Ash by Malinda Lo

ashOnce upon a time there was a girl named Ash whose mother dies and father remarries a cold hearted woman. Soon after the wedding, he dies and leaves Ash alone with her wicked stepmother and stepsisters. To “pay her father’s debts,” Ash becomes her stepmother’s servant and spends her days in drudgery.

Ash escapes to the Wood when she can where a beautiful fairy waits for her. She first saw Sidhean after her mother’s death. He promises her that he she will come to stay with him one day. She wishes to be with him and leave her terrible life behind but he keeps sending her back.

One day, when she’s walking through the Wood, she meets the King’s Huntress, Kaisa, and it isn’t long before she falls in love with her. When it is announced that the Prince is looking for a wife among all the women of the kingdom and there will be many celebrations, including a ball, Ash sees an opportunity to spend more time with Kaisa. Ash knows, however, that she can’t go dressed as a poor servant girl. She asks Sidhean for a favour, but when a fairy grants a wish there is a price to be paid.

By now, you’ve probably figured out that this a retelling of Cinderella. (“Cinder”ella, Ash. Get it?) Unless you’ve lived in a cave your whole life, you know that Cinderella ends up with the Prince, or in this case, the Huntress. (There is a Prince but he’s just a plot device.) So, that’s not such a spoiler. You can see where the story is headed a mile away, it’s just a matter of how you get there.

Ash must choose between two worlds: the fairy world and reality. The fairy world she only knows through stories she’s heard as a child. The real world hasn’t been very kind to her but now she has a reason to stay in Kaisa. I didn’t understand why Sidhean kept sending Ash back when she asked to stay. Why?! What was his reason for this? That bugged me because it made no sense to me. I would have liked to have seen or learned more about that fairy world*. I felt sorry for Sidhean for spoilery reasons.

As for Ash, I’m not sure about her. She’s somewhat enigmatic to me. She loves Kaisa but what are her feelings for Sidhean? Is she just spellbound by him?

I found Ash by Malinda Lo to be an interesting take on an old story and well written. Usually, fairy tale retellings end up annoying me but not this one. Although there are things I think could have been expanded on, I ended up liking it quite a bit.

*Lo has also written Huntress which sounds like it could offer more about the fairy world.

Lazy Sunday Thoughts Are Fluffy

snow tree

Hello, Snow Bunnies! Last night we had one of those magical moments where you go to bed like usual and wake up to a marshmallow world. It wasn’t a storm, there was no wind, the snow just fell gently and snuck away in the morning. It was a thick blanketing, pretty but heavy to shovel. We had no snow on the ground after heavy rain this week. I actually ran outdoors on Friday. It was nice. Guess that shows me!

I had to show you all my hat that I made. I couldn’t get a good angle but here it is from the top anyway. This is a super easy pattern. It takes no time to make. If you crochet, the pattern for this slouchy hat is here. I think I might make a couple more while watching TV.

Slouch Hat

I’m trying to read Possession by A.S. Byatt but it’s hard going. So much academic stuff and loads of poems and letters. I’m sure most of it is going right over my head.

Not that I believe in this stuff, but my horoscope had me feeling pretty good today. 

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Sounds like I have an exciting year ahead of me. I am planning a romantic escapade so it’s accurate in that regard. My husband gave the side eye to the “love affairs” part. Ah well, the fault is in my stars!

The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion: Review

rosie projectThe Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion is one of those books that keeps popping up in the blogisphere. It sounded cute and has good reviews so I thought I’d give it a shot.

Don Tillman is a genetics professor with a very regimented lifestyle. He’s also socially awkward. He knows this about himself and doesn’t see it as an impediment, except when it comes to dating. He’s an attractive man and women seem to throw themselves at him (though most times he misses the signals) but he never gets a second date. He either says or does something to turn the lady off.

Don decides that the best way to find a wife is through science. He creates a questionnaire for his potential spouse which he calls the Wife Project. He believes the Wife Project will weed out anyone unsuitable and find him the perfect mate. When Rosie shows up at his door, he thinks she’s shown up for the Wife Project and discounts her as a contender right away. She’s all wrong. She has too many bad habits. Still, he’s drawn to her and decides to use his skills as a geneticist to help her find her biological father.

