Nostalgia or Childhood Scars: Watership Down

I've read several news stories that Richard Adams's Watership Down will be adapted for film once again. This time for Netflix audiences. This news takes me back to my 80's childhood. My family didn't have cable, but we had three channels, one in French, including the CBC.

Every year Watership Down appeared on our TV as part of the CBC schedule. It's been years since I've seen the movie. What I remember was a brutal realism mixed with rabbits trippin' out while in the throes of death as the Black Rabbit took them off to rabbit heaven.

Has there ever been anything like Watership Down since it was released in 1978? I can't think of anything quite as disturbing marketed to children (I think The Secret of NIMH comes close). If you know of something, go ahead and voice your opinion in the comments.

As a kid, I didn't understand half of what was happening. The rabbits died horrible deaths and that was frightening, but whatever else was going on went over my head. I know that it still affected me. The rabbits were heroic and not all of them made it to the end and the safe haven they were searching for. This was a revelation to young me that even happy endings can have sadness mixed in. Maybe it's the reason why I like an ambiguous ending now.

I finally read the book in 2009. It was such a moving story. Just rereading my review makes me feel a bit emotional. Maybe a reread is in order.

The new film's producers say that this version won't be as violent as the 1978 version. I'm a mom myself now, and I have been known to skim over the gore in fairy tales when reading to my daughter when she was little. I'm not sure how I feel about this kinder-gentler version of Watership Down right now. It could be a good thing, if it allows squeamish parents to share this beautiful adventure story with their kids. I don't think it could be remade today if it kept all the gore of the first film. Even though nature is brutal, as watchers of an Eagle Cam found out this week, we don't always want it in our faces.

What do you think of this news? Have you read Watership Down? Seen the movie? Will you watch the remake? 

Attention Seestras: What We Talk About When We Talk About Clone Club

What We Talk About When We Talk About Clone Club

Orphan Black is one of my favorite shows on television right now. It taps into my fascination with genetics. But how much of it is grounded in reality? According to Gregory E Pence, quite a bit of it!

What We Talk About When We Talk About Clone Club discusses the real science behind the sci-fi drama. It looks at how the genetically identical women can vary in personality, temperament, and sexuality. The book delves into the literary illusions within the show, the history of genetic research and eugenics, the ethics of cloning a human. It also explores personal identity among genetically identical people.

The author is a bioethics expert who does not oppose the cloning of humans. I found his view point interesting. The arguments against it seem to say a lot about humanity. Basically, people suck. Regular made humans would look at clones as experiments, slaves, freaks, if past history is anything to go by. If Orphan Black has shown us anything, it's that clones are people too, and shouldn't be treated as less than human.

The science of Orphan Black is sound, with a few exceptions- human cloning hasn't happened yet, the Neolutionists genetic modification is implausible. It references genetic research's dark history to build plot. Orphan Black is a worst case scenario example of what science can do with cloning.

There is no doubt Dr Pence is a Orphan Black superfan. Talk About Clone Club is fan (non) fiction. He knows this show inside and out. He calls the clone characters "seestras." He even has some suggestions for future episodes.

I found What We Talk About When We Talk About Clone Club to be an easy to understand and interesting book. I did think he could have left out some of his examples the references to famous people as clones. There were a lot of them. "If X were cloned, their clone would be expected to be Y." Also, the whole book is a spoiler for seasons 1 through 3. So, catch up on your viewing before reading it!

I would recommend this to any Orphan Black fan who is interested in the science behind the show.

Thanks to the publisher for the review copy. All opinions are my own.

The Enchanted by Rene Denfeld (Not What I Was Expecting)

As a rule, I avoid anything to do with prisons. I don't read books about prison, I don't watch movies or shows about prison (including Orange Is the New Black). They are places full of evil and despair.

I was tricked, TRICKED I tell you, into reading The Enchanted. It was a Kobo Daily Deal. I looked at the cover with the pretty horses and the title suggesting fairy tales and princesses and thought I might have a magical time. I was so wrooooong!

So not about princesses. About the Worst Prison Ever.

The plot is mostly about an investigator trying to keep a man from being executed. It's told from the omnipresent point of view of another prisoner on death row. There are some other plots but this is the main one.

