Quitting Books

I'm feeling...dare I say it...refreshed.

2017 is just around the corner and I am ready for it. 2016 was a garbage year.

Personally, it was fine. I learned to knit early in the year. Took a nice "staycation" with my family. (It had its ups and downs, but what vacation doesn't?) I reopened my Etsy Shop and it's been doing okay. I went back to work this summer too.

I was busy. I felt like much of my time was filled with activity. As a result, my reading suffered. When I was reading, I often felt like I wasn't reading anything that excited me. There were some great books, but a lot of forgettable ones. And ones I never finished. My DNF list for 2016 is loooong.

This week I'm reading something great. Something that really speaks to me: They Were Sisters by Dorothy Whipple. I don't want to get up from my couch. I don't want to check my phone, or do anything else. I can't remember the last time I felt that way.

My wish for 2017 is more books like this. I want to feel this way about everything I read. What that means for me is that this year, I'm going to give up on a lot of books. That might sound terrible, but I feel like that needs to happen. Reading shouldn't feel like a chore that needs to be done. I'm going to be a quitter. I will get myself out of this reading slump by quitting books that don't make me feel something. I will overwhelm my brain with books that excite me and toss the ones that I can't get excited about. It's not that these books are bad, they just aren't doing it for me. It might mean I read fewer books in 2017, but that's okay.

I'm ending this year with a book that makes me feel happy, and I hope to go into 2017 feeling more optimistic about reading, and possibly the world (I can hope). I am hopeful that reading great books will make me want to write about them here on the blog too.

2017. Here I come.

I Miss Reading

Hi all! It seems as if I dropped off the face of the earth, doesn't it? I'm still here. Between working and my side hustle, I haven't been reading- unless it's audio. Things are slowing down for the holidays and I'm hoping to get some reading in. I really miss it. I have some books I want to get to soon. I'm definitely not going to meet my Goodreads Challenge this year.

I've cut back significantly on social media. I haven't been on Twitter in weeks. (I checked in a couple of times to reply to mentions). I missed it at first, but now it doesn't cross my mind much. I miss talking to my book friends, although it seems like there are less of them on there now. I made the decision to leave for awhile, when I realized just how anxious it was making me. One benefit of not spending time on social media is how much I'm getting done at home. I'm not sure when I'll venture back on there. Maybe in the new year.

It's snowing like crazy at the moment. It seems like the perfect time to dive back into reading. That's my plan for tonight. I'm going to brew some tea and settle in next to the tree.

I really just wanted to say hello to you all, if anyone is still out there reading my blog. Say hello if you're still around!

Hagseed: Shakespeare in the Prison

Hag-Seed is part of the Hogarth Shakespeare series in which popular authors give a Shakespeare's plays a modern reimagining. Hag-Seed is Margaret Atwood's take on The Tempest. The actual play itself has an important role in the book. In fact, Hag-Seed is a play within a play within a play.

Felix is so involved with directing plays for Makeshiweg Theatre Festival that he doesn't notice that his assistant is stabbing him in the back until he's been fired. Part of the reason Felix is overly focused on his work is to distract himself from the recent death of his daughter Miranda. The firing is the last straw for Felix. He hides himself away in a shack in the country where all he does is fixate on his woes.

Years go by and eventually Felix feels he needs to join the world again. He's been talking to himself and an imaginary version of Miranda so long that he's beginning to think she's real. He takes a job teaching literacy to inmates of a local prison. He does it his way, by putting on productions of Shakespeare's plays. The men enjoy the plays. They get to make to them their own, by making each one modern and relatable to their situations. The program is such a success the Heritage Minister will be present to watch the latest production. Felix chooses The Tempest.

Among the visiting mucky-mucks is Felix's old assistant, Tony. Tony has moved up in the world and into the workings of the federal government. He has ambitions to lead the party. Felix sees an opportunity to enact his revenge fantasies, and with the help of his merry band of gentlemen, put on a version of The Tempest no one will soon forget.

This is the second book by Atwood I've read in a year that involves prisons. Thankfully no sex robots in this one. I've never read The Tempest and thought I'd need to at least watch the play. No worries about that. The play's plot and characters are discussed in detail throughout. I haven't read the original yet and could still tell you what it's about.

Hag-Seed has doubles throughout. Felix is Prospero, obviously, and Miranda is both the imagined daughter and the actress who plays the character. Tony is the Evil Bro Antonio. The magical island where anything can happen is the prison but also the shack Miranda haunts. Felix is often a pretentious windbag, but he's just a gentle old man who suffered greatly too. The prisoners are hard men whose morals are questionable but can empathize with characters created centuries ago.

