The Shining) is all grown up now and really into alcohol. He does manage to get himself together and into AA. Once he does this, things in his life improve. He's got a job (where he helps old people "go into the light, Caroline!" as Doctor Sleep), friends, a grip on reality, and a secret friendship with a little girl. Whoa, it's ok! Actually, he and the girl don't meet each other in the physical world. She has more Shine than he does and reaches out to him with her mind.

Abra, the girl, has a problem. It's not about bullies or boys, but about a secret vampire cult called the True Knot. The True Knot drive around in Winnebagos sucking the life force out of 'special' children, like Abra. They've found out about her and are on their way to get her. Will Danny step up and be the saviour Dick Halloran was for him?

At first, seeing little Danny Torrance struggle and fail is depressing. Surviving the disaster of the Overlook should be a life affirming experience, but Danny has demons in the form of seeing really bad stuff about people. That's hard to live with and it doesn't make for uplifting reading. This part of the book dragged. It took me sometime to get through it.

After all the "Previously, on the Shining" we get to the main plot of the story. The leader of the True Knot want Abra. Here's where things pick up and I plowed through the remainder of the book. Danny does "shine" here. He's the man we want him to be. He is strong and ethical. He uses his power for good, no matter what the damage to himself. He's going to save this little girl, no matter what! I couldn't wait to see how he was going to accomplish this.

I'm not sure what to make of Abra. I wasn't enamoured with her. She had her feisty moments and I definitely didn't want her to die, but despite having this incredible gift, I didn't find her that interesting. She was missing a little something.

Doctor Sleep has a few twists, some surprises, old friends, and lots of new ones. There are plenty of scares with the True Knot. The end brings The Shining and Doctor Sleep together in a satisfying way. If you can hold on through the Life of Danny and get to the meat of the story, you'll have a scary good time.

The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson: Review

haunting…Or bad architecture will drive you crazy.

Dr Montague decides to send letters to people who may have had some kind of previous psychic experience in order to entice them to come to Hill House: an isolated, weirdo house in the boonies that might be haunted. Only two people reply, people who have nothing better to do, Theodora, who's fighting with her roommate and Eleanor, who needs to get away from her awful sister. These three, along with the heir to Hill House, Luke, head on up to the old mansion in the name of science.
At first everyone is all "Let's tell witty jokes, old chums, and drink brandy" but soon Hill House starts doing its tricks. Tricks that seem to affect Eleanor more so than anyone else.

The Haunting of Hill House is superbly written. This was my second or third reading and this time I tried to just go with whatever was happening here. Previously, I had been influenced by that awful Catherine Zeta Jones movie (and the Scary Movie version). However, there was still a point when I was considering whether or not Mrs Dudley (the caretaker who tells them all individually that she doesn't stay after dark and will not be able to hear them scream) was feeding them schrooms. Things get weird. Real weird. Shirley Jackson is an evil genius.

Eleanor is an unreliable narrator. She lies, to the others and herself. She's had a terribly boring life having spent most of it looking after her mother. Her sister and her brother-in-law are the worst people ever. She's made up an imaginary life that she passes off as her own. Eleanor already seems like a space cadet and much younger than her 32 years. She's dreamy and strange, either she's easy pickings for Hill House or is the creator of all the activity. At times, I felt sorry for poor Eleanor, but also annoyed with her. Eleanor, you can be annoying, girl.

Being stuck in Eleanor's head is frustrating since the reader can only know what she knows and experience what she does. Everything gets filtered through her. What do Luke, Theodora, and the doctor see? How do they really feel about Eleanor? It's my opinion that Theodora is a mean girl. She uses Eleanor when she needs to but hates to have attention taken off herself. Theo plays some mean tricks and says cruel things. Then again, maybe she got on her nerves. All the characters get annoyed with Eleanor at some point.

