Sunday, October 31, 2010

Halloween

Just want to wish everyone a Happy Halloween!  I don't really have anything to say but I'll be back tomorrow with my wrap-up of October and plans for November.  Stay safe and enjoy the candy!

Saturday, October 30, 2010

A Tale of Two Cities (Film)

A Tale of Two Cities, 1935
Produced by David Selznick
Starring Ronald Colman as Sydney Carton, Edna May Oliver as Miss Pross, and Basil Rathbone as the Marquis de Everdeme (SP)
4/5 stars

Summary: An excellent adaptation of Charles Dickens's classic novel.

Thoughts: One problem I've had with versions of this story is the difficulty of finding Cartons and Darnays who look alike, which is an important plot point. This one did not succeed in that regard. But Ronald Colman is wonderful and was in fact my main reason for wanting to see this. Another reason was that it was produced by Selznick before he did Gone with the Wind and I wanted to see some of his other work.

Now this is one of the few Dickens novels I've read and of course a lot is cut or condensed but overall I think this is a very good production and worth seeing if you ever have the chance.

Friday, October 29, 2010

The Two Princesses of Bamarre

Hosted by Irena at This Miss Loves To Read.

The Two Princesses of Bamarre by Gail Carson Levine

This ends my exploration of Gail Carson Levine; if you explore my archives, you'll notice that the past two months of this meme have been dedicated to her awesome books.

There are a lot of reasons for me to like this book: it's about sisters and I love stories about sisters (I have one myself); it has a gorgeous cover; it has fairy-tale elements like magic, dragons, and fairies; it's a fun adventure with a sprinkling of romance.

But I'm actually talking about the end of the book, which disappointed me the first time I read it (don't worry, no spoilers!)  Most fairy tales I read have the exact end I would imagine but this one didn't (keep in mind that I'm not good at predicting the ends of stories).  That had never happened with a fairy tale and I was unable to fathom this particular end.  But now that I'm older and going back through stories (I put this aside after basically only the one read), I can appreciate it.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Bleak House

Bleak House by Charles Dickens
Barnes and Noble Classics 2005/Originally 1853
817 pages
Classic; FITG
3.5/5 stars

Source: Bought

Summary: A sprawling narrative touching on almost everything conceivable topic for 1850s London: love, death, religion, law, money, etc.  At the center is Miss Esther Summerson, a girl with mysterious origins.  Her guardian Mr Jarndyce is involved in a generations long law suit that seems like it will never be resolved.  Then there are Sir Leicester and Lady Dedlock, the latter with a secret she'd die to protect.  Additionally some of Dickens' famous comic characters occur here as does an instance of spontaneous combustion (seriously, I never get tired of that.)

Thoughts: I've been participating in a readalong of Bleak House where I posted more detailed thoughts but I wanted to do a proper review of the book as a whole. So if you're tired of BH, I'm sorry and feel free to skip.  I'm glad I did the readalong; with such a big (and often in the beginning boring) book, I probably would have given up.  I would love to read Little Dorrit, Oliver Twist, or David Copperfield like this in the spring.  I liked reading what other people thought (generally they liked Esther more than I did) and where we agreed (mass hatred for Skimpole).

I'm really glad that I read this, both because it now means I've read three Dickens novels (along with Great Expectations and A Tale of Two Cities) and because it means that I can check off another book in my FITG challenge.  But I did not love this book although I wanted to.  Dickens just writes such long sentences and stuffs so much unnecessary information in there; he really wrote for his time which had a different attention span and different expectations of their authors than this time.

Overall: A big, sprawling read but I'm not sure it's a must-read for anyone.

Links: Week 1, Week 2, Week 3, Week 4, Week 5, Week 6, Week 7, Week 8, Week 9, and Week 10.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Happy Birthday!


The 1858 in my blog name comes from the birth year of Mr Theodore Roosevelt.  He was born October 27, 1858 making this his 152nd birthday!  I know that's not a big deal or anything but I just wanted to mark the occasion and share some of my favorite quotes. Note: while there are quite a few, they represent only a tiny portion of what I could share.

QUOTES:

"Character, in the long run, is the decisive factor in the life of an individual and of nations alike."

"Far and away the best prize that life has to offer is the chance to work hard at work worth doing."

"Far better is it to dare mighty things, to win glorious triumphs, even though checkered by failure... than to rank with those poor spirits who neither enjoy nor suffer much, because they live in a gray twilight that knows not victory nor defeat."

"Great thoughts speak only to the thoughtful mind, but great actions speak to all mankind."

"I am a part of everything that I have read."

"I care not what others think of what I do, but I care very much about what I think of what I do! That is character!"

"In any moment of decision, the best thing you can do is the right thing, the next best thing is the wrong thing, and the worst thing you can do is nothing."

