Would You Get Married Here?: Black Rabbit Hall by Eve Chase

Black Rabbit Hall

Lorna is getting married. She's dragged her fiance to Cornwall to check out a new wedding venue: a dilapidated old estate called Pencraw Hall. The owner, Caroline Alton- a formidable old lady, has just opened up the place for events. It's drafty, dusty, and even has a tree growing up through the floor boards. Lorna's groom thinks it's a disaster, but something about the place calls out to Lorna. When she's offered a chance to stay a few days to explore the house, she takes the opportunity to check out the house also known as Black Rabbit Hall and its secret history.

Thirty years earlier, the Alton children spent happy childhood vacations at Black Rabbit Hall. They ran barefoot through the woods and along the beach, a departure from their London life. Their glamourous American mother and besotted father watched over them. Everyday was a holiday until tragedy came into their lives one Easter vacation. Afterwards, sadness hung over the family, bringing changes that would forever alter Black Rabbit Hall and the Alton family.

Black Rabbit Hall is a modern gothic romance, not quite Daphne duMaurier, not quite V.C. Andrews, but with elements of both. There is forbidden love, jealousy, death, a nasty villain, and secreeeeeets. The estate itself is a character, much like Manderley is in Rebecca. It has a history that draws people to it. The locals are wary of it. The owner is desperate to keep it, even though it seems past saving.

Not quite as creepy and far gone as Crimson Peak
The story slides between the first person account from Amber, one of the teen Alton twins, in the 1960s, and the third person of Lorna in the 1990s. They are young women with different backgrounds but similar heartaches. Amber has a huge weight on her shoulders in the form of her unruly twin Toby. Lorna uses her past as an excuse to distance herself from her very understanding fiance. Black Rabbit Hall might be the nail in the coffin of their relationship.

For the most part, I enjoyed Black Rabbit Hall. It wasn't completely unpredictable. I did feel like there was a lull somewhere in the middle and kind of forgot about it for a few days. I do have a few quibbles. I know the 1960s were a different time, but I thought it some of the events were caused by an extreme case of insensitivity. I'm not sure if it's believable or not. It's hard to get into without giving too much away, but it's something I'm still considering. I'd love another reader to talk about it with me. (I'm not talking about Caroline. She is the worst.)

Despite those feelings, I recommend Black Rabbit Hall if you are itching for a bit of gothic.

About the Audio: There are three narrators: Nathalie Buscombe, Katie Scarfe, and Cassandra Campbell. I had no idea there were 3 different women reading until now. Seriously. I couldn't tell you who read what part. The only thing I noticed was that I hated the American accent on Amber's mother during her sections. You can listen to a sample of Black Rabbit Hall on Soundcloud (careful it's an autoplay website). 

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

Black Rabbit Hall

Lazy Sunday Thoughts: See Ya, February! Don't Let the Door Hit You in the Rear!

February is officially over on Monday, but let's call it now. It's done.

I celebrated my birthday this week. I'm still here. Yay! Nothing spectacular happened. Just had a nice cake.

I finished Black Rabbit Hall by Eve Chase. Very Daphne duMaurier-like. I'll get into that more when I write my review. It had some gothic elements to it. I also watched Crimson Peak. That was Super Gothic: rotten old house, crazy family members, murder plots, heroine in peril, GHOSTS! Good stuff.

I've joined Litsy. (Like I need another app.) It's a little like Instagram for book lovers At the moment, it's Apple only. I'm Chrisbookarama there too.

I'm planning some posts for this week. Hopefully, I'll have a few up soon.

I don't have much else to say right now. I must get to writing posts! See you in a few.

Hairy Tales: Me, My Hair and I

I'm about to generalize but... Every woman has a hair story. When we were little someone tended it, as we grew up it became a symbol of who we are. I have had a number of bad haircuts and perms, and a bad experience with Sun-In. I've had short hair, Mall Bangs, home hair kit hi-lights, and "the Rachel." It's only recently that I've been happy with my hair, and I owe it all to my talented hairdresser. She's worth every penny.

Still me though
I could go on and on about my hair, but I won't.