Hill House might be haunted or it might not. People in the village avoid it. The house sits under the hills in the woods within the sights of a misanthropic village. The family has a history of nastiness over who has a right to own it and one person committed suicide over it. The original owner and builder had some weird ideas and terrible taste. He had it built so that nothing inside it is straight and the the inner hallways have a funhouse effect with rooms opening into other rooms. The decor is tacky and there is a general icky feel to the place. Time itself behaves strangely here. There aren't any hauntings by monks or nuns but there is a cold spot. It's just a nasty place.
"Hill House, not sane, stood by itself against its hills, holding darkness within; it had stood so for eighty years and might stand for eighty more. Within, walls continued upright, bricks met neatly, floors were firm, and doors were sensibly shut; silence lay steadily against the wood and stone of Hill House, and whatever walked there, walked alone."
The Haunting of Hill House has an unexpected ending and even after reading it more than once, I'm still shocked by it. I don't think I'll ever get to the bottom of every mystery at Hill House, no matter how many times I read it.

Lazy Sunday Thoughts: I Have Been…

Because of Beth Fish, I've been using a camera app called Collect, which let's you add a photo a day to a calendar within the app. I decided to do one for October weather. It's probably our most interesting weather month. Here are some of my favorites for this month in a collage created by Picasa.

Weather photo

I Have Been… (I'm borrowing this from Kelly and Chris. I won't do all of them.)

Reading: The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson. Actually, I finished it and I should have a review of it up soon. Such a good story. Oh and for a good laugh, you should be reading The Toast. I've been reading through the posts and not only are they funny and interesting but the comments actually don't make we weep for humanity.

Listening: Maddadam by Margaret Atwood. I was on the library waiting list for awhile and just downloaded it. Can't wait to catch up with God's Gardeners, Maddadams, Crakers, and Snowman the Jimmy. Musically, I downloaded the old, old Portishead album, Dummy, because it was super cheap and I'm kind of obsessed with it.

Watching: The Heat. Melissa McCartney and Sandra Bullock are so funny. I wish Sandra Bullock would do more comedy. I miss her in those roles. It wasn't without the usual issues for that genre (cop/buddy) but they both made up for any problems.

Anticipating: Lady Gaga's new album. I don't care what anyone says, I love her. She takes "all the world's a stage" to a whole 'nother level. She cracks me up. I think she was put on this earth just to amuse me.

Feeling: Bored. I never thought I'd feel this bored after working for such a short time, but I am. I have things to do but I don't want to do any of them. Even reading (!!!) isn't enough. I want to go out there and take on the world and maybe wear a cape! Or become an Adventure Librarian with Tasha, Judith, and Kristen. (This is what happens when you ask for career advice on Twitter.)

That's what I'm thinking about this Sunday. How about you?

Doctor Sleep Discussion Wrap-Up

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I'll be writing up my own review for Doctor Sleep in the future- hopefully I'll still remember stuff. I finished it awhile ago. For now, I'd like to answer Tif's questions for discussion.

Since this discusses the ending of Doctor Sleep, be forewarned: Spoilers Ahoy!


Before we started reading, we asked if you had any expectations for Doctor Sleep.  Did you get what you were hoping for out of the book?

I didn't have any expectations going into Doctor Sleep. What I wanted was to see how Danny turned out and how his powers affected his life. I wanted to know more about The Overlook and how it came to be such a powerful source of evil. I don't think we ever got a proper explanation for that though.

Having finished the book, do you think having read The Shining is important for enjoying this one?

That's a hard question to answer, since you can't unknow what you already know, you know? It probably helped at the beginning of the story, but Doctor Sleep stands on its own after awhile.

In one word, one phrase, one sentence ... describe Doctor Sleep.

Relationships. The relationships are pretty important to the story. Danny is lost when he is all alone, then he makes friends and joins AA and his life gets better. Abra needs Danny's help to keep Rose from finding her, and Danny needs the help of others to do this. The True Knot is a community and a weirdo family that needs each member to keep it strong. No one goes it alone in Doctor Sleep.

Anything else you feel like discussing about the end of the book?  Or, about the book as a whole?

The ending was what I'd hoped for. The bad guys are defeated and all is right with the world. I like that The Overlook became a bigger part of the story at the end and that even some of the old 'characters' played a part. I'd still like to know why that area is so evil though.

Once I can get all my thoughts in working order, I'll post my review!

The Séance by John Harwood: Review

IMG_1155After the death of her youngest daughter, Constance's mother falls into a deep depression which lasts about 16 years. Constance's dad up and leaves them with a "don't call me, I won't call you." So, Constance thinks the only way to get her mother out of her funk is to take her to a séance. And it works, briefly, until her mother leaves this earthly realm herself. Later, Constance finds out that she's the proud, new owner of a dilapidated old castle. Said castle was the setting for many weird doings and disappearances.