I enjoyed Hag-Seed. Partly because I love elaborate revenge plots. It's also funny and touching, but not melodramatic. The only part that bored me a little were the songs and when the inmates discuss the characters' futures. It got a little long.

A well done job by Margaret Atwood!

About the Audio: Canadian actor R.H. Thomson narrates Hag-Seed. You might remember him from Road to Avonlea. He's perfect for it, being a great theatre actor and all. He gives each character a distinct personality. It is a little disconcerting hearing a 69 year old man rap though. 
Thanks to Penguin Random House Audio for the review copy. All opinions are my own.

Hag-Seed (Hogarth Shakespeare)

Two Short Audiobook Reviews

The Arrangements

I listened to The Arrangements before the US election. It seemed cute at the time. It's unfortunate that the political climate now distorts my view of this short story. Still, I feel that I must say something about it since it is a review book.

First, I think Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie is an amazing writer, and her choice to show the fever of the US election through Melania Trump's eyes is quite clever. She takes her inspiration from Virginia Woolf's Mrs Dalloway.

Melania decides to buy the flowers herself, hoping to get some attention from her husband. She's planning a party for her parents. This party is important to her and having her husband there is a high priority. Throughout the day, she also ponders her husband's political ambitions, skillfully avoids family drama, and strokes her husband's ego.

Melania is a curious figure. What if one day your husband suddenly decided he was going to run for president? That's what happened to her. What does she really make of all of this? Adichie imagines it for us.

Like I said, it was very entertaining at the time. Maybe not so much now. You can read it for free from the New York Times. The audio version, which I'm reviewing here, is narrated by January LaVoy.

The Clothing of Books

Jhumpa Lahiri muses over book covers, specifically of her own books. Jhumpa doesn't have much control over the covers' designs. She prefers no covers, but still she has her favorites. She also has doubts about many of the covers, and finds a few problematic.

The Clothing of Books didn't blow my socks off. It was only okay. It might make an interesting essay, but that's about it.

The Clothing of Books was translated from Italian, and narrated by the author.

Thanks to Penguin Random House Audio for the review copies. All opinions are my own.

Creepy New England Houses Full of Ghosts: I Am the Pretty Thing That Lives In the House

For inexplicable reasons, I watched the Netflix movie I Am the Pretty Thing That Lives In the House... alone... at night. This movie (let's call it IATPT for brevity) is the thinking woman's horror movie.

The opening scene in IATPT is a black screen, a blurry figure of a woman appears, while Ruth Wilson talks about death and ghosts. When Ruth (Lily is her character), appears on the scene she is arriving at the beautiful New England home of a successful horror novelist. She's a nurse and is there to take care of this woman in her final days of dementia. Lily tells us she is the pretty thing that lives in the house, she just turned 28, and won't live to see 29.

So, why watch if we already know these things? First, to see how Lily meets her end. Will she trip over that rug at the bottom of the stairs? Succumb to the poisonous mold growing on the wall? Or strangle herself with that giant phone cord?

It also seems that Lily is not the only Pretty Thing living in the house. At first, Lily doesn't know that she and her charge are not the only inhabitants of the house. The house has a dark past, and a connection to one of the horror novelist's most successful books "The Lady Who Lives In the Walls."

IATPT is a movie that relies on shots of darkened doors and weird music. Not a lot happens. If my husband was at home, he wouldn't watch this anyway. He'd get bored. I can see why Netflix made this and not regular TV or film. It's got that independent movie vibe. Lily mostly sneaks around this big house, looking in drawers, and not turning enough lights on. The only people she, rarely, interacts with are the novelist and the executor of the estate. She just wanders around muttering to herself.

I would put the movie's time period at around the early 1980s from Lily's wardrobe and the few glimpses of cars in the film. I'm not sure of the legalities of leaving a single nurse alone with a client without breaks or vacation at this time, but it seems pretty sketchy even for then. I don't think the VON would approve.

I can't tell you how much I wish the novels of the author were real. Lily has never read them because "they're too scary." They sound right up my alley. There is the Shirley Jackson-esque quality to the novelist. Flashbacks show her typing in front of a big window while puffing away on a cigarette. Besides the book Lily ends up reading, there is one titled, "Underwater Housewife." Why can't that be real?!!