Some of the things I liked:

  • It's beautifully written. If you want to read a soul crushing novel about death row, The Enchanted is it. 
  • The horrible crimes of the main prisoners, the protagonists, are mostly hinted at. There are no gory details about these specific crimes, which I think was on purpose. The reader would have a hard time sympathizing otherwise.
  • There is a kinda-sorta happyish ending.

Some of the things I didn't like:

  • The brutal childhoods of so many characters.
  • Not one character escapes having some terrible thing happen to them.

There is a lot of stuff here. The lives of the prisoners were bleak before they committed their crimes. They suffered from terrible childhoods, mental illness, and poverty. They were people who were the most vulnerable. Then they did the worst things a human could do which ended with them waiting for death in the prison, where more terrible things kept happening to them. The Enchanted asks a number of impossible to answer questions. It forces you to think about what you may not want to imagine.

The Enchanted will make you feel a lot of things, not all of them good. Luckily, it's short so you will not have to endure a Cutting for Stone situation. Would I recommend it? I would but with caveats: it is violent, children are harmed. Read at your own risk, and maybe have a funny book ready for later. 

The Enchanted

Post Readathon Thoughts

First. let's get the post-readathon survey out of the way.

  • Which hour was most daunting for you? I got to Hour 16 and that was it for me. 
  • Could you list a few high-interest books that you think could keep a Reader engaged for next year? Of the books I read this time? Pretty Is would be a good one
  • Do you have any suggestions for how to improve the Read-a-thon next season? For me personally, pick better books!
  • What do you think worked really well in this year’s Read-a-thon? I liked all the hype on Twitter the week leading up to Saturday. That got people pumped!
  • How many books did you read? One full book. Yep.
  • What were the names of the books you read? See below.
  • Which book did you enjoy most? Pretty Is
  • Which did you enjoy least? The one book I finished. It was a bummer: The Enchanted. 
  • How likely are you to participate in the Read-a-thon again? What role would you be likely to take next time? The date for the next Read-a-thon might be a problem for me. October is a hard month. There is a lot going on. 

My Stats

The Enchanted 237 pages (finished)
The Drunken Botanist (27%) 152 pages
Pretty Is (about 70% during Readathon. I finished it Sunday.) approximately 224 pages (audio)
Lumberjanes #11 and #12 58 pages
The Honey Month 16 pages

Total:    687 pages

So, although I read only one complete book, all totaled I read 687 pages.


I'm resigned to the fact that I am not a fast reader. Nothing makes that clearer than the Readathon. Other people's stats are in the thousands and all I can manage is a few hundred.

I've complained in the past that the Readathon isn't as cozy as the first few Readathons when the group was small, under 100, and everyone could visit each other's blogs. I've let go of that nostalgia. There were just under 2000 participants this time. Cozy it is not! But it is pretty impressive and there is something to be said for seeing #readathon trending on Twitter. Twitter is the place to be, if you want to feel like a part of the Readathon. Not everyone is going to be happy about that, but that's how it is.

I didn't really participate in the mini-challenges, though I did check them out. They take a lot of time, and I needed that time to read. I'm not interested in the prizes. Other Readathons I've done mini-challenges but I wasn't feeling inclined to do so this time.

I do like checking out the official blog every hour though. That makes me feel connected. I also like seeing what people are posting on Instagram. (Hint: lots of snacks.)

I felt pretty moody this time. It might have been due to my book selection. I picked those books based on the page count or how quickly I thought I could read them. The Enchanted is short, but it really bummed me out and that set the tone for the day. I think I could have engaged with people on Twitter more than I did too. Next time I will be sure to pick peppier books.

As always, the organizers and volunteers take on an almost impossible task. I appreciate all that they do to keep the Readathon going. It's become such an important event for so many book bloggers (me included). I don't know how they do it, but they always do! A big thank you to all of them!

Start Up! #Readathon (Update)

It's almost Readathon time. I'm up a bit earlier to get ready, debating whether I should have a run now or during Readathon. Then I need to put the coffee on and get started!

But first, I must answer the Pre-Readathon survey questions:

1) What fine part of the world are you reading from today?
As always, you'll find me here in my living room in cloudy Nova Scotia, Canada.

2) Which book in your stack are you most looking forward to?
The Humans is supposed to be really good.

3) Which snack are you most looking forward to?
I confess I already started snacking on them: lemon squares. I love them so!