Christian Fiction Book Club: Pearl in the Sand

 Hosted this month by Gina at Hott Books.
Discussion (Review coming later):

First I wanted to say that I really liked this book and there is a positive review coming for it! Next it was hard limiting myself to only a few questions because if I tried to answer all 24, this would have been the longest blog post ever.  But I think I chose some good ones and I can't wait to see what other people thought!

9. What made Rahab willing to risk her life in order to save the Jewish spies?
 The way Rahab was able to sense God and act on it was why she was willing to risk her life.  Without knowing really anything about Him, she sensed that he was protecting His people and she wanted to be with Him.  Furthermore by meeting the spies, she had a connection to the Jewish camp and the opportunity to learn more about their God.

11. In Chapter Eight, Joshua accuses Salmone of growing judgmental in his attempt to become righteous. What do you think that means?
Salmone wants to be a righteous man of God but he seems to think that means letting people know when they're wrong and judging them for their sins.  Instead of being of God, he's trying to be God in the sense that he is taking on the role of judgment which is not his.  Furthermore it is much easier to judge other people than to look deep into the face of our own sin and humans frequently choose to do the easy thing.

15. In Chapter Twenty-One, Salmone calls Rahab his Jericho. What does he mean?
Rahab has built high walls around her heart due to the many wounds inflicted upon her in her early life just as Jericho had high walls that protected them from their enemies. But with God, Jericho's walls came tumbling down. Similarly God leads Salmone to love his wife and will tear down those walls so that they may come together as husband and wife are meant to.

24. What are some of God's qualities discussed in this story that touched your heart? Why?
The answer to this question is why I love Christian fiction-the ways that it can simply illuminate the truth of the Lord is why I keep coming back to it.  Reading the Bible is still something I struggle with due to language and cultural elements but Christian fiction is often written in a more direct fashion with words I understand better.  The main quality of God that just led me to cry while reading this is how He loves me.  I know that I am loved and I am so blessed in my earthly family from my parents and sister to my family in Christ.  But His capacity to love me and to just cover me in His love is always overwhelming and awesome.

Bleak House, Chapters 60-67

This readalong is based at The Zen Leaf. Today is the conclusion: a brisk 60 pages in my edition.

Chapter 60: Esther tries to move past her mourning and instead gets to thinking about Ada and Richard (who I had not missed in the previous chapters and had in fact nearly forgotten). Jarndyce asks her if she wants to stay in London so that they can be close. Woodcourt may be receiving a position in Yorkshire that will lead to good things, which unsettles Esther somewhat.  She visits Ada every day and sees how Mr Vholes is taking all of their money. Later Ada confides that she is pregnant but she fears that Richard will not live to see his child.

Chapter 61: Esther gets Skimpole to stay away from Ada and Richard and thereafter never sees him again.  He ends up publishing memoirs a la his inspiration Leigh Hunt.  Richard continues to get sicker and Ada more worried but Woodcourt is the bright spot there.  One night he walks Esther home and confesses his love to her.  She tells him about Jarndyce but thanks him ever so much.

Chapter 62: After seeing Woodcourt, Esther decides that she and Jarndyce should get married next month.  Then Smallweed arrives (I had hoped that we were done with him, maybe he could have died) with Bucket; they have a piece of paper (a will) with the signature of a Jarndyce.  This paper proves to be significant to the law suit currently in court.

Chapter 63: George goes to visit his brother and see how he is getting on and is surprised and gratified to be warmly received.  Although Rouncewell entreats George to join the iron business, George refuses saying it's better for him to stay with Sir Leicester.  There's a mysterious letter to Esther from George that doesn't really make sense to me but now that I think about it, is perhaps from Nemo, her father.

Chapter 64: This chapter is crazy!  First Esther is planning her wedding to Jarndyce.  Then he calls her down to look at Woodcourt's new house which is furnished just so to her tastes.  Jarndyce reveals that he now knows that Woodcourt loves her and she him so they will be married.  When they return to London, because of course Esther can never shut up about "her darling," Guppy stops by with his friend and his mother.  He proposes again to Esther only to be decidedly rejected.  The last bit is rather funny and I imagine it would be even funnier if read aloud.

Chapter 65: The court starts up again and they arrive to find that it has been dismissed.  Not though because the will is so important but because the estate has been all used up in legal costs.  Kenge and Vholes walk away leaving the people involved to pick up the broken pieces of their lives.  Richard finally dies, although not before everybody shows how much he means to them (good riddance, I say!) He and Jarndyce are reunited. Miss Flite ends the chapter, having released all of her birds.

Chapter 66: Sir Leicester now leads a very dull life and his feud with Boythorn is about the only thing that cheers him up.  George stays with him and Mr Bagnet visits but Chesney Wold is a sad place.