I don’t know anything about Autism and I have no idea if the author does or not. I read a few reviews that complained that it was unrealistic for an Autistic person. But, whatever, this is romance and anything is possible in romance. Don knows he lives outside the acceptable ‘social norms’ and doesn’t really care that much about it. What he wants is a person who can fit into his schedule without annoying him. He is a caring person, once you get past all his quirks, as the people who take the time to get to know him find out. Since the book is told from his point of view, the reader sympathizes with him through every awkward encounter. Luckily, most of these situations are humorous.

Rosie has all kinds of issues. Some of which I thought were non-issues. She has high expectations herself. Problems with her “father” (she uses quotes) are not all his fault. She’s a difficult person. I didn’t always like her. 

In romance, the two potential lovers have to change in order to become a couple. Don has to see that no one is perfect and Rosie needs to accept people as they are. The fun of The Rosie Project is watching them get there.

I thought The Rosie Project was a cute, quick read. I read it in a day. It’s a little bit different, in a good way.

Girl Walks Into a Bar by Rachel Dratch (audiobook): Review

girlwalksintoabarRachel Dratch is probably best known for her SNL character Debbie Downer. I know I always think of her when someone says something really depressing out of the blue. After she left SNL, she found it difficult to find roles. Most that were available to her were what she calls “the unfuckables”, not the kind of roles she wanted. Since her career wasn’t going anywhere, she decided to tackle her personal life. Many a bad date occurred before, at the age of 44, she found herself pregnant.

Girl Walks Into a Bar is an explanation to the question Rachel often gets: “What are you doing now? Why don’t I see you on TV anymore?” First, she tells the story of how she got to be on SNL, which is unsurprisingly is a lot like Tina Fey’s experience, except Tina was a writer first. Unlike Tina, Rachel’s story takes a different turn after SNL. Where Tina went on to create her own show and host the Golden Globes, Rachel spent a lot of time waiting for the phone to ring.

Instead of focusing on her not-career, Rachel tells dating anecdotes, which are more cringe worthy than funny. Probably the best parts of Girl Walks Into a Bar are her pregnancy and parenting tales. Rachel met a nice guy, things were going along very well, until after 6 months of dating, she found out she was pregnant. This wasn’t something she expected at 44 years of age. Now she was bound to this guy she didn’t know all that well. For his part, John, her boyfriend, moved across the country to be close to her and the baby. She could have done way worse!

rachel dratch
She thought this line would jinx her.

I found the beginning parts of Girl Walks Into a Bar to be on the dry side, but by the end I had warmed up to Rachel. In fact, I really wished she had told more parenting stories. She was getting into her groove at that point and then just stopped. I came away liking Rachel a lot more than I did before. I had seen her on shows in small roles here and there and always enjoyed her but now, like on Sunday when I heard her voice on Bob’s Burgers, I’ll say to myself, “Oh that’s Rachel! Good for her, she found some work!”

About the Audio: Rachel narrates the book herself. I like when memoirists do this. It makes the reading much more personal. It was like having a friend catching you up on all the stuff that’s happened to her since you last met.

Lazy Sunday Thoughts: Hello, 2014!

Hey there! I’m writing me first Lazy Sunday Thoughts post of the year in an attempt to be a ‘good’ blogger in 2014.

First, thanks for all your kind words on my seventh blogiversary post. You’re all awesome! Thanks for reading. I appreciate it.

My inner calendar is all messed up. I posted a review on Friday, which I never do, because I forgot it was Friday. Monday is the first day of school (fingers crossed) so hopefully I can get back on track. Holidays mess with my rouIMG_1471tine.

I am so done with winter and it’s only January. We have eleventy-billion centimeters of snow on the ground (slight exaggeration). This time last year the ground was bare and we were waiting for the snow to arrive. Because of a couple of bad storms in December, we have more than we can handle. The local government literally doesn’t know what to do with it. There was a roof collapse nearby; luckily, no people or animals were hurt. It’s a mess. I’m running on a treadmill instead of outside because it’s too dangerous to run on the streets.