I have some things to say about the other Pretty Thing that are spoilery. I'll spoil them here (highlight if you wish to read them)...

Is the guy with mutton chops Polly's husband or a jealous suitor? Are they the couple that disappeared after the wedding? Why did he kill her? Why is she wandering around blindfolded? It's all so weird. I feel that the book would tell us more.

So I Am the Pretty Thing That Lives In the House is not your usual horror movie. It's not really that much of a horror movie even. It is spooky. That creepy music- the continuous hum that reminded me of a furnace running- was getting to me. I wouldn't go into expecting big scares either. I still enjoyed it and am still thinking about it.

If you're a Shirley Jackson fan, I think you'd like watching this one. Check out the trailer.

What the world needs now is Hygge?

So, things look bleak out there. Also, it's November. November is so blah. I feel like I could use some hygge. Do you know what hygge is?

Hygge is a Danish concept, meaning "cosiness." The Danes explain it here. I really like the idea of hygge, especially since I live where the darkness of winter tends to get people down.

There's a lot of reasons to feel upset, scared, and confused. But you got to take care of yourself. Get yourself some good self-care. Maybe hygge can be a part of your own regime. I'm going to dedicate the next few months to hygge*. I'm going to indulge in warm beverages (tonight I'm drinking a hot apple cider), comforting hobbies, and, of course, cozy reads.

I'm not sure what I'm going to read yet, but I have some suggestions for you.

The Blue Castle by L.M. Montgomery. Valancy breaks free of her overbearing family and finds herself.

The Summer Book by Tove Jansson. A girl and her grandmother spend a summer together on an isolated island.

Cold Comfort Farm by Stella Gibbons. A woman goes to live on a relative's farm. High jinks ensue.

Relish by Lucy Knisley. Fooooooooood!

These are books that make me feel warm inside.

What are your favorite comfort reads? I need some suggestions!

Grab a blanket, light some candles, snuggle a favorite pet, and join me for some hygge reading.

*I feel okay co-opting hygge since my grandmother was Danish. 

Lifestyles of the Super Privileged: We Could Be Beautiful

Catherine West has done it all and now she wants to get married. It seems that finding a husband is as easy as the rest of her life has been. She is a trust fund baby who never had to worry about money. She meets William Stockton at an art gallery and after a brief courtship they are engaged.

As Catherine busies herself with arrangements, she begins to feel that things about William don't add up. And then there's her mother's reaction to William. She knew his family when he was a child. Even though she suffers from Alzheimer's and can't remember a lot, she has a strong aversion to him. Catherine has a hunch that there is more to the story than the one William gives her. She starts snooping around into her mother's past to learn the truth. Does she really want to know? Or does she want to keep pretending in order to maintain her beautiful life?

I know a lot of reviews are "Ugh, this woman!" and yes, Catherine is insufferable at first. She's created a life for herself where she never has to experience discomfort of any kind. Her money can buy her anything and she never has to worry. She spends the first few paragraphs trying to convince the reader that she is a good person. Some of the things she says and does, particularly in her interactions with her sister, tell us otherwise. But Catherine is not a monster. She is someone who tries and she has moments of clarity about herself that are refreshing. She's relatively harmless and she can't help being born who she is.

It's not like she's Mr Burns

Yes, I am a Catherine apologist. She's a flawed human being for sure. But she's good to the people who work for her and I think she'd be a loyal friend. That's why reading about her attempts to shape herself into the kind of person William wants her to be is so frustrating. She could do better.

We Could Be Beautiful was a bumpy start for me. There are chapters that follow the mundane schedule of this overprivileged New Yorker: her massage appointments, her gym appointments, her dinner and shopping dates. It's a little dull at first, but it's leading up to something. You just have to hang in there. The ending is bonkers.

The blurbs for the book make it sound like it's some crazy thriller, but it's not. It has a mystery, yes, but at times it's very funny. There's a lot of family drama as well. I really enjoyed seeing Catherine grow as a person. And, I have to admit, I felt some Schadenfreude as well.

If you don't take this book too seriously, you'll enjoy it. Be prepared to roll your eyes...a lot.

Don't hurt yourself
About the Audio:  Cassandra Clare does an awesome job, as usual. I think her William voice may have been too good. Did I instantly hate him because he sounds like a pretentious jerk or was he just a pretentious jerk anyway and any voice would have made him the same?

Thanks to Penguin Random House Audio for the review copy. All views are my own.