Chapter 67: And then the final conclusion of what everyone's doing.  Ada's baby boy Richard helps her heal.  Charley gets married; Caddy is very successful; Mrs Jellyby is now working on rights for women.  Esther and Woodcourt have two children and are very settled and respected.  It ends very abruptly in the middle of a sentence...not sure why Dickens went that way.

Check back tomorrow for my review of BH!

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Havah

Havah by Tosca Lee
B&H Publishing Group, 2010
310 pages
Christian fiction; Historical
3.5/5 stars

Read for Christian Book Club at Edgy Inspirational Romances. See my post here.

Source: Netgalley

Summary: A look at the story of Eve focusing especially on the time in the Garden and the early years when she birthed and raised her sons Kayin and Heveh and ending with her death.

Thoughts: So there were some things I really liked, some I didn't and some I found confusing.  I will go in order of what I noticed.  First the syntax is odd and the word choice baffling.  It helps illustrate how she and Adam are trying to figure out language and are basically creating it instead of learning it like we do now.  Some of the passages were very descriptive and beautiful and some were just awkward.  The names were also hard for me: Havah=Eve, the Adam=Adam, Kayin=Cain, Heveh=Abel, and I think Shet=Seth.

Second she definitely seems to prefer Kayin, believing he is the child who will redeem humanity (taking a very literal view of the word that her child will provide redemption).  She has dreams that are prophecies/foretellings and thus sees Kayin killing Abel as well as a man being sacrificed (Jesus!)   Through these, she also comes to understand the concept of free will.

The part that made me angry was Adam's betrayal of her about the fruit and how it festers between them.  In much of the middle section, he harbors anger at her and refuses to take in to account his own part.  This bitterness also crops up when he insinuates that the serpent is the father of Kayin (which is apparently part of the tradition but I find it very unfair to Havah).

I know it's what had to happen but hearing about the incest (children sleeping with their siblings and then also kind of being in love with their own parents) was so icky.   Havah also expresses pride at how she continues to bear healthy children unlike her descendants who are bearing sickly children.  Well, that's because they've had to practice incest in order to populate the earth because she and Adam got them kicked out of the Garden!

Overall: Interesting; I like books that take a familiar story and expand and rework it for a more modern interpretation but I didn't love it.

Cover: I'm not really a fan of yellows and browns but those are appropriate colors for the setting.  It's evocative of a garden.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Small Gods

Small Gods by Terry Pratchett
Victor Gollancz Ltd, 1992
272 pages
Discworld; Fantasy
4/5 stars

Source: Library

Summary: The god Om is a tortoise and is sustained by the belief of a single man, Brutha.  In order to regain his position, Om must use the simple but good-hearted Brutha to manipulate events and enact real change.

Thoughts: I am so bad at summing up and reviewing Pratchett's novels. They're really good and really funny-what more could one want?  This one had some really good bits, including jabs at religion, philosophy, war-mongerers, etc.  At the beginning, there's a lovely passage about history.

As far as I'm aware the only recurring character to appear is Death.  I'm not sure that Brutha or any of the other characters are in any other Discworld novels. In fact, I'm pretty positive that they aren't which could make this a good first choice to be introduced to Discworld; you don't have to know any backstories although you do have to be prepared for Pratchett's writing style.

Overall: As I said, this could be a good introduction to the series as it's not a series that has to be read in order although that could be interesting too.

Cover: The tortoise is very important to the story.

I thought this completed my challenge but it turns out that I signed up for 6-8 books, not the 1-3 that I thought I  had (I guess I should have checked this earlier).  I don't think I will have time to read three more before the challenge ends but I hope to get at least one more read and reviewed.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Recreating Jane Austen

Recreating Jane Austen by John Wiltshire
Cambridge University Press, 2001
139 pages
Non-fiction; Jane
3/5 stars

Source: Library

Summary: An academic look at how film adaptations of Austen's novels inspire us to look anew at the novels.

Thoughts: If I was more organized, I would have published this last week with the Bedside Companion Book but I'm not so here it is.  While I love Austen's novels, I'm also really interested in the films, hence my decision to pick up this book.

It was my fault for picking this up because it's a very scholarly look at Austen; this means many big words, many theories, and many examinations of other scholarly works.  I was expecting a more fun look at the movies that have been adapted from Austen's novels.  I shouldn't have because it looks like a skinny academic tract rather than a fun jaunt.  He looks at three movies inspired by Austen: Metropolitan, Jane Austen in Manhattan, and Clueless.  He looks at the relationship between Austen and Shakespeare. He looks briefly at some 90s adaptations of her films; as you can see it was published before that great spate of Austen films in 2005-7. I'm really not the best person to read this and I found it too boring.