Ok, enough whining about the weather.

I’m feeling confident about my reading for 2014. I’m actively seeking out books I really want to read. I’m starting with Possession as part of Trish’s readalong, even though I haven’t opened it yet. My Sunday plans include catching up.

Does anyone watch Orphan Black? Space channel had a marathon and I watched all 10 episodes in 2 days. I’m hooked! It’s a complicated plot but basically a con artist discovers that she is a clone. Actress Tatiana Maslany plays 6 characters throughout the first season. It’s crazy good! Okay, Alison might be a bit over the top, but she’s fun to watch. The other actors are excellent also. It’s sort of a Fringe-ish type show. Very dramatic but with some funny parts. And it’s Canadian! Knock me over with a feather!

Enjoy your Sunday!

The Countess Conspiracy by Courtney Milan: Review

countess conspiracySebastian Malheur, whose ground breaking theories on genetics are rocking Victorian England, has a secret. His theories aren’t his own. They’re the work of his best friend, Violet, the Countess of Cambury. The weight of this secret becomes too much for him and he refuses to present Violet’s work as his own. Violet now has a problem. She needs the world to hear her theories but a lady cannot be a scientist. A lady does not discuss sex in public, even if it is just plant sex. To do so would ruin her reputation and that of her family. Her family doesn’t need anymore scandals.

To top things all off, Sebastian confesses his love for Violet. She can’t accept his advances for her own secret reasons. Somehow Violet needs to get her work out in public while keeping Sebastian at arms length.

At first Violet is an annoyingly neurotic character who can’t even stand to be touched. Later it’s revealed why, but it was frustrating for me at the beginning. Girl, you need to relax. She’s been trained since she was a youngun’ that her wants and needs don’t matter, that her wants are selfish. This is her biggest hurdle. Like the other countesses, she’s got secreeeeets too. Lots of hints at her secret didn’t make it hard to figure out (for me anyway). It’s mentioned several times that Violet is not traditionally good looking, which made me like her even more. 

As with all the books in the Brother’s Sinister series, the heroine is way more interesting than the hero. Sebastian is a rake with a heart of gold. I didn’t find him particularly intriguing. He’s got this great big crush on Violet and that’s about it. He’s all about winning her over, which is nice but not very exciting. I did like that he loved Violet for being Violet, as prickly as she was.

Still, I loved The Countess Conspiracy. Courtney Milan jam packs her plot with lots of scandalous subplots (the mother…omg, the mother!) and some twisty bits. The sexytimes are plenty sexy. What really won me over were the lady scientist parts. Milan remarks in her author notes that many wives of famous scientists “helped” their husbands…ahem, did most of the work…but their contributions to science were ignored. We’ll never know just how much women did for science. Violet gets the happy ending they all deserved. 

So go read The Countess Conspiracy. It’s my favorite of this series so far.

Thanks to Victory Editing via Netgalley for this review copy.

Lucky Number Seven

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The Group of Seven gets their party on. 

Seven Years! Wow! My blog is seven years old today.

Last year, I didn't set any goals for my blog, which was good because I would have disappointed myself. 2013 was a year where so much happened that blogging wasn't the #1 thing on my mind. It wasn't so great for reading either. My motto for 2013 was "Just go with it" and that's what I did.

The question is whether I'm willing to get back to the 'normal' blogging routine in 2014. I'm not sure. I do have goals this year. 2014 is the year I will be turning 40 and for the last couple of years I've struggled with (whined about) that. It's going to come whether I like it or not. This year I would like to read books where the protagonists are 40ish women. I'm still tired of reading about 19th century virgins. I want to read about women with a bit of a patina on them. Let's call it the Women of a Certain Age Challenge.
  • The Woman Upstairs by Claire Messud
  • Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston (re-read)
  • How Stella Got Her Groove Back by Terry McMillan
  • A Girl Walks Into a Bar by Rachel Dratch
Anyone have any other books to add to this list? Feel free to join in if you want.

I do hope to post more this year. Maybe not always about books. I hope you'll stick around the blog for another year!

Thanks, Girl!