We Could Be Beautiful

The Master and Margarita: This Is the End

We've come to the end of this crazy journey. What is left for Woland to do?

Flames! Flames on the side of my face!

The Moscow police are searching for the cause of the apparent mass hypnosis that overtook the city. All signs point to Flat 50. They surround the apartment and while at times the place seems bustling with life, when they investigate no one is at home. Finally, they break into the room and find nothing, except for a talking cat. Instead of saying, "Whoa! A talking cat!" they assume it's part of the hypnosis and start... shooting at it? This makes as much sense as you would imagine. I mean, if it's a hallucination then it's not real or it's a regular cat that they are shooting at for no reason.

Behemoth pulls out his gun and fires back. Somehow no one is injured, but he sets the place on fire before jumping out the window. He meets up with Koroviev and they set a shop and the writers' club on fire just for fun, before heading out to meet with Woland.

Good times

A Basement Apartment in the Sk-y-y-y

Margarita and the master are hanging out at the old basement apartment. The master gloomily thinks of the future. The devil isn't done with them yet. Matthew, you know, from the bible, tells Woland that Jesus wants the master "to find peace." The equivalent of your parents taking the family pet to go "live on a farm."

No one can leave the lovers alone. 

Azazello goes to collect them. First, he gives them poisoned wine and they die. Then things get confusing. Their clones or doubles or selves in another dimension die in Margarita's bedroom and the master's room at the hospital. Azazello revives the couple at the basement apartment and takes them to Woland.

They all fly away on magical flying horses, but not before the master says goodbye to Ivan. He tells Ivan to write the sequel to his Pilate book. I don't know what that would be, Pilate 2: Pilate Harder?

Ivan, probably

And it all makes sense...just kidding

Anyway they all fly to heaven, I guess, and Woland's gang (minus Hella? what gives?) turn into handsome men. Pilate is waiting for the master to finish the book (for 2000 years?). The master yells "you are free!" So, Pilate's fate all hinges on what the master says. huh. Pilate and his dog finally get to take long walks with Jesus.

Then there's some stuff about people being jerks to black cats, which I highly disapprove of.

So yeah, pretty weird. It's like a fever dream. I feel like Bulgakov was just tossing stuff into this book. I'm not sure what to make of it. I'm not a religious person, so I think I missed a lot. It's interesting that the devil here is a hero of sorts. He participates in giving the master his reward. It's not the devil of The Exorcist that's for sure. The book is ridiculous and I think maybe we're not meant to understand most of it. Did I like it? I don't know.

Thanks to Alice for hosting the readalong! I never would have finished this otherwise.

Quote the Raven Girl, Give Me Wings!

A postman delivers a letter to some ravens and finds a young raven has fallen out of the nest. He takes her home and raises her, even teaches her to fly. They fall in love. Together they make an egg. Let's not think too hard about the logistics of this. The egg grows and out pops a girl.

The girl is not like other girls though (no, really). She can't speak, and only makes cawing sounds. She wants more than anything to fly. When she grows up, she goes to university and discovers that she may be able to accomplish this impossible dream.

Raven Girl is a little bit fairy tale, a little bit science fiction. It's a lot weird.

Raven Girl an adult graphic novel. The illustrations are amazing. The text and drawings are creations of Audrey Niffenegger. There's a lot of subtext in this short book about identity, and body modification. Raven Girl's outer appearance doesn't match what she feels inside. She is willing to make major changes to her body to make the outside look more like the being she wants to be. While she has supporters, she has detractors as well. Someone who doesn't understand Raven Girl's struggles.

Since this is a fairy tale, it may or may not have a happy ending. You'll have to read it to find out.

The book was written to be made into a ballet. It looks pretty cool.

As it's a few days before Halloween, a Raven Girl costume would be a good choice. Caw-caw!

Raven Girl

The Master and Margarita Readalong: Wasn't That a Party

We're almost there! Next week is the last installment of The Master and Margarita Readalong hosted by Alice, but for now let's go to a party.

Ain't No Party Like a Satan Party

After agreeing to be hostess, Margarita gets the spa treatment in preparation for her duties. She's also given some advice: greet everyone equally and pleasantly. Considering how much emphasis Koroviev puts on this, you know it has to be a bad sign.


The guests arrive- corpses in coffins. They transform into their previous non-decayed selves and are introduced to a shocked Margarita. Guest after guest arrive: murderers, suicides, seducers, all kinds. All through the night Margarita plays hostess to the damned, while they swim in pools of wine and listen to animals playing in a band.