Overall: For the Austen scholar rather than the more casual fan like me.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Russian Winter

Russian Winter by Daphne Kalotay
Harper, 2010
459 pages
Historical Fiction; Literary
4/5 stars

Source: Library

Summary: Nina Revskaya, a former ballerina in the Bolshoi and defector, is preparing to auction off some of her glorious jewelry and thus finally silence the past.  But two people, Drew Brooks from an auction house, and Grigori Solodin, a professor with a mysterious past of his own, won't let the secrets remain unspoken.

Thoughts:  I saw this advertised on goodreads and then saw it at my library so I grabbed it even though I was already reading some other stuff.

It shifts between about 1950s USSR and 2003 New England, USA (References are made to the president's preparing for war and the fact that there's an election the next year).  The historical sections were more gripping to me; I don't know much about the USSR and it was interesting to read about.  I want to know more.  It was disorienting to read a book published this year but set seven years ago although that doesn't matter so much. 

The relationships between the characters were okay; I preferred the other areas such as descriptions of the jewelry and the insights in to the working of Soviet Russia (Twice does Nina see Stalin up close) and how people dealt with that (hint: not well).  There are also musings on the importance of art, literature, and love.  Grigori is a professor and friendly with a Hungarian poet who speaks about the latter two at one point.  Nina was married to a poet and had two main friendships with fellow ballerinas and their lovers who do the majority of actions in the historical sections.  Present day is a bringing together of Drew and Grigori to excavate Nina's past, where she remembers betrayals, both real and imagined.

Overall: A slowish book that could be rewarding if you like those kind of stories.  I wanted to love it but I did not.

Cover: I'm not entirely sure why the pendant is on backwards nor why the woman's hair is that color but the colors work nicely together.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Ella Enchanted

Hosted by Irena at This Miss Loves to Read.

Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine

Last week I talked about the movie which bares little resemblance to the book beyond character names and a few plot details.  I loved the book when I first read it (I was probably about 10?) and then I didn't like it and now my favorite part is the end.  Ella has a gift/curse from a fairy to be obedient.  Throughout her life, her stepmother and stepsisters have used this to hurt her.  She has suffered numerous degradations as she tries to break it.  She has even almost lost her love Prince Char due to the sisters' machinations.  But at the end he proposes and she wants to say yes so bad; in fact everyone is imploring her to say yes but she continues to resist, imagining how enemies could hurt Char and the country through her if she marries him with her obedience intact.  Luckily she is able to break it and she gets to marry her prince and raise a family.

Beyond the Cinderella parallels, there are other traditional fairy tale elements such as fairies, giants, trolls and a quest.  Ella is a smart, loyal, and kind young woman who works hard in order to overcome the obstacles in her life.  I would definitely recommend this book to everyone!

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Once Again to Zelda

Once Again to Zelda by Marlene Wagman-Geller
Perigee, 2008
276 pages
Non-fiction
3/5 stars

Source: Library

Summary: An examination in to some of the most famous and most puzzling dedications of books in order to gain insight into the lives of the writers.

Thoughts: The first dedication is for the novel Frankenstein by Mary Shelley.  It is to her father who wrote a biography of his wife and her mother Mary Wollstonecraft, published in 1798, which she says scandalized Victorian society. Do you see the error here? Victoria wasn't even born until 1819.  This was so blatant that it almost made me shut the book but I continued because I thought (and still think that it's a great concept).  And maybe I'm overreacting but that's a big error; the Victorians were far more prudish than Regency-era, if my reading of romance novels is accurate.

The writing itself had many awkward sentences (none of which I flagged so that I could report them to you) which made those passages unpleasant.  It was not well done and if good writing is important, then definitely skip this.

Sometimes I feel sad that I'm not a genius, whether in writing or music or writing or something.  But after reading these stories, I'm really happy that I'm not.  Many of these authors (most if not all arguably in the genius category) were violent, adulterous, and/or just plain selfish.  I'd much rather be me and try to be a good person and treat the people in my life right.

Overall: Interesting concept but serious flaws in the writing.

Cover: I like bright colors so it fails on that account but I enjoy the typeface.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Bleak House, Chapters 54-59

Hosted by Amanda at The Zen Leaf. We're almost done so obviously there are a lot of spoilers here.

Chapter 54: Mr Bucket tells Sir Leicester that not George but a woman killed Tulkinghorn, much to Sir Leicester's distress, implying that Lady Dedlock did it. A weird group of people interrupt this meeting: Grandfather Smallweed, Mr and Mrs Chadband, and Mrs Snagsby.  They share what the know about the case and how it comes together. They are shuffled off and Hortense arrives, having been the lodger of Mr Bucket.  She is revealed to be the murderer.  Mr Bucket takes her off to jail and Sir Leicester falls to his knees with compassion for Lady Dedlock.  I'm confused if Hortense is really the murderer or if it's a scheme to protect Lady Dedlock.