4) Tell us a little something about yourself!
I've book blogging here at Chrisbookarama for over nine years. 

5) If you participated in the last read-a-thon, what’s one thing you’ll do different today?
I've been participating in Dewey's Readathon since the first one. It's a big part of my book blogging experience. I always just relax and have a good time. I plan to do the same today!

See you all here later- or on Twitter @Chrisbookarama!

Hour 7:

I finished one book (The Enchanted). I have one audiobook on the go: Pretty Is. I took a run while listening to it. 

Snacks: Lemon Squares and London Fog Latte (homemade). Breakfast: French toast and bacon. 

Hour 12:

1. What are you reading right now?
I've been listening to Pretty Is while knitting.  I'm also starting The Drunken Botanist.

2. How many books have you read so far?
Three: One novel and two comics.

3. What book are you most looking forward to for the second half of the Read-a-thon?
I'm hoping The Drunken Botanist will be fun.

4. Have you had many interruptions? How did you deal with those?
Not many interruptions but I did have a glass of wine and had to have a nap. 

5. What surprises you most about the Read-a-thon, so far?
No surprises but I'm having a hard time settling into a book.

Finished Books:

The Enchanted. Guess what? This is not a fairy tale. It is about PRISON! I know! Bad choice for today. Grim stuff. 237 pages

Lumberjanes #11 and #12 Need something light and fun after that brutal read from this afternoon.


Readathon time!

Saturday is Dewey's 24 Hour Readathon. I'm so glad it's this weekend. I have no plans and I think it's supposed to rain so I won't feel guilty about it.

I've done the Readathon so many times now, though I'm a committed Casual Readathon-er. I can't even remember how many I've done now. I have a pretty good list of books to choose from this time around. These are all ebooks or audiobooks. I didn't plan it that way. It just happened. These books all seem to be short and (hopefully) engaging reads.

April 2016 Readathon List

  • The Honey Month is a short story at 73 pages. Good for when I want to feel I've accomplished something.
  • The Enchanted looks interesting.
  • The Drunken Botanist is a boozy non-fiction pick.
  • The Humans seems pretty weird.
  • Agnostic is a non-fiction audiobook
  • Pretty Is is a mystery and an audiobook for when my eyes need a break.
I have some comics- Lumberjanes and We Stand On Guard- on the list too. I may add to this list yet. I have a shelf on Goodreads for the Readathon if you want to have a look. 

I will be getting my snacks ready Friday. Plus I have a fresh box of Chai Tea waiting for Saturday. 

I'll be hanging out on Twitter during the day. You can find me as @Chrisbookarama
Hope to see you there!

The Five Phases of Being Declined

Five Phases of Being Declined

I don't make many requests on Netgalley, but when I do I always seem to ask for that one book that is nearly impossible to get. Often my request is declined. This shouldn't be a surprise to me by now, but somehow it is. I still go through the Five Phases of Being Declined.


There it is that email from Netgalley. At this point it's like Schrodinger's Cat. Is it an approval or denial? Only one way to find out. As you scan the email, the words finally sink in:

You recently requested to view a title from NetGalley's Public Catalog. Unfortunately, the publisher has declined to allow access to the title at this time.


Wait, you say. They denied ME! But I have such an awesome profile page, with stats and everything. Also, don't they know how much I wanted it?


Then you think about maybe tweaking your profile and resending the request- which you do not actually do. You think about your blogging contacts. Is there someone you can pester on Twitter? Okay, maybe that's not such a good plan.


Then you cry.


Finally, you accept that you won't be reading that hot new book first. You won't be able to put it on your "Currently Reading" shelf on Goodreads months before everyone else. But then you realize you can buy it when it comes out. At least that's something, right?

Lazy Sunday Random Thoughts Are Back

Hello! I think it's been some time since I wrote a Sunday random post. I guess today is a good day to ramble again.

I've been doing a lot of knitting lately. I'm working on a pair of socks, well one sock so far anyway. It's going okay, but it takes so long. I'm trying out some new audiobooks while I'm squinting at tiny stitches.

I gave the audio version of The Wander Society a listen, but it's not working for me. From what I understand now it's a very visual book and it doesn't work well in this format. At least not for me. I am looking forward to Agnostic by Lesley Hazleton. I hope I have better luck there.

