Hello and Happy Holidays!

Hello all! The last time I posted was October 30 and here I am a couple of days before Christmas. I guess there is something about holidays that prompts me to post. Most likely I won't post again before the new year, so I'm going to make this my wrap up post for 2017.

In 2017, I posted 19 times. That's pretty sad. It was the worst year for blogging for me. I felt like I had nothing to say. In January, I celebrated my 10th Blogiversary. So that was something. I read 15 books, according to Goodreads, which honestly is more than I thought. There wasn't anything on that list that truly knocked my socks off. I started what feels like a million books only to lose interest in them soon afterward which did not inspire me to pick up anything new.

I've given up Twitter completely. I think I went on there during the Readathon just to say hi. Twitter changed their platform so much that I left. I don't need to see everyone's likes. It's not Facebook.

2018 could be different. You never know. In January I have to pay for my domain name. I'm debating whether or not to do this. Is it worth holding on to this url for a handful of posts? On the other hand, I don't want anything weird to happen to my domain name. There are people who buy tiny, expired domain names and sell them. You just don't know who might end up picking it up. I don't want to inadvertently traumatize anyone who still has me in their blog feeds. So I'm probably going to keep it.

I've been crafting a lot. I've knitted several pairs of socks and mittens. I've cross stitched so much stuff. I've designed and stitched my own pieces. I'm definitely going to keep doing those things in 2018. I am planning to knit my first sweater. I'm also thinking about sewing more. Especially clothes. I'm disgusted with what is available in stores. The fabric is so cheap now that after a couple of washes things fall apart. Not to mention the wastefulness of the fashion industry and how terribly they treat their workers. I'm going to give it a try and see how it goes. I just bought fabric for a t-shirt.

At the moment I'm reading my online friend Karen E Olson's new book Vanished (via Netgalley). It's available on February 1. I always enjoy her books so it's going well. Since I was poking around on Netgalley anyway, I also downloaded The French Girl by Lexie Elliott. Maybe 2018 will be the year of the Thriller/Mystery for me!

2017 is almost behind us. I'm looking forward to a new year. Let's hope it will be a good one. I'm wishing you all good things, good books, and happiness. See you all on the other side of the calendar.

Final RIP XII Post: Two Shorts and Stranger Things 2

It's my last RIP check in and I think I did pretty good this year.

The 24 Hour Readathon happened last weekend and although I didn't officially participate I read a little just to be a tiny part of things. I completed two short stories.

The Open Door by Mrs Oliphant. A British officer retires and chooses to rent a house in Scotland with his family. On the property there are the ruins of an old house, including the remnants of a doorway. Everything is hunky-dory until the winter months arrive. While the officer is away on business, he gets an urgent message: he must return home, his son is dying of "Brain Fever"! He finds his son in bed and anxiously waiting for him. The cause of his condition is his worry over the strange voice he heard over by the ruins. It's up to Dad to discover the source of the voice and save his son from... I dunno, death by ghost voice?

This is a pretty typical haunting story. There's a ghost who's stuck between worlds and needs to find his way to the light, sort of speak. There's a skeptic who looks very foolish. There are locals who the hero treats condescendingly. There's a sense of urgency that you have to buy into. It was...fine.

The Shadows on the Wall by Mary E Wilkins Freeman. This story seemed very familiar to me and about halfway through I realized it was a Night Gallery episode I saw when I was a kid. That episode terrified me. I was afraid of shadows for a while afterwards.

In the short story, a group of siblings gathers for the wake of their dead brother. He had been ill, but the night of his death he and his brother had an argument. The three sisters are afraid of this brother, since he's known to have a temper. Two of the sisters are the first to notice the strange shadow, then the third sister sees it. Finally, the brother notices the shadow and his reaction is one the sisters' feared.

This haunting isn't typical and Freeman gets points for originality. I can see why it was used as the basis for that Night Gallery episode. It's a great visual. The dialogue, however, got on my nerves. There is a lot of whispered, "No, don't speak!" and gasps and shudders from the sisters that were very Victorian fainting couch adjacent. It definitely didn't have the effect the show had on me.

If you watched the first season of Stranger Things, then no doubt you are aware of the second season streaming on Netflix right now. My husband and I watched the whole second season this weekend because we're party animals like that.

It's a year after the events of the first season. Most people in Hawkins have no idea how much danger they were in and the government would like to keep it that way. The people who do know are living with the aftereffects. Joyce is worried about Will who is still suffering the effects of being in the Upside Down. Nancy is wracked with guilt over what happened to Barb. Mike is still searching for Eleven. Eleven herself is in hiding and trying to work out how she fits into a world she's never been a part of before. Meanwhile back at the lab, scientists are doing a terrible job at fixing the mess they made.

You'll read a lot of examinations online (if you look) of whether or not this season is as good as the first. There's also much talk of what critics wanted to see and didn't. I took it for what it was and enjoyed it as much as the first season. They expanded on some storylines, created new ones. Some characters faded into the background, while new ones were introduced. The season starts out slow, but by the end it's as much of a thrill ride as the first. It's pretty great!

The World of Lore: Perfect for RIP... and an Update

Hey all! I'm sitting on my couch trying to will a cold away. It's not really working. Now would be a good time for a post.

Last weekend was Thanksgiving here in Canada and it was a good one.The fam and I not only had a great turkey dinner but went to a pumpkin patch and took a day trip to look at the leaves.