Sort of like this

Just as Margarita is about to collapse, Woland appears. He drinks the blood of a spy he has murdered in a goblet that is actually the missing head of the editor.

Drink up!

Margarita is forced to drink from the goblet, and as she does the party disappears.

When you wish upon a Satan

Margarita finds herself back in Woland's bedroom with his gang. She feels disappointed that she hasn't been offered any reward for going along with all this craziness. Just as she is about to leave, Woland tells her to stay and asks her what she wants, what she really, really wants.

Although she has the chance to ask for the master's return, she asks for a sad, damned girl from the party to cease being tortured for her crime. The girl murdered the baby she bore after her boss raped her. (Pretty dark stuff.) The entourage gives her a hard time for her request, but Woland tells her she has the power to free the girl. And she does, because she's still a good person.

Then she asks for the master and, voila!, he appears before her in his pajamas. Margarita is happy, and wants to go back to their little basement apartment and live as they had before.

What the master says

There is some more nonsense about the housing crisis- the man who lives in their apartment now lodged a complaint against the master for owning illegal literature so he could get the apartment. Woland tosses him out.

Woland returns the terrible Pilate manuscript to the master and sends them on their way.

That damn book again

And, ugh, we get two more chapters of the Pilate book. I do not understand why everyone is so gaga over this book. It's Pilate fan fiction where the master ships Pilate and Jesus. Anyway, all it's about is Pilate telling his head of security that he has to *WINK* protect Judas from a murder that's going to happen that night. So of course Judas is murdered by this guy's men. Then some stuff about Matthew who cares.

I guess the master and Margarita don't have their heads removed or forced to sing because they are so special for believing in something. Margarita believes in the master and the master believes in his Jesus book. And why does Satan care exactly?

Bye Bye?
You would think this is the end of the master and Margarita's story but it's not. You'll just have to hold on for one more week to find out the conclusion of their drama.

October 2016 #Readathon Update Post

I'm up on this dreary day and ready to read. I'm going to put the coffee on, but first let's do the pre-Readathon meme.

1) What fine part of the world are you reading from today? As always, gray Nova Scotia. 2) Which book in your stack are you most looking forward to? Since this was last minute, I haven't had time to contemplate it. I have The Raven Girl for later and that looks good!3) Which snack are you most looking forward to? I bought M&M Chocolate Chip cookies. 4) Tell us a little something about yourself! Always a hard question. Well, I have two cats and a dog that will keep me company. The husband and the teen are own their own today. 5) If you participated in the last read-a-thon, what’s one thing you’ll do different today? I'm done so many of these that I can't think of anything I'd do different. I always say that I'm just going to try and have fun!

I probably will be doing most of my updates on Twitter and also on Litsy. I'm Chrisbookarama on both if you'd like to follow me. Hope to see you there!

Hour 12: 

I figured I'd make at least one update.

The Readathon has been going well. I'm pretty chill about it.

I've finished:
The Master and Margarita
The Arrangements by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

I'm currently reading:
Witches: Wicked, Wild and Wonderful edited by Paula Guran

Up next:
The Raven Girl

Surprise! I'm going to #Readathon!

Oh hey! My weekend plans fell through. Now I can read on Saturday! It's Readathon time!

We're supposed to get bad weather this weekend. You might not know this, but a couple of weeks ago we had some severe weather in my area. There was flooding and high winds. Some people lost their homes. Many had flooded basements or lost power for days. I was lucky and didn't even lose power. I knock on all the wood that this doesn't happen again, but people around here are real nervous. So, we're staying close to home.

I plan on staying in my PJs and reading through it all. My reading plan? Well, I hope to finish the books I'm currently reading: The Master and Margarita, and Witches of New York. I have some audiobooks for when I can't sit on my couch. It's not much of a plan, but I didn't expect to be able to join at all.

If you are Readathoning, I hope to see you around Twitter or wherever you plan on updating your progress. See you then!

A Witch!: Master and Margarita Readalong

This third week for The Master and the Margarita Readalong hosted by Alice, we're reading through Chapter 22, By Candlelight. Here we go.

Moscow Mayhem

More mayhem continues in this week's reading. The money given away at the magic show turns into paper, causing problems for taxi drivers all over Moscow. It also leads to the arrest of the theatre's accountant. Women are left in their underwear when the clothes they picked out at the show disappear. Busloads of office workers are driven to the mental hospital, when they can't stop singing Soviet working songs.