I have been listening to a bunch of podcasts too. I'm enjoying The Sporkful and Judge John Hodgeman.

I read We Should All Be Feminists yesterday. It's so good. I just wish it were longer.

Knitting with We Should All Be Feminists

Speaking of feminists, have you read Doing Decimal's post Do Female Bloggers Have an Obligation to Promote Feminism?  I read it but didn't comment because I'm not sure I'd have anything important to add to the comments and I'm still trying to work out my thoughts about it. Obligation is a strong word, and I don't think anyone should feel obligated to promote anything when blogging. I know I tend to read more books by women, but maybe that's because I like female authors. I won't not read or review a book because a man wrote it if it's a book I want to read.

I am trying to be a more worldly reader. For every American book I read (because that country dominated my reading last year), I'm reading a book from an author from somewhere else in the world. So far I've read books from authors in India, Korea, Japan, Italy, Sweden, Nigeria, Britain, Australia, and Canada.

In other news, I'm looking forward to new TV! Outlander season 2 starts here tonight. Orphan Black's new shows start this week and The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt second season will be available on Netflix on Friday. Yay!

That's all the randomness I have in me today. What about you? What is one random thought you want to share this Sunday? 

A Singular and Whimsical Problem For Two Lady Detectives

Thoughts on A Singular and Whimsical Problem

A Singular and Whimsical Problem is a novella that was free on Kobo a couple of weeks ago. I know Rachel McMillan from the Twitters. I kind of clued in a little while ago that she's been writing Edwardian mysteries when I saw her tweets about them. I was curious but like most things in my life it slipped my mind. When I saw this companion novella to her novel A Bachelor Girl's Guide to Murder was being given away, I thought it was finally time to give her writing a try.

Our two intrepid lady detectives, Jem Watts and Merinda Herringford, are bachelor ladies living together in the City of Toronto. This was my first experience with them both and I learned that they are appreciated by at least two members of the police and press who help them out: Jasper Forth and Ray DeLuca. They're methods are based on the works of Sherlock Holmes. Women, especially poor women, seek them out to solve their problems.

In A Singular and Whimsical Problem, the ladies have three separate cases to solve: a young suffragette missing from St Jerome's Home Reformatory for Incorrigible Girls, a shipping magnate's wife's missing cat, and the mysterious comings and goings of a waitress's sister. These cases appear to have no connection, but as the ladies find out, even small cases lead to big breaks.

This was cute and quick. Jem and Merinda get into hijinks with their sneaking around Toronto, sometimes in disguises. Of course, they solve the mysteries and just in time for Christmas. Yes, it's a Christmas novella, but the season doesn't feature heavily so it's fine that it's now April.

At only 54 pages, A Singular and Whimsical Problem is a pleasant introduction to the Herringford and Watts series. I'm looking forward to reading more.

A Singular and Whimsical Problem (Herringford and Watts Mysteries #.5)

Pinteresting: My Most Pinned Blog Posts

My Most Popular Posts on Pinterest by Chrisbookarama

If you own a blog, here's an interesting experiment for you. Type in your address bar.
Replace the uppercase text with your blog's url. This will show you what's been pinned from your blog to Pinterest. Now you can see what your most "pinnable" posts are. 

My most popular posts are this one for Virtual Advent 2011 and a recipe for biscuits from 2010. Pinterest wasn't as big as it is now and I was definitely not thinking about making my posts Pinterest Worthy. Seeing that these posts were being pinned a lot made me think I should give my images on those pages a facelift. At least in the future when they get pinned, they'll look good and have my blog address on the photos. 

I also thought it would be a nice idea to repost them both in one post. If you missed them the first time around, here they are again. 

I've seen these decoupaged glass Christmas balls on Pinterest but didn't find any instructions so I came up with my own. It's pretty simple. You can give it a try too! Warning: You will get sticky and covered in glitter. Here's what I did.

First, the supplies needed:
  • Glass (or plastic) Christmas balls 
  • An old book or papers (an old copy of A Christmas Carol or music sheets would be nice. I used a French book since anything French is très chic)
  • Mod Podge
  • Glitter (I used Martha Stewart, sparingly because it's expensive)
  • Clean plastic containers (raid the recycle bin)
  • Foam brushes
  • Ribbon or string

The instructions:

Cover any surface you don't want glitterified. Cut a few pages of a book into strips, 1/2 inch by 1 inch approximately. Remove hanger from ball. Squirt some Mod Podge into a plastic container.