Not a bad view

The weather was unbelievable. Just perfect for outdoor activities. I'm so glad we got to enjoy it.

The Readathon is next weekend and though I wish I could participate in the 10 year old (wow) event, I have plans with my family. October is a busy month for me. We have a lot of birthdays in our family that month. I hope everyone else reads a lot of books for me! Maybe I'll lift my Twitter ban and drop in that day to cheer you all on.

Anyway I read another book for RIP XII. It's a perfect fit for the challenge and the season.

The World of Lore: Monstrous Creatures by Aaron Mahnke 

I have been a big fan of Lore, the podcast, since its beginning, so I knew I'd be reading the book based on the series. I had the chance to listen to the audio version, which is narrated by the author of course. It's much like the podcast, most of the stories are part of that series, but laid out in a cohesive way and the gaps filled in a bit more. There are sections on vampires, fairies, ghosts, gremlins, possessed dolls, legendary creatures like the Jersey Devil. He even gets into haunted places.

The World of Lore is about folklore so the stories should be taken with a grain of salt. Not that they aren't true, just ask my cousin's boyfriend's aunt's hairdresser. If you want a more realistic delving into folklore, check out Ghostland by Colin Dickey. I would have liked more original material, but this is a great way to introduce people who don't listen to podcasts to, well, The World of Lore. (There's also an Amazon series. He's covering every format.) The non-audio version is illustrated, so that's a bonus. I might have to check that out. If you like creepy folklore, you should enjoy this one.

I received this review copy from Penguin Random House Audio via Volumes. All opinions are my own.

RIP XII: Two Short Stories of Haunted Houses

I always make a bit of time for short stories during RIP. The horror genre is perfect for short form writing. People have been sitting around in the dark trying to scare each other with their tales since forever. You don't need a lot of explanation or exposition to get your point across. "I was in this place, some creepy things happened, the end."

The following stories follow that formula perfectly. In fact, they are almost the same story but with a few details changed. Let's take a look.

An Account of Some Strange Disturbances in Aungier Street by Joesph Sheridan Le Fanu. Two Irish cousins keep house in the family's rental property in Dublin, unaware of its haunted reputation. Not long after settling in the narrator's sleep is disturbed by terrible dreams. His cousin unceremoniously vacates the house, leaving him alone to experience harrowing encounters.

The Haunted and the Haunters by Edward Bulwer-Lytton. A English gentleman hears of a haunted house for rent and spends the night there with his servant and dog. Immediately, the group is harassed by spirits. The servant flees and leaves the narrator alone to witness a ghostly visitation.

Since I read both stories within 24 hours of each other, I couldn't help but compare the two. I ended up liking Le Fanu's story more for a few reasons. First, the protagonist is a more likable character. He and his cousin are just trying to make their way in the world. Being medical students, they try to save a few pennies by staying in a recently purchased family property. They are just minding their own business when the events occur. On the other hand, Lytton's hero is looking for trouble. He's a guy with money and little else to do, so why not rent a haunted house for funsies?

I also like a ghost story where the hauntings are more psychological. In Aungier St, the narrator experiences dreams, he hears more of the ghost than he sees. In the end, the cousin relates the experience that drove him from the house to the narrator, which helps put the pieces all together. The Haunted's ghosts are right in the narrators face from the start. They are not shy! They even put on a little play for the narrator that reminded me of- don't laugh- Garfield's experience in Garfield's Halloween Adventure. (I must have watched that show about a million times when I was a kid.)

The Haunted and the Haunter's protagonist is a "rational" man and takes pains to tell the reader how he had to be courageous and not give into fear. He goes into some theories about ghosts, including some discussion of mediums and mesmerism. It's a very Victorian point of view, but also a bit like Ancient Aliens, where a quas-scientific explanation is given which doesn't hold up to much scrutiny. The alternative title is The House and the Brain, so...

The Strange Disturbances in Aungier Street, on the other hand, is just a straight up ghost story, as the narrator points out in the first sentences.
It is not worth telling, this story of mine--at least, not worth writing. Told, indeed, as I have sometimes been called upon to tell it, to a circle of intelligent and eager faces, lighted up by a good after-dinner fire on a winter's evening, with a cold wind rising and wailing outside, and all snug and cosy within, it has gone off--though I say it, who should not--indifferent well.
The narrator knows the right atmosphere for this story, and as cousin Tom is dearly departed, there is no one to refute his claims. You have to decide whether or not to believe him. It helped that I read this during a thunderstorm. Perfection!

I'd still recommend both, as they are short and available for free. On Project Gutenberg:
An Account of Some Strange Disturbances on Aungier Street / The Haunted and the Haunters.

RIP XII: On a Roll, Book and a Movie

It's not even the end of September and I've met my RIP XII goal. Yay, me! I finished World of Trouble by Ben Winters, and watched a not-quite-horror movie The Silenced.

World of Trouble is the final book in the Last Policeman Series. I reviewed The Last Policeman and even though I read Countdown City for a Read-a-thon apparently I didn't review that one.

When we last saw Henry Palace, he was heading out to find his sister in the final days of humanity. Nicki joined a cult-like group who believes the asteroid's trajectory can be changed by a mysterious scientist, but the Government is preventing it for some reason. With only days left before the asteroid's meant to hit Earth, Henry is feels the pressure to find her. Using his police skills he pursues Nicki and her people to a town in Ohio, but they don't appear to be there- or they're very well hidden.