Me, My Hair, and I edited by Elizabeth Benedict is a collection of essays from a wide range of women, some famous authors. Within are stories of women who've lost their hair, or shaved their heads. Women who fought with their mothers over hair, or fight with their daughters over hair.

It's not fun, whether you're the mom or kid

Political hair, sexy hair, religious hair. Hair, hair, hair, even hair down there.

Twenty-seven stories about hair. That's a lot of hair.

Despite the different cultural backgrounds of the writers, the stories tend to run along similar veins, and as a result they all kind of blended together. I guess that's telling in a way: we're all human, we have hair, we have issues with our hair. I did enjoy the essays while I was reading them, but I had to take time between them or I got bored. There is only so much you can read about hair before you've had enough. I admit that I don't have a lot of experience with essay collections, so maybe I was just overwhelmed.

I also had to pause to Google the writers to see what their hair looked like. They all had very nice hair.

Me, My Hair, and I is a good choice if you are curious about what other women think of their hair. The good thing about it is that you can pick it up when you are in the mood for it and put it away when you are not. No big deal.

If you want to see some more great hair, check out The Cut's 100 Years of Beauty series. It's impressive!

Me, My Hair, and I: Twenty-seven Women Untangle an Obsession

Lazy Sunday Thoughts: BBAW Hangover

Book Blogger Appreciation Week is done and I already miss it. I spent a lot of time online this week, even though I was in the middle of Infomagical. What the heck is that? It's a 5 day project to curb information overload hosted by the podcast Note to Self. I took it on as part of my pledge to become more efficient. It wasn't exactly the best time to start. I'll probably talk more about that in another post.

BBAW was fun and it made me want to connect more with other bloggers. I'm going to try to make that a part of my 2016 plan.

Other than that, this week has been light on reading. I'm listening to Black Rabbit Hall. So far it's going okay. I started knitting mittens. I really like the pattern. It's not as hard as I thought it would be. I attempted organizing my 2015 photos for a family album. I have so many photos. It's nice to see just how much we did last year (a lot), but narrowing down photos for an album is tough.

Here at the house, we decluttered some more and got rid of another carload. Now I want to paint my living room. Not sure what colour. As soon as I complete a project, I think of seven more! I'm good at making work for myself.

The snow is disappearing! I don't mind the rain since it's melting the snow. Maybe spring is coming?

I'm taking part in Julianne from Outlandish Lit's Month Long Weirdathon. I'm going to take part in a battle with some mystery person defending what I think is the weirdest book. I'm not going to tell you what book, just that I have reviewed it and I talk about it quite a bit. Maybe I'll finally get around to reading Clockwork Orange.

That was my week! How was your week?

Chill Out, Man- Blogger Burnout: A #BBAW Post

It's almost over. Today is the last day of Book Blogger Appreciation Week. How was your week? Did you meet new bloggers? Do you feel refreshed? I most definitely feel renewed, which coincidentally is the topic of today's prompt.
How do you stay sane, grounded, and generally happy in your blogging?

Not long ago I was feeling pretty blah about blogging. I felt that the blogging world had gotten so big and my place was very small. I didn't recognize many people in the book bloggiverse. Some of my blogging friends had disappeared or I had lost touch with their blogs. (I blame Google Reader.) Even during other, larger book blogging events I felt lost.

The Book Blogger Appreciation Week arrived and it was like a reunion. It's made me so happy to get back in touch with the old gang while finding new bloggers with similar interests.

I've written about blogger burnout before. I think most of us have been there. It can overwhelm bloggers. It can lead to reckless behaviour- one blogger felt she had to plagiarize posts to keep up with her demanding blog. It ruined her reputation, she could never really recover, and quit blogging not long after. No one wants to end their blogging career this way!

Luckily, I'm not in the position of "most popular blogger" and feel outside pressure to keep churning out new content. All my pressure is internal. Every once in awhile I have to check myself. Remind myself that I do this for fun. I've been writing about books in some format for over a decade. Obviously it's something I would do with or without a blog. I do this thing for me.

So, what do I do?