Chapter 55: Now we go back in time before chapter 54 occurs.  Mrs Bagnet has found out Mr George's mother who turns out to be Mrs Rouncewell (thank you for this improbable coincidence Dickens!)  Mrs Bagnet expects the mother to encourage her son to get a lawyer and fight the false charges. Tearful and joyful reunion of mother and son.  Mrs Rouncewell returns to the Dedlock London home where she asks Lady Dedlock to intervene in her son's case and hands her a note denouncing Lady Dedlock as a murderess.  Mr Guppy then arrives and speaks in a way I can't understand but Lady Dedlock knows her secret is out and leaves a note for Sir Leicester that she did not kill Mr Tulkinghorn but that she is guilty of everything else; then she leaves.

Chapter 56: Sir Leicester has had a stroke and has been lying on the floor for hours.  He is found, put to bed, and Mrs Rouncewell and Mr Bucket help figure out what he wants.  What he wants is Lady Dedlock, with him, forgiven. So Bucket sets out to find her.  He goes to get Esther, believing that approaching the lady with Esther will enable him to get closer and not force her to try anything desperate.



Chapter 57: It picks up with Esther being awakened by Mr Jarndyce in order to accompany Bucket.  They travel through London, stopping at popular places for suicides.  They reach Bleak House.  Bucket basically calls out Skimpole's behavior although unfortunately he does not perform a smackdown on Skimpole as is deserved.  They visit the women and their husbands' house; the one woman is even more brutalized now but the other has left for London after Lady Dedlock visited them.  The snow comes down hard and causes them to lose the trail.  At the end, Bucket decides to head back to London and follow the trail of the poor woman.

Chapter 58: It is put out that Lady Dedlock is in Lincolnshire but rumors abound as Sir Leicester remains bedridden. He perks up when he hears that Mrs Rouncewell has been reunited with her son George and demands that he come see him.  He says in the hearing of his cousin Volumnia, Mrs Rouncewell, and George that Lady Dedlock has as ever his constancy and support.  The rest of the chapter covers the long night as Sir Leicester waits most anxiously for what the rest of the household fears will never come.

Chapter 59: Bucket and Esther return to London and track down the woman.  They run into Mr Woodcourt, bringing up Esther's feelings again and reach the Snagsbys.  Mrs Snagsby finds out that her husband didn't cheat on her and the group finds out where the woman went.  They reach the graveyard and see the woman lying on the steps.  The men allow Esther to go check on and her and she looks at the woman's face only to discover that it is her mother, who had changed dresses with Jenny, and who is dead without knowing about Sir Leicester's enduring love.

I did NOT like that ending; why couldn't Dickens have saved Lady Dedlock in one of his famed improbably coincidences?

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

The Bedside, Bathtub, and Armchair Companion to Jane Austen

The Bedside, Bathtub, and Armchair Companion to Jane Austen by Carol Adams, Douglas Buchanan, and Kelly Gesch
Continuum, 2008
218 pages
Jane; Non-fiction
3.5/5 stars

Source: Library

Summary: A look at Jane Austen's novels, life, and culture with tidbits for newcomers and Janeites alike.

Thoughts: I've made no secret of the fact that I'm a big fan of Jane so that's why I picked up this book.  I hoped to learn some new facts, which I did, and have some good chuckles, also did.

There were also some surprises.  For example, a reading of Sense and Sensibility with Colonel Brandon as the villain is posited.  It's an interesting idea although not one I particularly want in mind when I read S&S.  There's a song about the pleasures of reading Austen and a brief look at the movies based on her books.  Additionally there are some pretty in-depth summaries of the books plus some of her juvenilia.

The upside is that I am now more determined to spend my winter break rereading the 6.  It's been too long (I think almost 2 years).

Overall: I think there is something here for all manner of Austen fans here: the newbie and the longtime fan.

Cover: Fits in with the "Bedside, Bathtub, and Armchair Companion" series but not extraordinary.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Hunger

Hunger by Jackie Morse Kessler
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2010
174 pages
YA
1st in Series
4/5 stars

Source: Netgalley

Summary: Lisa is a teenage girl with typical parent, boyfriend, and friend problems.  Except she's anorexic and has just been named Famine of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse.  Now she travels the world and sees the devastating effects of famine and grapples with her own power and her critical inner voice.

Thoughts: I actually had no interest in this at first (yes, I judged it without knowing anything about it) until I learned that it was about the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse in YA.  I've never heard of anything like that so I thought it could be really interesting.