The world has changed a lot since the beginning of The Last Policemen. There is panic, there is resignation, there is fear. Henry must be wary of the people he meets along the way. The rules of civilization are no longer being followed. He doesn't know what he'll find in the towns he travels through.

It's a quieter book than the first in the series. He has less contact with people now. He's focused on one mission, to find his sister. The reality of the situation finally touches Henry in a way it didn't in the first book. How will this series end? I don't want to give too much away. I can only say that it gave me a lot to think about.

For RIP XII: Peril on the Screen, I watched The Silenced, a Korean movie you can find on Netflix. The movie is set in 1938 at a boarding school deep in the forest. There is something reminiscent of The Shining about the title sequence as a car winds it's way through the trees.

One of the passengers is Joo-ran aka Shizuko, a new girl at the school. She's meek and sickly, struck with TB. The school's headmistress tells her they will soon cure her. She begins a medical treatment involving injections. Some of the other girls act strangely toward her. There was another student with the same name who disappeared late one night, never to be heard from again. They resent her as an apparent replacement for their missing friend.

One girl takes Shizuko under her wing. Yeon-duk is an athletic girl who works hard so she can be chosen for a mysterious trip to Tokyo. She makes friends with Shizuko and they spend their time wandering around in the forest near the school.

Strange things begin to happen to the other girls and eventually Shizuko herself. She and her new friend try to find out what is really going on at this weird school.

It's hard to judge the quality of the acting when you don't know the language. I think the girls were fine, but some of the Baddies laid it on a bit thick. (There is one young guy, and I thought, 'Dude, less swagger.') The cinematography was beautiful, and costumes pretty great. This movie is less scary than I thought it was going to be. It's more of a mystery. There is some bizarre body horror as Shizuko is a witness to some freaky contortions by her classmates, but that's about it for scares.

The Silenced was fine. Netflix suggests I watch Oh My Ghost! a series about a horny virgin ghost who possesses a chef. Um, okay?

RIP Begins With The Changeling and Twin Peaks

Hello again! Happy Sunday. I hope everyone is doing well and staying safe from storms. The weather is gray here but not too bad so far. Hurricanes don't touch us much until October. 

The girl is back in school. I'm hoping for a good academic year. Last year was pretty stressful. A teacher can make or break a year for someone as anxious as my child. And one of hers last year made me want to pull my hair out. So far, she seems optimistic about her classes. Fingers crossed!!!

I've finished one book for RIP XII already. Yay! An audio of The Changeling by Victor Lavalle. Here's the scoop.

Once upon a time, a man and his wife lived in the magical land of New York City. They recently became parents. They lived happily until the mother started behaving strangely. She declared that their baby wasn't a real baby. Her husband began to worry. One day the mother did a terrible thing and then disappeared. Her husband goes on a quest to find her that leads him to unfamiliar lands and horrible creatures.

So, yes, this is a modern fairy tale. Not the Disney sort, but more of the Grimm's variety. When I started The Changeling, it read as any novel of a modern couple falling in love and starting a family. Apollo has issues, his father left his mother when he was young. Emma has a hard time adjusting to being a working mom. Normal stuff. It was moving at a snail's pace and I wondered if it was going anywhere. Then it got Bon...kers! BONKERS! I don't want to give too much away but it's a for real fairy tale. The kind you would hear on Myths and Legends Podcast (which, btw, is very good). Dark and full of wtf moments.

I found The Changeling enjoyable for the most part. It was slow at times, but when there was action, it was intense. Fairy tales always have a message, usually a heavy handed one, and this one is no exception. What is a good parent? How does the past shape the parent we become? And just for fun, are you posting on Facebook too much? (Answer: Yes, you are.)

Warning for those with small children: you might want to sit this one out if little ones in peril make you upset. I know I wouldn't have been able to read this when my girl was a baby.

The author is also the narrator, which I'm just realizing now. He was actually pretty good. That's not always the case. 
And I watched the finale of Twin Peaks: The Return. I don't even know.




Those are all my thoughts.

Did you watch Twin Peaks, 2017? How are you holding up?

RIP XII : I'm Here For It!

Yay! Readers Imbibing Peril season is here again, for the twelfth time. Wow! Since I've participating the last 10 years, I had to jump in again. There are many ways to participate but I'm choosing- 

Peril the Third:We all want you to participate. This Peril involves reading one book that fits within the R.I.P. definition.

I'm hoping to read more. We'll see. I picked up a few classics while on vacation.

  • The Tenant of Wildfell Hall by Anne Bronte
  • The Lovecraft Compendium by HP Lovecraft
  • Frankenstein by Mary Shelley
I'm currently listening to The Changeling by Victor LaValle on audio. It seem like a good choice. I have a few things on my reader and I'm sure I could find more on my shelves. So, hopefully I will read a book or two!

And thanks to Heather and Andi for hosting!

Another Post. Plus The Grip of It, the Perils of Home Ownership

Hey gang! How's things? Good I hope. I hope you all kept your vision after the solar eclipse. There wasn't a lot to see here, but now I have an earworm for the rest of the year.

I'm going to get listy. Here's what's new.