I Do What I Want

For some people, keeping to a strict schedule works for them. It does not for me. I keep trying to stick to some kind of schedule and it never works. I'm much happier sitting down to write when the feeling strikes. I sit down at the computer and purge my mind for an hour and feel all better. Trying to force myself to write or come up with ideas has never been successful for me. I'm a fly by the seat of my pants blogger, which is weird because I am the total opposite in real life.

If I start a feature on the blog and I end up not enjoying it, I stop doing it. I'm sure your readers will be okay with it, if you do the same...eventually. No one wants to read something you forced yourself to write.

Sometimes I don't even write about books. *Gasp* I write about cooking, or my other hobbies. Believe it or not, I like doing things besides reading. Why not share my enthusiasm for those things too? In other words, keep it simple. Don't overthink blogging. No one is going to take away your book blogging license if you write about your pets or even have a few weeks not posting anything at all.

I Try Something New

I had so much fun in December when I participated in A Month of Faves. It was my first time and because of this I ended up having a lot of ideas for posts. It was something new to me. The topics weren't always book related. When you've been blogging about the same thing for years, you find you're saying the same kind of things over and over. It can get boring. If you feel burnt out, try something new. Get involved with an event you've never done before, sign up for a readalong (those are fun), find new blogs to read.

Just have a good time!

In my opinion, book blogging should be fun. It should help you connect with other readers. Don't make it a chore. Have fun!

Blame the Bloggers: A #BBAW Post

Hey! Welcome back to my BBAW posts! I skipped yesterday because I suck at interviews and know my limitations. Anyway, onto today

Tell us all about the book or books you’ve read because of a book blogger and be sure to sure to spread the blame around.

BBB (Before Book Blogging) I would wander around bookstores, completely overwhelmed by the choices, and leave empty handed. Once I began book blogging, everything changed.

It might come down to that

I found people with similar tastes and valued their opinions. If they liked something, I was at least willing to try it. And maybe what they hated about a book I would love. (You never know!) I "discovered" so many authors I wouldn't have otherwise.

One of the first for me was Georgette Heyer. I had read everything Austen wrote and wanted more. I can't remember how I came to find out about Heyer, but I know it was through blogging. Here was a new, huge category of the Regency novel, with Heyer leading the pack. The number of Regency novels I can now find are infinite.

It wasn't long before I was finding new to me authors to add to my TBR catalogue: Colleen Gleason, Neil Gaiman, Sarah Waters. (Chris, Amanda, and Kelly were fans) I never would have even heard of them if not for blogging.

I also discovered that bloggers had favorite publishing houses. The very boutique woman-centric Persephone Books was popular among my crowd (Bookfool is a superfan). The books are gorgeous too! Through their catalogue, which I used to get delivered to my house, I found Dorothy Whipple's Someone at a Distance. So good! Other popular publishers with bloggers, New York Review of Books gave me Tove Jansson and Stefan Zweig, while Quirk Books lead me to Horrorstor and Bedbugs.

Then there were the genres. Not in a million years would I have tried Young Adult on my own. Bloggers couldn't stop talking about this little book. You might have heard of it: The Hunger Games. I hear it went on to do quite well!

French Milk, beloved by so many book bloggers, was my first graphic novel. I never thought a graphic novel could be for me. And because of book bloggers I decided to give audiobooks a try too.

It's true, book bloggers have opened up a whole world of books and ways of reading I never would have tried on my own! My TBR list keeps on growing. It will probably outlive me!

Super Book Blogger Superlatives! #BBAW

During Book Blogger Appreciation Week, we were asked to make our own customized Book Blogger Appreciation Superlatives. This is hard because I could do this all day for the book bloggers I know. I'm going to keep it to a reasonable five.

Michelle from That's What She Read is my oldest online book friend and she is a badass blogger. She says what thinks. Don't mess with Michelle!

Michelle also fights vampires on the weekend

Trish of Love, Laughter, and a Touch of Insanity is the craftiest blogger I know. She makes holiday crafts, quilts, and hosts the Pin It and Do It Challenge. She does all the things!