The imagery was the best and most powerful part of this book for me.  There are descriptions of food that made me so hungry and descriptions of famine that broke my heart thinking about those who starve every day while I am able to feed myself.  There was a particularly difficult passage to read about one girl's bulimia routine and another when Lisa unleashes her power unwittingly.  Lisa's battle with the Thin voice was also poignant and heartbreaking.  I have struggled with image issues thinking about how I could be thinner and how I'm unlovable due to my weight.  I'm currently in a good place but I think this topic is relevant to most of its target audience.

The characters were somewhat underdeveloped.  We spend all of our time with Lisa and get to know her but her boyfriend and two friends are pretty one note; her parents are largely nonentities; and the other Horsemen have minimal presences (Pestilence has one conversation with her; War has two; and Death pops up a couple of times).  While Death was probably my favorite of the other three Horsemen, the fact that I adore Terry Pratchett's DEATH from his Discworld novels means that I generally find other portrayals lacking, as happened in this case.  This worked for me because I really just wanted Lisa to get better and she needed to reach that place on her own instead of being forced in to it.

In the Author's Note, Kessler shares vulnerably about her own struggle with bulimia and about a girl who inspired this character.

Overall: Short but powerful; excited for the rest of the series.

Cover: I was confused at first about the scale until I learned that a scale is the traditional representation of Famine; then it makes perfect sense.

I have also been fortunate enough to receive Rage, the second book, and I will try to read and review it closer to the release date.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

A Confederacy of Dunces

A Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole
Published 1981
338 pages
Classic; Pulitzer; Picaresque; FITG
4.5/5 stars

Source: Library

Summary: I've tried describing this before to my friends but I don't think I'm doing a very good job. Basically Ignatius J Reilly is a lazy eccentric who is forced to get a job leading to a series of adventures involving many Characters.

Thoughts: I was excited to read this because it's one of my dad's favorite books and he's recommended it to me before.  While I can appreciate its strong points, I don't think it's one of my favorites.  For one thing, I prefer a main character I love and would want to hang out with. Ignatius Reilly had many interesting characteristics but I would never want to meet him.  On the one hand, he's obsessed with the Middle Ages and thinks things would be better with an enlightened monarchy (I'm not saying he's wrong what with the way things are...)  He is very educated with a graduate degree and he speaks far beyond the comprehension of the people around, which is very funny to read.  On the other hand, he lies, he's selfish, and he's cruel to his mama among other offenses. So not someone I'd want to meet but someone who is a Character.

My favorite part of the book was how the disparate characters and earlier events tied together-I mean it's perfect.  It's not like crazy coincidences as Dickens does but instances that logically follow the previous events.  The part I didn't like was how intensely awkward some scenes were for me to read.  I could not have read this book all in one go because I had to take breaks and distance myself from what was happening.

It's been defined as a picaresque novel which I always associate with Don Quixote.  It's been a while since I've read that but I remember some of the occurrences escalating in a similar way so I can see it.  For example, Ignatius has a simple office job before he decides that he will organize the workers at a factory which almost leads to a riot.  It's amazing.

Overall: Intensely awkward at times, very funny at times with the perfect ending.

Cover: I found this cover weird at first but it actually makes perfect sense after reading the book.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

The Secret Adversary

The Secret Adversary by Agatha Christie
Berkley Books, 1922
232 pages
Mystery; Tommy and Tuppence
4.5/5 stars

Source: Library

Summary: An exciting story following a pair of adventurers known as Tommy and Tuppence.  They work to stop a Bolshevik plot that could bring down the British government.

Thoughts: I wasn't sure what to expect (okay I had the thought that I'd be getting a good mystery because it's from Agatha Christie) but this was not quite that.  Tommy and Tuppence are quite young (early 20s) and speak in what seems a very affected style but may actually be true for the time period.  I find their words a little weird but mostly endearing.  They were FUN characters and I think I like them more than Miss Marple and certainly more than Poirot.

The plot was fast-moving, much to Tuppence's preference.  They are looking for a way to make a bit of money and end up entangled in a plot seemingly plotted by the Bolsheviks (I'm not entirely clear on that point).  They meet a variety of characters in a confusing but fun plot.  It definitely leans a bit more to the thriller side.

As to the ultimate mastermind, the so-called Mr Brown, there are two main candidates and I of course picked the wrong one because I liked him in his other guise so much.  The ending is quite satisfactory though.

Overall: A welcome change from the usual Christie! I will definitely be reading the other T&T books sooner rather than later.