On the Personal Front

I'm riding out the end of summer. It's actually been pretty good. I've been driving the girl around everywhere, but that's not so bad. We've been busy and I have to say we've had a better summer than some in the past. We're taking it day by day and not making big plans. She seems to be enjoying the season more than usual and I think it's because she's arguing with me less. (I'm knocking on all the wood.) I don't know about you, but I'm less inclined to want to drive someone and their friends to the beach after an hour long argument about nothing. Perhaps she's learning that keeping mama happy is to her own benefit.

At the Movies

I went to see Kidnap with a friend. It was fine. Halle Berry is an Oscar winning actress for a reason. She gives great face performance. Unfortunately, having her in Kidnap just highlighted the terribleness of the rest of the movie. There's a lot of overacting. And some of the lines...yeesh. But it was fun to watch her slam her seemingly indestructible Chrysler minivan into just about every surface she encounters. Who knew a minivan could outrun a Mustang GT?! Enjoy this one on Netflix in a couple of months.

Books? Yes.

I listened to The Grip of It by Jac Jemc. A Millennial couple moves from the city to a small town to avoid the husband's gambling problem because apparently they've never heard of the online gambling. They purchase a low rent Winchester Mystery House with weird hidden panels and funky vibes. I'm not sure of the reasoning here. "Hey Babe, want to live our own Shirley Jackson fantasy/nightmare?" They work on the fixer upper but not even The Property Brothers can save them from this real estate disaster. First, there are weird noises, items appear and disappear. Then they find themselves waking up in their neighbour's house with no memory of how they got there. Strange drawings appear on the walls and they feel they are losing their grip on reality.

I was really into The Grip of It at the beginning, but then I found that the happenings got repetitive. Some of the things that happened seemed pointless and I couldn't understand why this couple kept the things they did from each other. The husband's gambling problem didn't appear to have any real consequences other than moving to a nice little town. Oh the humanity. The ending was hurried and I didn't feel satisfied with how things were wrapped up. There were too many open endings.

How's Blogging Going?

There are over 1600 unopened messages in my blog gmail account. If you sent me one, I'm probably never going to find it. I'm thinking of just deleting everything in it unread. Sorry.

Warning: Blogging jargon ahead!

Google informs me that I'm supposed to install a SSL certificate on my blog for user security but since I have a custom domain Blogger won't let me. What a pain in the arse.

I don't have the energy to migrate my blog elsewhere. I find the whole thing annoying and it doesn't make me want to hop right back into blogging when I don't really understand what I'm supposed to do. I dunno. Anyone else dealing with this situation?

That's about it this week. See you all again soon!

A Possible New Format and a Look at The Home-Maker by Dorothy Canfield-Fisher

Hey, I just finished a book! Like, just finished it... moments ago. I figure I'll give a few thoughts on it while I'm sitting here listening to the rain.

The Home-Maker
The Home-Maker by Dorothy Canfield-Fisher
The Home Maker is a look at the home life of Eva and Lester Knapp. Lester hates his job at the
department store. Lucky for him, he's just been fired. Not so lucky for him is the fact that he has a wife and three children to provide for. Lester decides to take the George Bailey Solution, since he believes his family would be better off without him.

Eva is equally unhappy with their home situation. Not only is she frustrated with her husband's lack of ambition, but she finds that's she not cut out for child rearing. She can keep a beautiful home, cook a healthy meal, but the children confuse and frustrate her.

After Lester ends up bed ridden, Eva takes over Lester's role as bread winner. Surprisingly, she's good at it. Really, really good at it. She's never been happier. Lester too is suited to the life as a home-maker. The trouble is what will the neighbours and society make of this reversal of gender roles.

The Home-Maker was written in 1924 so it was pretty radical at the time. Men looking after the children? Women working outside the home? Scandalous! It does, however, still have relevance today. Women still do most of the house cleaning. And how many people have heard someone say a father was "babysitting" his own children? Lester remarks late in the book, "society is really based on a contempt for women's work in the home." Work is only valued when you can put a dollar value on it.

Although I enjoyed The Home-Maker most of the time, I found Lester's poetic musings aggravating. There tended to be tangents and flowery language that maybe didn't age well.

I'm glad I finally finished it so that I can move onto something new.

Speaking of home making, I've painted three rooms in my house since I finished working. I'm not sure when I'll be back to work again so I'm trying to do All The Things now. I'm happy with the results. A fresh coat of paint makes everything look new again. I got to tell you though, I'm painted out. I think I'm taking a paint break.

This might be my new format for reviews. I'm going to add them to random posts. Not exclusively book reviews.


No, I Haven't Been Hacked. It's Really Me. And a Review.

So, Hi! The last time I post here it was the end of April. Wow. I thought I should check out my blog and make sure it wasn't taken over by Russian hackers or something. I actually couldn't figure out how to sign into my blog. That was a tense 30 seconds.

Anyway, how are you, my one reader who still has me in their blog feed? Do people have blog feeds anymore? I don't know. I'm not sure if book blogging is even a thing anymore. I feel so old fashioned right now. I'm so out of the loop.

I'm fine. I read my 6th book this year. Crazy, right? It was Wyllard's Weird. It was not weird. It's a sensation novel by Mary Elizabeth Braddon. It wasn't as good as Lady Audley's Secret. That one is hard to beat. Hey, let's review it while we're here.