If Trish was an elf

Kathy from the Bermuda Onion comments like a boss. You put up a post and she is on it!

Cathy on the computer. It's the only explanation

Jenny from Reading the End's gif game is on point. She always has the perfect gif for every post. How does she do it? It's a mystery. Cheers to you Jenny!

I think Jenny would appreciate this one

Andi and Heather tie for this one. This year they've taken on every big book blogger event: BBAW, RIP Challenge, Read-Alongs, and they run the Estella Society. Plus, they have jobs and families. How do they fit it all in? They are super heroes (or maybe robots).

How I imagine a meeting between these two goes
I wish I could give you all a BBAW Superlative. How about Best Blog Community! Yay!

Return of BBAW! Day 1: Hello...It Me!

Hello, Book Blogger Appreciation Week People! If this is your first time to my blog, welcome! I'm Chris, this is Chrisbookarama. I've been a book blogger for 9 years. Chrisbookarama is where I discuss the books I've been reading as well as other topics. You can find me other places on the web, check out the icons on the right.

Let's start this week of Book Blogger Appreciation by answering today's prompt.

Day 1 Introduce yourself by telling us about five books that represent you as a person or your interests/lifestyle.

This was a tough question. In fact, Memory (@xicanti) and I were scratching our heads over it on Twitter. The wonderful Anastasia (@heretherebebks) piped in with a book suggestion and that got the ball rolling.

  • The Yellow Wallpaper by Charlotte Perkins Gilman. Anastasia said she thought I was a classic feminist book like this one. I really liked that thought! Plus The Yellow Wallpaper is weird and creepy and I love that kind of book. They feature regularly on the blog. Thanks, Anastasia!

  • The Grey Woman by Elizabeth Gaskell. I loved this book when I found it. A story about a young bride who is rescued from doom by a strong older woman. Also, there are disguises! I love a book where a woman is in disguise. That is my jam!

  • Bossypants by Tina Fey. No, I am not a successful writer/comedienne. I wish I was as funny as Tina Fey. I try to be funny though. Mostly, I relate to the title. I am a bossypants.

  • Home to Woefield by Susan Juby. The protagonist of Home to Woefield has aspirations of being a farmer. She doesn't give up, even when it appears to she might fail. Every spring I set up my little backyard garden with hopes of growing big, fat tomatoes and giant pumpkins. I haven't grown even one tiny pumpkin. I have grown a handful of tiny tomatoes. I know I'm going to try again this spring. It's what I do.

Well, those are the books I think represent me. I hope it makes sense! Happy BBAW!

My Favorite Romance: The Blue Castle

The Blue Castle is my favorite romance and one of my favorite books ever. It's one of L.M. Montgomery's grown up stories. No spunky red head orphans here.

Spinster Valancy Stirling leaves her overbearing family to live the life she's always wanted to live- even though she only has a small amount of that life left. By freeing herself from family expectations, Valancy opens herself up to new opportunities, including love. She finds a kindred spirit in Barney Snaith.

I reviewed The Blue Castle way back in 2010. I raved about it then. I still love it. It's time for a reread.

The Blue Castle suffers from some of the most godawful covers I've ever seen though. I mean, look at this.

What is even happening here? It looks like Robin Hood is attempting stand up CPR on that woman.

And this one...from 2014! It's from Sourcebooks. Come on, guys, I expected better from you.

Buy it anyway. It's excellent!

Here We Go Again: Spark Joy

Spark Joy

Marie Kondo follows up The Life Changing Art of Tidying Up with the illustrated guide Spark Joy. I found Spark Joy to be more helpful than the first book. It's still filled with some woo-woo ideas about what makes inanimate objects happy, but also some practical advice.

What frustrated me about Life Changing Art was how she glossed over the category komono (miscellaneous). Other than clothes, papers, books, photos, and sentimental objects, everything else falls into this category. That's a pretty broad category! Spark Joy gives more detail on how to tackle things like dishes, bathroom items, electronics and the like. She also provides ideas about how to store all the things that "spark joy." I actually rearranged my closet with these ideas in mind. There are also illustrations for her folding method.