Cover: Not my cover, which is super boring, but I really like this picture!  The black could stand out if surrounded by light colored books and it looks like a man is dashing around which fits the story.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Glee-Cap 2x04

"Duets"
  • I love duets and after hearing clips of the songs beforehand, I was pretty sure this would be a good episode.
  • First we find out that Puck is in juvie which means New Directions is down to only 10 but oh now Sam joins!
  • Kurt references "Singin' in the Rain" and Sam doesn't know that movie! Everyone ought to know that movie no matter sexual orientation, etc. It's a fantastic movie.
  • I think it's hard on the single members of the group that the couples decide to sing together; plus there are 11 people in the club-can Schu not count? (It wouldn't surprise me)
  • Sam and Quinn were so cute, plus they won!
  • Rachel was slightly less annoying then she has been
  • Burt is out of the hospital!
  • Sad that Artie and Brittany didn't sing anything.
  • It was great that the episode focused on the kids rather than on the adults; yes I missed Sue but I was glad that Schu didn't do anything (although that's no different from most episodes; yeah, I kind of hate him)
Songs:
1. Don't Go Breaking My Heart-Rachel and Finn; I love this song-it's so cute
2. River Deep, Mountain High-Mercedes and Santana; they were awesome! I almost think they should have won
3. Le Jazz Hot-Kurt; I know Glee isn't exactly ridiculous but after the many weeks of being told that their budget was cut, how are we supposed to believe that Kurt did this? He couldn't have paid for it himself.
4. Sing!-Tina and Mike; Fantastic-amazing physical comedy!
5. With You I'm Born Again-Rachel and Finn; offensive, yes but I'm also pretty sure that Catholics don't say they're born again, it's more of an Evangelical thing so it's also theologically wrong. Not that I'd expect Glee to know this after last week's lackluster religion episode.
6. Lucky-Sam and Quinn; so cute-they're so blonde!
7. Happy Days Are Here Again/Get Happy-Rachel and Kurt; I'm glad that Kurt got to sing with someone but it seemed almost a little unnecessary

NO favorite this week because they were all so good (except for With You I'm Born Again)

Ella Enchanted (Film)

Visit Irena at This Miss Loves to Read for information on this wonderful meme!

I remember when the Ella Enchanted movie came out and many of my friends were upset with its treatment of the plot (let's just say it's VERY different from the book).  I however wasn't sure why they were so upset when the gorgeous man pictured above was in the film.  When you're looking at a charming, good-looking British man, it's hard for me to be too angry!  That man is Hugh Dancy and he plays Prince Char (see the names are the same!) and this was my first introduction to him.  I was able to recognize the many changes made to the plot but I still thought it was a pretty good film once you disassociated it from the book.  He and Anne Hathaway are super cute together and I liked seeing Cary Elwes as a villain after only knowing him as Westley in The Princess Bride.

Overall I would recommend this to people who like Hugh Dancy, who like fairy tale movies, and who can appreciate a movie that isn't 100% faithful to the source material.  Just think of them as a very separate entities and sit back and enjoy the hotness!

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Death on the Nile

Death on the Nile by Agatha Christie
Avenel Books, 1937
164 pages
Mystery; Hercule Poirot
4.5/5 stars

Source: Library

Summary: A fabulously wealthy, young bride named Linnet is murdered on a boat while on her honeymoon.  The top suspect would be her former best friend who was first engaged to Linnet's husband but she has a clearcut alibi.  Luckily Hercule Poirot is on the case!

Thoughts: I knew this was one of Christie's more famous works so I had pretty high expectations.  The opening reminded me somewhat of other famous ones like Murder on the Orient Express and And Then There Were None as it gives a brief vignette of all of the characters who will be part of the story.

The victim is a rather awful girl, Linnet, who stole her best friend's fiance and is consequently being stalked by that best friend on her honeymoon.  Linnet has always gotten everything she's wanted and is thus very displeased at having that best friend stalking her on her honeymoon.  However this friend Jacqueline sucks too and I couldn't understand Poirot's kindness to her.

Besides solving the murder, he also accounts for two other criminals yet Poriot seems to be sentimental and lets the one off to possible romantic bliss.  There are some other subplots too but the murder is the main focus.

I did not like the end although I somewhat puzzled out the murderer!  But really I did not like the end which has a bit of the Murder on the Orient Express to it (hopefully this makes sense if you've read both. I don't want to spoil it-let's just say I like using the court system for justice.)

Overall: An outstanding story from Christie with exciting characters although I personally do not like the end.

Cover: This is not the cover I had but of course I had to show the Black Dog & Leventhal edition because I love them so much!

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Bleak House, Chapters 47-53

Readalong hosted by Amanda at The Zen Leaf.

Chapter 47: Jo and Dr Woodcourt are looking for a safe place for Jo to stay in order to hide out from Mr Bucket.  They go to Miss Flite and General George for assistance. Now Miss Flite is not exactly the first person I'd turn to when I needed help but it comes out all right.  Jo will stay with George. Then Mr Snagsby is enlisted in another secret to keep from Mrs Snagsby.  When Woodcourt returns to visit Jo, he ends up dying. There are a lot of characters in this chapter!