The headless editor's uncle starts thinking that the Moscow apartment is his, as an heir I guess, and travels from the apparently terrible Kiev to lay claim to it. Uncle Maximilian is told by Behemoth, the cat, that he better scram. He books it out of there, but pauses to see what's about to happen to a man also looking for No. 50. This poor old barman, cheated by the fake money taken as payment for booze, is hoping Woland will straighten out his financial situation. A naked woman in an apron opens the door, which gives him a start. Woland and the rest of his entourage then spook the old guy when they inform him he will die in 9 months from liver cancer so he better not worry about it.

The devil's followers are the best part of this book so far. The inhabitants of No. 50 remind me of the people living in Dr Frank-n-furter's castle in The Rocky Horror Picture Show.

And like when I watch The Rocky Horror I have no idea what is going on. (Why is Meatloaf even there?) It's still a pretty good time though.

Finally, a Margarita

Margarita arrives on the scene. She's been moping around her big house, worrying her maid, but this day she has "a feeling." She takes a walk to Alexander Gardens and is distracted by the funeral parade of the editor. Rumour has it that his head went missing. Woland's man Azazello appears and tells her "a foreign gentleman" wants to meet her. She's offended, as she thinks this is a come on, but gets excited when he tells what's she's been thinking, of her lover of course, and that he has news of the Master.

Before she can meet the man himself, she has to wait until 8:30 and then slather herself with special cream given to her by Azazello. The time comes and the cream, just like the ads say, take ten years off her haggard 30 year old face.

And then you might as well be dead
It also gives her new vim and vigor. Oh and also she can fly on a broom now. She has a great time flying around Moscow- naked and invisible. She stops to completely destroy, with a sledgehammer, the apartment of the publisher that ruined the Master's life. Very Revenge of her!

Peace out, Moscow!
She hops back on her broom and there beside her is her maid Natasha riding a pig, who used to be her neighbour. She's a witch now. And it turns out Margarita is the Queen of the Witches. She finds this out at the Burning Man festival happening in the woods attended by all the witches. When the party wraps up, she's taken to Woland's apartment by a crow driving a flying car. You know, normal not-mushroom induced stuff.

Margarita meets Woland while he's lying in bed. He asks her to host a special ball he is throwing. He throws it every year and the hostess must always be a Margarita and a native of the place. How convenient. Margarita agrees. I'm not sure how this will involve the Master, but it guess it will somehow.

I hope there will be dancing
So. Margarita arrived. No Jesus this week. Margarita has really taken to being Queen of the Witches. It's nice to see her out of the house and doing her own thing. I think I into the groove of this novel now.

Angry Ghost: The Haunting of Maddy Clare by Simone St James

Mousy Sarah Piper, a temp for an agency, gets an offer for an intriguing assignment. Ghost hunter, Allistair Gellis, needs a woman to make contact with a misandrous ghost.

Not you, boys.
Maddy Clare was a maid who hung herself in her employer's barn and now noisily haunts the premises. She distrusted men in life, and the feeling hasn't abated in death. The lady of the house is at her wits end and asks for Alastair's help. Sarah reluctantly agrees to the job. It's not typing or dictation, her usual assignments, but she needs the cash. For Alistair, documenting this haunting will make him a Big Deal in the ghost hunting biz.

Sarah and Alastair head off to an English backwater, where all the locals eye them suspiciously. The pair seem like a couple of charlatans out to steal Lady Clare's money. During the investigation, Sarah and Alastair learn more about the mysterious Maddy. She's a girl with no past, having shown up on the Clare's doorstep seven years earlier, beaten and bloody, with no memory of what happened to her. She lived with the Clares for years, until the afternoon when she ended her life. Whatever demons Maddy kept inside herself, they were let loose after her death.

After an harrowing first meeting with Maddy, Sarah is shaken. She's introduced to Alastair's other assistant, and is shaken in another way- if you know what I mean. He's hunky Matthew Ryder, an old friend of Alastair's from the war. He's got demons of his own. But that and Maddy's relentless haunting, doesn't stop Sarah and Matthew from rattling their own chains- if you catch my drift.

Things get out of hand when Maddy goes rogue, threatening to destroy all that Sarah cares about. Can Sarah find Maddy peace before it's too late?