Wyllard's Weird begins in Cornwall where a young French woman jumps to her death from a train. Or did she? There is some question as to whether she jumped or was pushed. The local coroner, Edward Heathcote, suspects the cousin of his old flame, a Mr Bothwell, who refuses to say what his business was that had him on the train that day. Things get sticky when Heathcote's sister becomes engaged to Bothwell. Is she about to marry a murderer? To ease his mind, Heathcote travels to the streets of Paris, and uncovers a cold case, the murder of an actress ten years before, that might be connected to the recent death of the French girl.

This one started out strong. Who's this French girl? Did someone push her? (Of course they did.) Heathcote is a competent detective. He follows all the clues. Unfortunately, it becomes quite apparent who the murderer is about halfway through and then it's just killing time until Heathcote reveals it all at the end. It's rather anticlimactic.

It's also somewhat frustrating to read all the digs Braddon gets at the French. You can murder anyone in France and get away with it if you have a romantic enough reason for it, according to this book. The Great French Detective gives up easily and is no match for this English amateur who solves a ten year old murder in a matter of weeks. There's a dose of victim blaming, although Braddon beats us over the head with the idea that even though she was an actress the deceased was as pure as the driven snow. (FYI, Braddon had been an actress.) There's also a subplot involving emotional infidelity and gambling addiction.

So, not the best ending, but there's still some good stuff in there. Wyllard's Weird was published 23 years after the success of Lady Audley's Secret, so maybe it's a case of phoning it in.

Ps- LibriVox reader Lynne Thompson is pretty good.

What else? I saw Wonder Woman. A+++ I loved it so much. I'm watching Twin Peaks. I can't even tell you what I'm feeling about that. I change my mind every week. Do I like Dougie or have I had enough of him? Not sure.

She's not sure either
I started watching A Handmaid's Tale. Yikes. And the final season of Orphan Black. (This week's episode broke me.)

Lots of TV and not many books. 

I think that's about it. I'm not sure what to do with myself or where you can find me. I'm pretty sure I'm going to delete my Twitter. It's just a dumpster fire on there. Where does anyone go to just talk about books? Litsy? Maybe try me there. 


I'm Doing It: 24 Hour Readathon

Yes, I'm going to read at least one book today! Considering I've only read 3 books this year. (I know!) That's a big deal.

So the usual questions answered here: I'm in Nova Scotia, Canada. I'm looking forward to reading The Blank Wall by Elisabeth Sanaxy Holding and eating lemon squares I made last night. This is not my first rodeo and I will be taking it slow and breezy today. I haven't been reading at all lately. (Obviously.) All the books I will read are short and not literary. I learned that the hard way last time.

I am on Litsy as Chrisbookarama. I am posting most of my updates there. On Twitter, I am following the #readathon only. That is the only way I'm am able to deal with Twitter.

On my list is

  • The Blank Wall by Elisabeth Sanaxy Holding
  • Countdown City by Ben Winters
  • Roadside Picnic by Arkady Strugatsky
  • Some Lumberjanes
  • Whatever is short on my reader
Good luck readers! See you around the Readathonosphere. 

Hello, Friends!

At this point, I don't even know if I can call myself a blogger let alone a book blogger. But here I am blogging today.

I haven't read a book in over a month. Not even an audiobook. I just can't get into it. I want to but I feel like I don't have the brain space. The Readathon is coming up at the end of the month and I think I am going to join in. I'll be finished working by then so maybe it will jump start my reading.

The reading part of my brain

What have I been doing?

Cross stitching.

Listening to lots of podcasts. I just started S-Town. I haven't read anything about it. I don't want to know anything until I finish it. I'm halfway through. I'm not sure if it's real or not. It seems a little too neat to be real, you know? I have some issues either way: 1) if it's real it seems exploitative, or 2) if it's fiction it perpetuates stereotypes that may or may not be accurate. As someone from a economically depressed area too, when someone "from away" writes about our, let's call it, uniqueness, it puts my back up. So I have second-hand anxiety about this podcast. I'm still loving the storytelling though.

Watching Netflix. I'm caught up on Jane the Virgin. I was not happy about where certain things went. And now we're in the future, I guess? What is happening?
I'm on season 3 of Grace and Frankie. It is so good. I love those ladies and their new business.

What else? I got a Silhouette Cameo for my birthday. That's an electronic cutting machine. You can design graphics, print them, and then use the machine to cut them out of say sticker paper or vinyl. I've been printing out stickers for my planner. It's a neat machine.

Other than that I'm waiting for spring to finally get here. I need to get back into running.

So, that's my update. Not much reading. Sorry. I hope there is someone left reading my blog! Say hi in the comments if you're still there!

Two Quick Reviews: Time Travel in the Bardo

Hello again friends! It's been a while. I kinda forgot I had a blog. I figured it was time to review two audiobooks I listened to ages ago.

All Our Wrong Todays by Elan Mastai. This one had an interesting premise, but in the end fell flat for me.

Tom Barren lives in the present that we should have had. Because of the discovery of a machine that produces infinite free energy, Tom's world is one free of worry. Every "futuristic" item has been invented.

Flying cars? Yep, they got them.

Since people have a lot of time on their hands, they have the ability to invent whatever they can dream up. Including time travel. Tom's dad decides that humans should travel back in time to witness the most important scientific event in history: the day the free energy machine was first turned on. If you think this is a terrible idea, then congrats, you are smarter than this genius. I can't believe no one pointed out what an awful, no good idea this is. So much could go wrong, and guess what? It does.