Constance isn't sure what she's going to do, and gets freaked out when the family lawyer leads their conversation with a: "You look like heeeeeeeer!" After which he dumps a bunch of old diaries in her lap. The diaries make up much of the narrative, which tells of ghostly encounters, electrical experiments, and mesmerism. Constance is convinced that the author of the diaries, Eleanor, is her real mother and sets out to find out what happened to the poor lady. And you know it's going to involve a séance.

The Séance had a lot of potential. The set up was fabulous. An old house? Check. A damsel in distress? Check. A sketchy dude with creepy eyes? Check. It was as gothic as I could ever hope. Wilkie Collins-esque. There was even the threat of the insane asylum. How could this go wrong? Well, Harwood cops out at the end. The explanations didn't sit well with me. Some important events are just brushed off. And the Séance? It's not even a major part of the story. How can the book be titled after this event? This could have been a full on Vincent Price B movie but it just turns into a episode of Scooby-Doo. In the words of Hall and Oates, I can't go for that. No can do.

There were times that I forgot I was reading a modern novel told in the 19th century style, then someone would drop a bit of science into the conversation and I'd remember. I have to give Harwood props for this. It's as close to a traditional gothic novel as you're going to get. One improvement, however, is the addition of a heroine who has a brain. Yay, for heroines who can hold their own! Even if that heroine does something questionable because she has a hunch. That was some risky business.

fist bump cat

In the end, I had mixed feelings about The Séance. I'd give it points for atmosphere but take some away for the denouement. 

Rosemary's Baby by Ira Levin: Review

rosemary's babyRosemary and her actor husband Guy move into their dream NYC apartment. The Bramford is a building with character- and a history of unusual deaths. Things are great at first. Sure, the elderly neighbours are a bit too involved in the new couple's affairs, but Rosemary is happy making their little nest as cozy as can be. Rosemary can't wait to start a family with her hubby! Sounds great, right? The only problem is that just about everyone in the building is a Satan worshipper and have evil designs on Rosemary's womb. But other than that, things are peachy!

Having also read The Stepford Wives earlier this year, I couldn't help but compare Levin's two popular novels. Rosemary's Baby doesn't quite have the satiric bite that The Stepford Wives has. There does seem to be a theme, however. In both novels, wives are convinced by their husbands' that their fears are ridiculous, all while they are plotting against them. Yes, those fears are outlandish, but they are true. In Rosemary's Baby, written in 1967, Rosemary is easier to control than the ladies of Stepford. She is much younger and because of the decade, easily believes the lies being told to her by her husband and her doctor. She doesn't have the knowledge or the power to stand up for herself, even though all her instincts tell her something is wrong. It isn't until the end of the story that the power shifts to her.

One of the most unsettling aspects of Rosemary's Baby is how a young woman is completely under the control of others. Who can she turn to for help once she suspects her husband of evil deeds? And what about the doctor that convinces her that the pain she is feeling will go away in a few days? No one. She just gets mansplained. She becomes isolated in the Bramford, surrounded by people who are up to no good. It must be a terrifying feeling to have no one listen to you. This is the second Levin novel I've read where the men are selfish, greedy bastards. What was he trying to say?

Religion plays a big part of the story. Rosemary was raised a Catholic, Guy has no beliefs. The Pope's visit to New York is a big deal at the beginning of the novel. I found it strange that people who confess to not believing in God believe in the Devil. This seems at odds. Can you have one without the other?

I didn't think that Rosemary's Baby was a very scary story, at least not the Satan parts. Some of it was silly actually. Rosemary's dreams about the Kennedys are funny. The neighbours don't fit the Satan worshipping stereotype. They're all elderly, well to do people. Rosemary finds it strange that Guy wants to hang out with them. And I don't care how nice they seem to be, I could not stand all that "dropping in" that they do. My introversion would leave me cold to the Satanists' charm.

Rosemary's Baby is a quick read with a solid plot. Ira Levin was a playwright and the movie, adapted by Roman Polanski, sticks close to the book. You won't be bored by the novel and the twist at the end is pretty clever.