For a book about ghost hunters, you'd think this would be a lot more fun. Everyone in The Haunting of Maddy Clare has Issues. The men have PTSD from the Great War, and Sarah has self-esteem issues. I don't think I've ever read a heroine so hard on herself. She's got a bad case of the "I'm too ugly to love" blues. There are three scenes where she looks in a mirror and goes over why she's so unattractive. "Ugh, my boobs are so big! And my curvy bottom is so unfashionable! Men hate that!" For real? I know it's the 1920s but when has a hetero man said no to boobs? There is no explanation to why she feels this way. In fact, she's had lovers before, obviously someone found her attractive, so why the self-loathing?

Maddy's ghost was more appealing to me. Maddy was unable to channel her rage in life, but once she is dead- look out! She will have her vengeance! There was no justice for Maddy while she was alive. When her plan for those that did her wrong is revealed, I wished Sarah could have been a lot more supportive. Hoes before bros!

Should have been her reaction, really.

If Sarah wasn't such a drag, The Haunting of Maddy Clare could have been a much more entertaining book. I liked that the ghost was real, and there wasn't some Scooby-Doo ending (it was the housekeeper all along! nonsense). Matthew seemed real sexy, but their romance was too dark and tortured for me. Everyone was bumming me out.

So, a mixed review: Maddy's plot: good, Sarah: boo.

Please note: The plot revolves around the sexual assault of a young person. It's not graphic, but it's pretty dark.

About the Audio: Pamela Garelick is the narrator. I wasn't a fan of her Matthew voice. Granted, it's hard for a lady to do gruff and sexy bearded dude.

The Haunting of Maddy Clare

The Master and Margarita Readalong, Part Two: Magic and Mayhem

This post is my thoughts on the second scheduled part of The Master and Margarita Readalong hosted by Alice. Things will be spoiled!

Well, He's no David Blaine But...

The devil (yes, this week someone finally says it- the stranger is Satan) and his cohorts having dispatched Stepa, the roommate, to Yalta and beheaded the editor, decide to occupy the empty apartment, even though apartments are in hot demand in Moscow. They bribe the landlord, Nikanor, and immediately call the cops on him for accepting the bribe. So rude!

Meanwhile, Stepa sends his boss, the house manager of the theatre, Varenukha, a telegraph from Yalta. He and the treasurer, Rimsky, are like, "That's impossible! We just talked to him fifteen minutes ago!" Varenukha sets out to get to the bottom of things and is beaten by the devil's entourage. He's dragged off by a naked glowing girl only to return to Rimsky later without a shadow. Poor Rimsky himself is nearly dragged to hell by a zombie but the rising sun saves him. (These are things that happened.)

But before Rimsky is traumatized, there is a variety show at the theatre. Everything starts out like an X Factor episode with girls on unicycles and such, when the devil gets on stage. He's introduced as a magician but first he sits in a chair and complains about the Russians. When the audience gets restless, he makes money appear from the sky, removes a man's head, and gives women new outfits. He's not much of a showman about it and the audience is confused.

Someone stands up and demands to know how the tricks were done. To be fair, the host said all would be revealed, but I got to wonder, has anyone in Russia even seen a magic show before? You don't ask how it's done, you just go along with it. No one asks David Blaine how he levitates. You just say, "Wow! That's amazing!" Act appropriately, Russians. The only reveal that happens is to the audience member's wife, who finds out he's having an affair. Shows over, folks!

The Devil, You Say!

While the theatre breaks into pandemonium, all is quiet at the mental hospital. Ivan is taking it easy. He's about to have nap, when a man sneaks into his room. The man asks how he came to be there and Ivan explains his situation once again. The man believes him and tells him the stranger he met was the devil.
Usually you know it's the devil because he's playing the fiddle

This is the Master, finally. He goes into a long story about how writing a book about Pontius Pilate and trying to get it published drove him suicidal. Of course, the story involves Margarita.

First, I want to note that every man in this book who is married hates his wife and is having an affair. The Master is no exception. Margarita is his mistress. When he first sees her, she's carrying daffodils and after he tells her he hates them, she throws them away. (She doesn't tell him to FO like I would have.) Also, she was going to kill herself, but then she falls in love with him at that VERY moment. She devotes herself to him, cooking for him, telling him he's a genius. Blah, blah, blah. Is this supposed to be romantic? This sounds like pure male fantasy. A young, hot girl to wait on you and tell you you're a genius? Please.

My reaction
I'm not a romantic, okay!

Anyway, when he decides to kill himself, she says she will too. (Of course!) But to save her, he runs to the mental hospital instead.