Tom messes up royally and is trapped in our present time, with our pollution and linear decent into the destruction of the whole planet. Things are bleak, but he is determined to turn things around get things back to the future...I mean present. Whatever.

First, Tom got on my nerves. He's so emo. He pretty much ruins the world because he is sad. Also, I can't believe the thing that made him sad is a thing that happened. So, thanks, Tom. I could have had a robot maid but now I have to scrub my own bathroom because you had a moment.

Me. Sad that I have no robot maid.
Second, the women, though the author tries to make them interesting, are still tropes: emotionless career woman, dream girl who owns a bookstore. They are all there so that Tom can have feelings about things.

Finally, there is a bunch of stuff that happens near the end that I found confusing and was not my jam. It's seems like it would be more impressive visually. Mastai is a screenwriter so that makes sense to me.

All Our Wrong Todays wasn't fun for me, but it could be fun for you.

The audio narration is by the author.

All Our Wrong Todays

Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders. There's a lot of hype around this one, and it deserves it. I wasn't going to read it because I was all, Lincoln? Is it going to be political? But no it wasn't. It was very weird but good. Though I think my weird tolerance is high after The Master and Margarita.

President Lincoln's eleven year old son, Willie, has died. He's just been laid to rest, but his soul is trapped here on earth. He's not alone. Many spirits are with him in the cemetery. All believe that they will someday return to the lives they were living before their deaths. Will Willie linger in the bardo with these people unwilling to let go of the past? Or move onto the next part of his journey?

The audio production of Lincoln in the Bardo was excellent. There is a cast of 166 characters. Granted most of those read small sections of text from historical documents (some an invention of the author), but there are some big names voicing the spirit characters: Nick Offerman, David Sedaris, Don Cheadle, Megan Mullally to name a few. It's quite a production.

Lincoln in the Bardo is about regrets, lost opportunities, and how sometimes life is unfair. It is somber but at times very funny. Life, and death apparently, are filled with the absurd.

Lots of freaky stuff happens in the cemetery
I don't think I can say anymore about Lincoln in the Bardo that hasn't been said already and by better reviewers. It is so good. You should read it, and if possible, listen to the audio.

Lincoln in the Bardo

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

Quick Update

I'm still here!

I've been doing a lot of other things: knitting, cross stitching, working, chauffeuring the kid around, watching Jane the Virgin. Even reading. But no blogging.

I have listened to Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders. What an experience! I recommend the audiobook version. There are 166 narrators. It's very well done. I'll be back on the blog with a review of that one I promise.

I also listened to All Our Wrong Todays and did not feel the same enthusiasm. I had some issues with it- issues involving the female characters.

Right now, I'm reading What Is Not Yours Is Not Yours by Helen Oyeyemi. It's good, but takes some time to get into.

Not a very exciting update, but it's all I got. I hope you're all reading good stuff!

Welcome to My Nightmare: The Sleepwalker (audio)

Sleepwalking as a concept terrifies me. The thought of walking around unconscious to what is happening in the real world is right up there in irrational fears for me. That total loss of control of your body to your sleeping brain... ugh, no.

Sleepwalking: not this cute

In The Sleepwalker, my nightmare of losing that control is Annalee Ahlberg's reality. Over several decades, Annalee has gone walkabout while sleeping. She's found herself in unusual places after waking and either walks herself or is lead back to bed. One night she doesn't return to her bedroom.

Her daughters, 21 year old Lianna and 12 year old Paige, discover their mother missing while their father is away on a business trip. The police are called and after brief investigation everyone assumes Annalee walked herself into the river.

Though this seems like the most logical conclusion, Lianna isn't so sure. Lianna starts an investigation of her own, looking into the particulars of her mother's disorder, and her parents' marriage. She speaks to the people closest to her mother as the days turn into weeks with no sign of her mother's body. She finds herself drawn to detective Gavin Rikert, a man who knows all about this particular sleep disorder as he's a sufferer himself.

The trouble with Lianna's investigation is that she might find out too much.

The Sleepwalker was a real slow burner. At times I wanted it to pick up the pace. There are a number of red herrings (or slight of hand tricks since Lianna is a magician) and Annalee's disorder is not what it seems at first. There is a lot going on. I didn't know what to focus on.

As for Lianna, the narrator, I found her to be standoffish. I wasn't sure if it was the trauma of losing her mother or if that was just her personality.

The Sleepwalker has an interesting, and scary, premise. It's the kind of idea I don't want to think too much about. I don't sleepwalk, but I have had occasional bouts of hypnopompic hallucinations. They can be scary enough, though most of the time they're pretty cool and I'm now aware of what they are. I once woke with an amazingly large tree in my room, like Disney's Tree of Life!

I wasn't quite as enamored with The Sleepwalker as I was with The Night Strangers. Still, I wouldn't say avoid it.
About the Audio: Cady McClain is the main narrator: Lianna. She's always terrific. I didn't enjoy the brief interludes by an unknown narrator read by Grace Experience. Her voice took me out of the story. Maybe it's because I didn't know who she was supposed to be. 
My thanks to Penguin Random House Audio for the review copy. All opinions are my own.