I'm not sure if Marie Kondo was addressing some criticism, but she does seem to emphasize that she doesn't want people to throw out everything they own. Even though this seems to be her own goal. There is some cringe worthy examples from her own life, however.

"I have bid farewell, at least temporarily, to countless things that didn't bring me joy and, to be frank, the absence of a discarded item never caused a catastrophe. There is always something in the house that would serve as a substitute.
...After discarding a hammer because the handle was worn out, I used my frying pan to pound in any nails."

Nooooooo! This would be a divorce worthy offense in my house. Using my frying pan, an expensive wedding present, as a hammer? No. Lady, buy the right damn tool for the job.

I think if you are Konmari'ing your life, Spark Joy would be a nice addition to your decluttering library. If you find Marie Kondo a little much, maybe you could try Claire Zulkey's recommendations instead.

Spark Joy: An Illustrated Master Class on the Art of Organizing and Tidying Up

5 Love Stories for the Unromantic

5 love stories for the unromantic

I'm not known for being a romantic. I roll my eyes at Facebook declarations of love on Valentine's Day and send my husband sarcastic Some Ecards in lieu of my own.

Don't get me wrong, I do believe in romance. Romance for me is my husband filling my gas tank (*notaeuphemism*) or fixing my computer. I'm not a jewellery and flowers girl.

Romance novels can be fun and I enjoy them from time to time, but love stories aren't just stories that have passionate kisses on the deck of a ship. Love stories don't even have to be about romantic love. I've complied a list of  5 somewhat unconventional love stories for this upcoming Valentine's Day.

Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery. Orphan Anne finds love in an unlikely place: the home of two elderly siblings. They make an odd but loving family. Anne also falls in love with Avonlea, and finally finds a place to call home. 

Barks and Purrs by Colette. People have a special relationship with their pets, but what do pets feel? Barks and Purrs is told from Toby-Dog and Kiki the Demure's point of view. While Kiki might be standoffish, Toby is all love: "I love—Her and Him devotedly, with a love that lifts me up to them."

H Is for Hawk by Helen MacDonald. After Helen MacDonald lost her father, she bought herself a hawk to train. The hawk becomes her whole world.

Lady Into Fox by David Garnett. A man stays devoted to his wife, even after she suddenly turns into a fox.

Relish: My Life in the Kitchen by Lucy Knisley. Lucy grew up in a family that loved to cook and eat. They loved to travel the world, trying different dishes. Relish is Lucy's love letter to food.

    Have you read any unconventional love stories?  

    She Stopped Eating Meat, What Happened Next Will Shock You: The Vegetarian

    The Vegetarian

    Okay, I had to try the click baiting title, because it is appropriate for this book.

    The Vegetarian by Han Kang is a book told in three parts. In the first, Yeong-hye suddenly stops eating meat after having a disturbing dream. Her husband is concerned about this, not about Yeong-hye, but how her behaviour reflects upon him. Her family is also embarrassed by her refusal to eat meat, especially as she becomes more and more withdrawn from reality. She stops sleeping, even speaking less and less over time. Things come to a head during a family gathering.

    The second part is told from Yeong-hye's brother-in-law's point of view. He becomes sexually obsessed with her after learning about a birthmark she has. He tries to incorporate her into his "art."

    Finally, Yeong-hye's sister is left to deal with the aftermath of the previous events. She struggles with feelings of guilt. As Yeong-hye's mental state deteriorates, she tries to make the right decisions involving her sister's health. What is right in this case? Is there any help for her?

    This isn't simply the story of a woman who becomes a vegetarian. She didn't do it after reading GOOP. She didn't have pangs of conscience for farm animals. The vegetarianism is just the tip of the iceberg. This is an unconscious protest. In a way, The Vegetarian reminded me of an updated female Bartleby the Scrivener. In Melville's tale, Bartleby stops behaving the way society expects and withdraws from the world. He stops working and replies, "I would prefer not to" when asked to do anything. This becomes frustrating to those around him. Yeong-hye also doesn't do what society expects. She's expected to obey: her husband, her father, all of her society. When she refuses because she "had a dream" (her "I would prefer not to"), it throws her family into confusion.