A Pinteresting Update: PSL

Since this weekend was Thanksgiving weekend, I didn't get around to posting on Sunday. Oh well. I did want to put up an update on Trish's Pin It and Do It Challenge. I think I'm at 4 pins now.

This one I found on Hello Giggles. It's a faux Pumpkin Spice Latte recipe.

Faux Pumpkin Spice Latte
Pumpkin Spice Latte  VS













It was pretty tasty. The only issue I have with it is that it's…lumpy. I had to strain the coffee mixture because blah. Maybe I didn't puree the pumpkin enough.

Perhaps you're tired of all the pumpkin flavoured everything. You might enjoy Pumpkin Spice: The Movie

Doctor Sleep Read Along Discussion- Part One

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I don't think I'm revealing anything that hasn't been already blurbed about but anyone wanting to know nothing about the plot shouldn't read any further.


It took me some time to get into Doctor Sleep. Prefatory Matters felt like forever. King had to give us the 411 on what happened to Danny (Dan) Torrance after leaving the Overlook to the present time. This part was like the first episode of a new season of Revenge: "Here's what happened to the characters over the last year" only it was more like 30 years. I just couldn't get into this section. Mostly Dan got drunk. It felt like we'd already been there already. Sure, Dan was smart enough to get help but I just couldn't do this all again after The Shining.

Part One is also a bit of a slog because one of the main characters isn't even born until decade before the main action occurs. I was wondering if it was just me, but apparently some others participating in the Sleepalong are feeling similarly. I continued on because Margaret Atwood raved about Doctor Sleep and I will just do as she says. If she says read it, then I will. She should just wear a t-shirt that says, "Because I'm Margaret Atwood." Who am I to argue? By the end of Part One, things pick up and now I'm finding it hard to keep away from the book.

That's not to say that there aren't highlights in Part One. The characters are so well written. Dan is flawed but unlike his Dad he is a good human being. I love him a little bit. I love Billy and his hint of shine too. Abra is one special kid but she also just an ordinary girl. Rose the Hat is frickin scary.

King's ability to terrorize me hasn't changed since The Shining. There is a scene in Part One titled The True Knot that illustrates this perfectly. It is a scene of torture that doesn't describe the torture at all, yet conveys the feeling of being tortured explicitly. It gave me chills and there is nothing graphic about that scene at all.

Now onto the Sleepalong Q&A.


Doctor Sleep picks up not long after the closing of The Shining.  For those who have recently read The Shining, do you think it proves to be helpful in diving into the sequel?  If you have not recently read The Shining, do you feel you are missing out on some of the details?

I'm very glad to have read The Shining just before Doctor Sleep. I don't think I would have known who some of the characters were and the parts they played in Danny's childhood. However, they are two very different stories and you wouldn't need to read The Shining to understand what was going on.

Danny has now become Dan.  In Part One, we watch his transformations from learning to live with the horrors of The Overlook to succumbing to the drink (like his father) to his road to sobriety and earning the title of Doctor Sleep.  What do you think about the journey King has taken Dan on thus far?

Like I said, I'm glad the drinking part is over with and I'm glad to see Dan helping the people who need it. I was disappointed that he had to take that journey but happy to see him come out the other side. I get the feeling he's going to need to use all the tools he's got to fight the True.

We are also introduced to the True Knot in this first section.  What do you think about this group?

I'm never going to look at people in Winnebagos the same way again.

Now that I'm hooked I can't wait to keep reading!

Pumpkiny Sunday Thoughts

October is off to a good start! I made 3 things this week for Trish's Pin It and Do It Challenge.

First up was Pioneer Woman's Simple Sesame Noodles. As advertised they are simple, but delicious. I did not have the hot oil but used Sriracha sauce instead. 

simple sesame noodles

Next, I made Martha Stewart's Pumpkin Cupcakes. I actually made these years ago, but pinned them to my Yum! board recently. I didn't get as fancy as Martha. I just iced on the icing and let my daughter add the decorations. These are Monster Spider and Leaf Pile versions.

Pumpkin Cupcakes

I made this bowl of Irish Oatmeal with Hot Buttered Cinnamon Apples this morning. It was tasty, but since I have a big sweet tooth I added more maple syrup.

Irish Oatmeal with Apples

So far I've only made EATS!

Would you try making any of these?