Lolly Willowes: She Just Wants To Be Alone

One doesn’t become a witch to run around being harmful, or to run around being helpful either, a district visitor on a broomstick. It’s to escape all that - to have a life of one’s own, not an existence doled out to by others

Laura Willowes has lived her entire forty-seven years in service to her family. After the death of her father, she is packed up like a piece of furniture and moved to her brother and sister-in-law's home in London. She's given a room, not the best spare room, and the job of taking care of her nieces and nephews. Her family at first attempts to find her a husband. After a few awkward dinner parties, they decide to leave her to spinsterhood. The family does love Laura, especially the children, who call her Lolly, and she becomes an indispensable member of the household.

For her entire adulthood, Laura feels as if she is missing something, something she can't put her finger on. The present Willowes like their smooth routines, even taking the same vacation year after year. Only the First World War disrupts their routine. After the war, Laura dreads more of the same, forever until she dies. She makes a spontaneous decision to move by herself to the country. The family is shocked. How can she live on her own? What is she thinking? But Laura is determined.

She loves living in the town of Great Mop, even if the neighbours keep strange hours and play music late into the night. She feels she's fitting in and the town belongs to her.... until her nephew shows up with plans of his own.

The classic image of the witch is of an old spinster kissing the devil's butt. Why do spinsters sell their souls to the devil? Well, Lolly Willowes would tell you it's so that they can be left alone. Selling their souls to the devil seems to be the only way for women to get out of family obligations.

"This wasn't in the brochure."
Laura wants the freedom to live her own life. To go for long walks, help her neighbour with his fancy chickens, to just lay in the grass and look at the sky. She's tired of taking care of other people's kids, of being useful. She just wants to do what she wants for a change. The town of Great Mop offers her an escape from her old life.

I felt for Laura who knows deep down that her life is being wasted. She does as she's expected uncomplainingly for decades, even giving up her own name and letting everyone call her by one the children chose. I cheered for her when she breaks free.

I didn't know what to expect from Lolly Willowes. It seems at first to be rooted in reality, but after Lolly leaves London, things take an unexpected turn. I thought her giving her soul to the devil would be more figurative, but nope, it's not. It gets a little weird. Nature and woodland places take on magical properties. Satan seems like an old world pagan god.

It's a funny but also serious book. It looks at the problem upper class single women in the early 20th Century had. There was no place for them in society. They had to be useful in order to not be considered burdens. The thought of a single woman choosing to live on her own was a radical idea. What is her purpose?

No witches were harmed in the making of this book, that makes it a winner!

Family Dramarama in They Were Sisters by Dorothy Whipple

For my hygge reading, I picked They Were Sisters during the holiday season. I adore Dorothy Whipple's writing style. She wrote about the struggles of middle class English women in the earlier half of the 20th Century. She really gets into some serious issues in They Were Sisters.

Lucy is the eldest sister of the Field family. Her mother died when she was in university and she left school to help raise her siblings. This was the expected turn of events and Lucy did it all without complaint. Things became difficult for her as her two younger sisters, Charlotte and Vera, grew into women. They resented her involvement in their lives. Lucy ended up feeling like an outsider, like a woman many years older than her mid-twenties.

Wishing for their freedom, Lucy's sisters marry men they shouldn't. Charlotte marries an emotionally manipulative, mentally abusive selfish monster. Vera, the most beautiful among them, marries the richest man she can find, even though she doesn't love him. Eventually, Lucy gets married herself. Though she wishes for children, none arrive. She does have several nieces and a nephew. Because of their parents' terrible choices and behaviour, she finds herself still "meddling" in their lives as she tries to protect the children and give them the love their parents are unwilling to provide.

As an elder sister, I really felt for Lucy. It's frustrating to watch your siblings make decisions you don't agree with but can't do anything about. For Lucy though, the choices her sisters make have dire consequences. At this time period, there was little a woman could do if she married a terrible man. She had to stick with him until one of them died. The men could do whatever they wanted. In They Were Sisters, whenever a man has a bit of a rough time, he heads to Canada and promptly disappears from the narrative. The women stay where they are and play the hand they were dealt. The women aren't just fettered by legal chains, but societal expectations as well.

Fundamental rights?

Lucy must constantly walk a fine line, never appearing too meddlesome, but helpful, so that she keeps access to the children. Any one of the parents can cut her off at anytime. But even when they lock her out, she is ready to jump back into their lives whenever asked in an attempt to make things better.

They Were Sisters isn't always an easy to read book. There is cruelty, neglect, substance abuse, and infidelity. The worst is how the children are treated. Still, it's got a hopeful ending. What always impresses me about Whipple's writing is how she gets into the heads of her characters. Everything they do seems to have a logic, even if the reader doesn't agree with it; it makes sense to the character.

I liked Someone at a Distance more, but They Were Sisters is still an excellent book. You should read it.

Why is They Were Sisters hygge? Dorothy Whipple writes about the home, about families. Not everything is perfect in her homes, but without problems there would be no story. These are domestic dramas with the friction that drives the plot between people and their relationships. The drama stays within the walls of the characters' homes and rarely strays elsewhere.

Let's Talk About Stats, Baby!

It's the sexiest time of the year. The time of year when everyone is talking about their staaaaaaaaats! So hot.

In total, I read 48 books last year. This is how it breaks down.