    The men in The Vegetarian are the worst examples of male privilege. Yeong-hye is an object. Her father treated her cruelly growing up, her husband treats her at best like a maid; his behaviour becomes increasingly disgusting. Her brother-in-law uses her for his own ends without taking into consideration her fragile metal state or the fact that she's his sister-in-law. Even the male doctor in the third section is angry that Yeong-hye won't meet his expectations.

    It's interesting that the story of Yeong-hye is told through the eyes of people around her. We see very little of her personality. It's as if she has none. When she does speak in brief interludes, it's through images and dreams.

    The Vegetarian isn't for everyone. There is some violent content and imagery- some of it sexual. There were several parts where I wondered if I would make it through to the end. I am glad to have read it. I've been thinking about it since I finished it. It sure was disturbing though.

    About the Audio: Most of the audio is narrated by Stephen Park. Small sections (Yeong-hye's voice) are narrated by Janet Song. It's a short production at just over 5 hours. 

    Translation by  Deborah Smith.

    My thanks to Penguin Random House Audio for the review copy. All opinions are my own.

    The Vegetarian

    My Thoughts on I Quit Sugar by Sarah Wilson

    I Quit Sugar

    I've never been into fad diets. They never seem sustainable to me. I've always believed that if you eat a balanced diet and don't overindulge too often, you'll be okay. I found out that maybe I wasn't doing so good.

    I started tracking my eating habits a few years ago with an app called My Fitness Pal. I couldn't believe how much sugar I ate in a day. There is so much hidden sugar in everything. I set out to cut it back this past January. Not for any particular reason, no one told me I had to, but I wanted to give it a try and see if I could at least reduce the amount a day.

    There are lots of blogs and books out there about getting off of sugar. I picked Sarah Wilson's book I Quit Sugar because I could get it from the library. Not for any other reason. I started my sugar-free experiment in January and while I'm doing okay-ish, I'm getting a bit bored. Every morning it's an omelette and a spinach salad for lunch. What I need are recipes.

    Before she gets to the recipes in her book, she discusses how she quit sugar. She had some health issues and thought sugar was the culprit. Like me, Sarah decided to experiment with cutting out sugar and advises others to do the same. Her method is an 8 week program: a week to cut back, a detox (no fruit), and then a gradual adding of sweetness back into your diet.

    She makes a lot of scientific claims, but doesn't back it up with studies. Show me the science! at times she contradicts herself, so it can be hard to follow her advice. Anyway, I'm not planning on cutting out all sugar (psst...I had a small piece of fudge last night). I just want to be more aware and have snack and meal alternatives.

    Which brings me to the recipes...

    Breakfast: More eggs. Eggs everywhere! Though I have to admit, they are pretty filling. There were a couple of other alternatives here: chia puddings and parfaits, granola. There are some pancake recipes too.

    Smoothies: A bunch a smoothie recipes I haven't tried yet.

    Meals: Lots of soups.

    Snacks: The famous kale chip, and a cracker that sounds like bird food.

    Desserts: Some cream or cheese based desserts. Also Raspberries Ripple, a frozen raspberry concoction. Note: She uses brown rice syrup as a sweetener. I don't know why this is so special. I had to hunt all over town for it. I ended up finding it at Bulk Barn.

    Ingredients. Some of the ingredients were challenging to find (see the brown rice syrup comment) and I hope I will end up using the stuff. Some of it wasn't cheap.

    Coconut in Everything If she can find a way to cram coconut in something, she will. Coconut oil, raw coconut, flakes, and flour.

    Sprouted nuts? Every time nuts come up, she wants them "sprouted" aka soaked. She gives some blah-blah-blah about it that sounds like BS to me. I looked this up and the supposed benefits are so few that it doesn't seem worth the effort.

    In the end, this book has some good pointers on curbing cravings, a couple of recipes that aren't too bad, and some ideas that should be taken with a grain of salt.

    I did get a new granola recipe out of it.

    I Quit Sugar