Using a strip at a time, brush Mod Podge onto one side of paper. Apply to ball and work your way around the surface making sure to cover the ball completely. Let dry.

Place the hanger back on the ball and attach a temporary ribbon or string for hanging. Cover whole surface of ball with a layer of Mod Podge. Sprinkle glitter over ball with container underneath to catch excess.

Hang the ball somewhere safe until the glue is completely dry (probably overnight). 

Et violà! A sparkly, bookish ornament for your tree!

Red Fife Biscuits

1 cup all purpose flour
1 cup Red Fife flour (or whole wheat)
4 tsp baking powder
1 Tbsp organic cane sugar (or white sugar)
3/4 tsp salt
1/4 cup butter (cold, cut into pieces)
1 cup milk

Combine your dry ingredients. Cut in butter until mixture resembles coarse meal. Stir in milk until combined. Turn dough out onto floured surface and knead a few times (about 10). Roll out until dough is approx 3/4 inches thick. Cut out biscuits with a cutter or overturned glass. Bake about 10 mins until golden brown.

They are best eaten warm with butter and jam. Yummy!

She's No Angel: Jane Steele by Lyndsay Faye

Chrisbookarama Review of audiobook Jane Steele

Did you ever wonder how Jane Eyre's life would have turned out if she took to murdering all the people who wronged her? No? I know I thought about it a few times as I read Jane Eyre. Those people were the worst. A few could have made Jane's life easier by falling down a well.

With a little push
Jane Steele read Jane Eyre, loved it, then decided to write her own memoir. She saw that there were similarities between their stories, with one huge exception: Jane Steele is a killer.

This Jane is also an orphan housed by a jealous relative. Jane's first murder is more of an accident, really. She escapes punishment by getting shipped off to a London boarding school that makes Lowood look like Hogwarts. Her second murder is much more intentional and she finds herself hiding in the low places of London. From there, she commits a succession of murders until she sees an advertisement in the papers. The new owner of her childhood home is looking for a governess. Jane believes the estate is hers and she lost it once she disappeared into the bowels of London. Now she sees a way back.

It's not as easy as dumping a body into the Thames this time though. Jane is drawn to the new owner Charles Thornfield*, his charming ward, and capable Sikh butler. All is not as it appears on the surface either. The inhabitants have their secrets, ones that could destroy them if they fell into the wrong hands.

Jane Steele is pitched as a "serial killer Jane Eyre" which is a bit misleading. Jane Steele isn't hunting down men and making skin lamps out of them. These guys are bad dudes who hurt the people Jane loves. Where Jane Eyre would just silently judge them with her sad eyes, Jane Steele pushes them into wood chippers while humming "Taking Care of Business." ** Jane is no sad Thomas Hardy heroine (with the exception of the last part in Tess). It's a man world, baby, and a woman suffers in it. Jane is just shaking up the status quo, even out things somewhat by dispatching these miserable jerks.

This book, Jane Steele. It's like Lyndsay Faye read Jane Eyre and said, "You know what would make this book better: murders. Also if there were missing diamonds. And...and if Jane weren't such a prude." Then she added a sprinkling of Sarah Waters in there with the shady side of London.

That might be too much
And it works! It's entertaining. Jane is tough, but lovable. She's loyal to a fault. She's a survivor. Charles Thornfield is a more palpable hero for the modern reader than Mr Rochester (I still love him though). He's done some things he's not proud of, he's protective of his family, and he's open minded. He doesn't try to trick anyone into marriage either. Then there is Helen Bu... I mean, Rebecca
Clarke. I want to read her memoirs. I bet they'd be spicy.

You couldn't have Jane Steele without Jane Eyre- still my favorite book ever. Jane Eyre was ground breaking for 19th century feminism. Jane Steele is fun! You will enjoy it.

Again. No robots here.
*Yep, that's his name.
**Metaphorically speaking

About the Audio: Susie Riddell narrated this first person account. I am convinced she is Jane Steele now. She also did the narration for Jane Airhead, so I guess Jane Eyre retellings are her jam.

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

Jane Steele