  • 38 women authors 
  • 9 by POC authors
  • 22 books were on audio
  • 9 non-fiction (5 were essay/memoir)
  • 4 short story collections
  • 3 graphic novels of some kind
In 2015, I read 60 books total. The biggest change this past year was my listening to 22 audiobooks compared to 2015's 15. (And I don't want any grief about audiobooks. I can listen to them at work. They help me keep my sanity.) Also, I read 16 graphic novels in 2015 and only 3 in 2016. Huh. 

I increased my ratio of women writers- 79% compared to 73% the year before. My POC reads dipped- 18% last year compared to 25% in 2015. 

One of my reading resolutions last year was to read more worldly. More than 50% of the authors I read in 2015 were from the United States. I felt this needed to change. Here's how that turned out. 

2016: 52%
2015: 52%

Sigh. Yeah, literally no change there. And while I ended up reading more international authors, my own country of Canada suffered from this with only 6 Canadian authors read this year. Since it's Canada's 150th anniversary this July, I'm going to make an effort to read more Canadians.

Here's the break down by country*:
  • 25 American
  • 6 Canadian
  • 3 UK
  • 3 Nigeria
  • 2 India
  • 2 Sweden
  • 2 Australia 
  • 1 Japan
  • 1 South Korea
  • 1 Cameroon
  • 1 Italy
  • 1 Russia

Now that I've analyzed last year's stats, it's time to make plans for 2017. While I plan to read whatever floats my goat, I still want to have an idea of how I want my 2017 reading year to look.
So. The plan...

  1.  Read more Canadians.
  2. Continue to read internationally.
  3. Keep reading the ladies.
  4. Read from my own damn shelves.

I have some idea on how to tackle #4. I think I'm just going to go shelf by shelf, start reading something from it, and if it doesn't do it for me, put it in the give away pile. Let's see if that works.

So, that's my look back on 2016 and my plan for 2017. What's your reading resolution if you have one? 

*By country I mean country they were born in. I don't have time to check everyone's current citizenship or residence status, people.

Talking As Fast As I Can- On Audio

It's no coincidence that Lauren Graham released her new memoirs, Talking As Fast As I Can, just four days after the revival of Gilmore Girls hit Netflix*. Her book is the perfect accompaniment to the new series as she spends a good part of the book discussing her time working on the new show.

Talking As Fast As I Can briefly touches on Lauren Graham's childhood and school years. She recounts her years working toward her dreams of broadway, only to end up in LA. Mostly it focuses on how she came to be the young mom of Rory Gilmore on the early 2000s series.

If you are looking for juicy gossip, you won't find it here. She talks a bit about her boyfriend and co-star on Parenthood, Peter Krause, how they met and later starting dating. It's very sweet. It's the kind of conversation you might have with a nice lady you met at the hair dresser while you were having your roots touched up. Nothing too deep, but a pleasant diversion.

The real reason Talking As Fast As I Can pairs well with Gilmore Girls: A Year In the Life, is the excepts from the journal she kept while filming the new series. If she ever had a bad day, you wouldn't know it. I was so glad to have listened to the audiobook read by Lauren Graham herself, because her unbridled enthusiasm for the show, its creators, and her costars pour out of her voice. It was so fun to hear the affection she has for Gilmore Girls. It was obviously a big part of her life for many years. (If we ever get a memoir from Kelly Bishop, I want to read that. I bet she'd have some stories.)

The audience for Talking As Fast As I Can is 100% Gilmore Girls fans. Maybe 45% of this book is about other things, but even Parenthood doesn't factor into the narrative it as much as GG. Lauren Graham knows who to pander to...and I'll take it! It was fun and she seems like a doll.

Since this was a review copy of an audiobook, I didn't have access to the photos she makes reference to throughout the book. I'm a bit bummed about that. But if you do buy the audio, and I recommend that you do, there is a pdf of the photos included.

*Yes, I watched the new series as soon as it came out on Netflix. I think it had problems, but overall I loved it.

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

Wow! Ten Years! Can You Believe It?

Yes, I started this blog 10 years ago today. I know I haven't been blogging regularly lately, but 10 years is a big deal, I had to say something about it.

I had no idea where blogging would lead me. It's been a bumpy ride! At that time, I needed something to keep my mind busy while we waited to start building our house. So much has happened since then. Good and bad. My life is not the same. Thinking about how fast ten years went by makes me feel old. Dudes, it's been a whole decade! What were you doing ten years ago? 

So, ten years. Wow. Will I be here ten years from now? I don't know, honestly. Blogging has taken a back seat to make room for so many other things in my life. There was a time when I read over 100 books a year. In 2016, I read 48. I know that's still more than the average person, but it's not like it was. I used to review everything too. Now I feel less compelled to write about books that didn't move me.

But book blogging has been so fulfilling! I "met" so many great people. We contact each other in so many ways places now. Some even through snail mail. I've read a lot of great books, and learned a lot. I discovered new authors, genres, and new ways to get books into my brain. I had lots of fun participating in community events, readalongs, and readathons.

Book blogging helped me grow as a person. I am not the same person I was ten years ago and I'm sure book blogging has played a part in those changes. Blogging has changed so much too. I could never have predicted where it would go then. I'm sure it will change beyond what it is now. There are more platforms for discussing books popping up everyday.

So here's to ten years! Chrisbookarama, you have been good to me. I thank you for all that you've done for me. And here's to you to, Readers, you've made many a day a little brighter, made me laugh, and made me think. Thank you!