So, that's his story.

What Else...

Nikanor is in the mental hospital after being interrogated about the money. He dreams that he's in an auditorium full of men being shamed into giving up their "foreign money." I'm sure this is a dig at Russian authorities and is real hilarious.

The guy who had his head removed at the theatre is also in the hospital raving about his head.

Rimsky's hair turned white after the zombie incident.

More Jesus story.

What will Jesus do?

What will happen next? I guess we'll meet Margarita. More married men will hate their wives and get hot mistresses, probably.

Gobble! Gobble!

It's Thanksgiving weekend in Canada! I'm looking forward to my turkey and pumpkin pie. We've had perfect fall weather this year. Not too cold, not too windy. I've been able to take lots of fall photos of trees in full fall colour. I've gone on lots of walks and fully soaked in the autumnness that I hope will hold me over through the winter to come.

Since this is my weekend for relaxing and enjoying my family time, I think I'm going to stay off of social media for the rest of it. It's bonkers there right now. Twitter used to be full of book talk, but now it's mostly the US election. I try to stay out of other countries' politics, but...ick. That's all that needs to be said about that. I think I'll stick to Pinterest, Instagram, and do some crafting.

I'm reading The Master and Margarita for the readalong. Such a weird book. I read The Haunting of Maddy Clare this week. It was okay. I had some issues with it. I'll have a review up soon. I'm going to try to watch Ghostbusters tonight. I can't seem to stay awake past nine anymore.

Since I started working, my back is killing me. I think it's a combination of not getting enough exercise and sitting all day. I'm not used to it. If anyone has suggestions for easing the pain, I'll take them!

I keep thinking of things to blog about, but by the time I sit down to write I lose the will to blog. So, this is just a quick hello. Hello! And now goodbye. I'll see you all on the internet somewhere later.

The Master and Margarita Readalong, Part One: What Is Going On Here?

Alice is hosting The Master and Margarita Readalong. This is Part One, Chapters 1-8.

Let's just start this off with a gif.

Me during this week's reading
Never Talk to Strangers Who Claim to Have Met Jesus

It all starts with two men, an editor and a poet, talking about Jesus. For some reason, this gets the attention of a stranger who appears out of thin air. Although he is delighted that they are atheists, he launches into a long story about Jesus and Pontius Pilate which he claims is true. Jesus seems kind of hapless and Pilate has a headache. This is a true story because he was there!

The two men decide this guy is crazy... or a German spy. The editor runs to get the police but slips in oil and is decapitated by a trolley. The poet, overhearing some women speaking about the accident, recalls something the stranger said and believes he set up the events leading up to the accident. He tries to confront the stranger but he runs away with a bespectacled man and a giant black cat.

The poet runs around Moscow looking for the stranger, breaking into people's houses and swimming around the river with no pants on. He finds himself at the house of his literary club. He causes a scene and is hauled off to an asylum. Another poet accompanies him, but gets depressed after the first poet insults him.

What these people don't know is that the stranger is among them, as a member of the club (aka the pirate) and the doctor at the hospital. Everywhere the stranger goes chaos ensues. He even shows up in the apartment of the dead editor (with his giant talking cat) where his roommate is nursing a hangover. And bam! the roommate wakes up in another town.

I haven't mentioned any names because these Russians go by several. They have aliases and nicknames, and really similar names to each other. In the sixth chapter, Bezdomny (the poet) is referred to as Ivan and for a second I didn't know who he was. Also, who is important here? Neither the Master nor Margarita have shown up yet. So, should I even try to remember these other guys' names?

Unlike most of our Readalongs which are unintentionally silly, M&M is meant to be absurdist and funny. Satires are also supposed to be subversive. I feel like a lot of this is going over my head, probably because I am not living in the Soviet Union. Even though I grew up in the 80s and all anyone could ever talk about were the Russians, I don't think I had a good handle it, other than through movies, and Elton John's song Nikita. This is an interesting look at the USSR. I've read that it was censored (12%) when it was first published in 1966. It seems like that would be a hard job. What is serious and what is silly? I think you could read a lot into some parts, and not get anything out of others.

Anyway, in the seventh chapter we finally learn that the stranger is named Woland and he is a professor of black magic.

I am liking it so far. It's not a difficult read, like Crime and Punishment. It is weird though. I want to know more about that talking cat. Hopefully, I can get the names right by next week.

Number of margaritas so far: 0