Today the fam and I took our annual pumpkin picking trip. So did everyone else. It was crazy, probably because next week is Thanksgiving. We have our pumpkins now and lots of other goodies.

October weather

The place where we bought our pumpkins is right next door to this abandoned farmhouse. It was very spooky looking so I took this photo. It's very Halloweenish!

Abandoned Farmhouse


That's my week in iphotos!

My Personal Thoughts on Goodreads (No, not that. Well, some of that.)

GrandpaI've probably complained about Goodreads before. I've had issue with Goodreads before all the shenanigans of this past week. There is no perfect product out there and if it's for free then the users have very little say in how it works. Obviously, we could all stop using Goodreads. That would seem to be an easy solution, but when you've been using a product like Goodreads for a long time and all your book friends use it too, it's hard to give it up.

Goodreads' new policy of deleting reviews "about the author and not the book" (or more accurately negative reviews) doesn't affect me. I don't post my reviews there. Well, actually I have 45 'reviews' there, several of them links to posts on Chrisbookarama, and some of them extremely useful one word reviews like "Creepy!" I was never a heavy user. There are some users who review exclusively on Goodreads, a dangerous practice in my opinion, and have learned the hard way that they have no control over their content. Twenty-one users (according to Goodreads) had reviews deleted. This is been distressing for them, no doubt. The only concern I have about all of this is the shelving issue, as in Goodreads plans to delete inappropriate user shelves. It went through my mind that they could misconstrue my RIP shelf. "Is she threatening these authors?" "I don't know, Bob. Let's delete it anyway."


See more on Know Your Meme

I haven't had any trouble with rating books over there. Probably because I do not read self-published books. Most of the problems I've seen are between reviewers and self-published authors. I'm sure most self-published authors are lovely people but there are some Sensitive Sallys out there. Possibly the problem is all those self-pub advice blogs on the internet telling them they need reviews on Goodreads to be a success! Plus how-to posts on all the ways to game the system (gross). It's not like they have a lot of other options out there though. Goodreads has sold itself as the place where authors need to be but reviewers aren't a controllable entity. The sensitive should stay far, far away. Let's face it, those reviews can get ugly.

Back to my own Goodreads issues, the site has gotten increasingly annoying about self-promotion over the last year or so. This includes both authors and reviewers. I have a very small group of 'friends' over there. These are people whose opinions I want to read. I want to see what they are reading or planning to read.

I have written right in my policy that I do not follow authors unless I have read and liked their books. This does not stop authors from trying to get me to 'friend' them and usually it's the same authors over and over again. My policy is if you've tried 3 times to friend me and I've ignored you every time, I block you. Either these authors haven't read my policy or they choose to ignore it. It's gotten to the point that I don't even have to click on their profile to know if they are an author:
  • They have 'author' in their email address. Duh.
  • They have Smug Author* photo. I don't begrudge anyone a Smug Author photo, they look great and professional, but they have several things in common: looking off into the distance possibly with a hand to the chin, slightly blurry, often black and white. I know these are authors right away.
  • They never, ever answer my ridiculous friend request question. It should be a requirement that you answer this.
  • They have 0 books in their catalogue. Or possibly one, which you just know is their own.
Nothing personal, authors, but I don't want your stuff in my timeline.

Now, reviewers can be just as bad at over-self-promotion. The Notifications! I keep thinking I've disabled them, but they keep appearing in my inbox. No, I do not want to visit your blog for your awesome giveaway of Book I Really Don't Care About. I don't like giveaways. "Gasp! What you don't like free books?!" Nope, I don't want to go through the whole business of entering a book draw for Book I Really Don't Care About. If it is Book I Care About, I will find a way to get it come hell or high water anyway. I also don't want to attend some event you're hosting in Some Place Far Away either. Why are you sending me this?!

As I said, I could just stop using it, but the benefits outweigh the disadvantages at this point. I have dusted off my Library Thing again. I haven't used it since 2010. It's not the same though (it's not pretty). I will make an effort to keep it up to date this time.

grumpychange

How about you? Do you care about the new policy? Is there something else on your mind about Goodreads? Are you using some other book cataloguing/social media site?

*This is a Bridget Jones reference. I'm not saying all authors are smug. Just those photos scream, "Look! I wrote a book!"