Chapter 48: Lady Dedlock decides that Rosa needs to leave her service, preparing for the day when Mr Tulkinghorn reveals her secret and disgraces all.  He is displeased that she has violated their agreement (at least to his lawyer mind).  At some point he will tell Sir Leicester and she will receive no further notice.  The chapter ends with Tulkinghorn being shot-now that was surprising to me!

Chapter 49: Dickens even gets his own creations confused: he calls Matthew Bagnet, Joseph at the beginning of this chapter.  Anyway they are celebrating Mrs Bagnet's birthday with some good comic scenes. George stops by and then Mr Bucket joins them for a lovely evening.  As George and Bucket leave, Bucket arrests George for murdering Tulkinghorn-what a cliffhanger as this is the end of the serial!

Chapter 50: We return to Esther. Caddy is now a mother of a little girl named Esther but is faring poorly.  So Esther, Ada, and Jarndyce are going to stay in London to take care of her; they will also call in Dr Woodcourt to examine Caddy.  Ada and Esther have some distance between them now.  Esther thinks it's because she's going to marry Jarndyce; I think it's because Ada has taken up with Richard again now that she's of age.  Woodcourt seems disappointed about something-I guess he liked Esther after all.

Chapter 51: Woodcourt visits Vholes in order to obtain Richard's address that he might renew their acquaintance as requested by Esther.  Later Esther and Ada go to visit.  Richard looks in a bad way, being paler and thinner. It turns out that Ada married Richard (stupid woman as he's going to drag her down although I don't really like her anyway so I don't really care).

Chapter 52: Esther and Jarndyce learns of Tulkinghorn's murder and George's arrest from Woodcourt. I'm starting to wonder if Lady Dedlock could have killed Tulkinghorn-she had motive but did she have the chance? They all go to visit George which seems to please him.  The Bagnets also come to visit at the same time.  George will rather die innocent than be represented by a lawyer who thinks he's guilty.  Then Esther turns as she's leaving and George thinks she looks like a figure he saw the night of the murder which I think means that I am right in guessing Lady D as the murderer-go me!  Mrs Bagnet says that George has relatives despite his thinking he has none and she sets off to get his mother.

Chapter 53: It is Tulkinghorn's funeral.  Bucket has almost figured everything out; he has received letters saying only "Lady Dedlock."  He visits Sir Leicester to assure him of progress, meets Lady Dedlock and she asks how the case is coming, and then gets confirmation from their servant on her clothing the night of the murder.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Cards on the Table

Cards on the Table by Agatha Christie
Avenel Books, 1936
115 pages
Mystery; Hercule Poirot
4/5 stars

Source: Library

Summary: Mr Shaitana collects things; one of those things allegedly being people who have committed murder without being caught.  One night he invites four renowned investigators of crime (Hercule Poirot, Colonel Race, Superintendent Battle, and writer Ariadne Oliver) and four people who presumably have committed murder.  But at the end of the night, Mr Shaitana is dead and Poirot and the others must race against time to capture the culprit before s/he becomes to emboldened by success.

Thoughts: This is apparently the first Poirot novel with Ariadne Oliver, a mystery writer who allows Christie to express anger toward her fictional detective, discuss detective fiction, and provide comic relief.  I quite liked her although sometimes I feel like Christie doesn't much like women.

The four suspects were pretty interesting and there was a lot of backstory as we tried to figure out the psychology of them in order to discern who could have committed this murder.  We also got to spend a lot of time with some of them, which helped me distinguish them in my head not that it helped me solve the mystery. 

As there were only four suspects, I had a 1 in 4 chance of getting the right person.  But with all of the plot twists and details uncovered, I ended up very confused.  I should just go with the least likely person! Seriously, there are at least two major turnabouts that change things!  There was also entirely too much talk about bridge.

Overall: A bit confusing but very thrilling and maybe you'll have better luck figuring out the murderer!

Cover: I like the cards and the stiletto and colors but I'm not really in to that hat.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Thirteen at Dinner

Thirteen at Dinner or Lord Edgware Dies by Agatha Christie
Avenel Books, 1933
126 pages
Mystery; Hercule Poirot
4/5 stars

Source: Library

Summary: Jane Wilkinson, Lady Edgware, comes to Hercule Poirot for his assistance in obtaining a divorce, even if it means that she might have to kill her husband-jk!  Except that soon after, her husband is found dead and she is implicated.  Includes members of the acting profession, people with money problems, and those violently in love.

Thoughts: First this was my 200th book of the year!  I finished it back in September but I'm really far ahead on my reviews so you're just finding out about it now.  Second I read this as part of a collection with four other Christies so that is not the cover I had.

Now on to the story!  Hastings returns and I feel like Poirot is less rude to him than usual although Poirot is till very stuck-up and self-satisfied.  It is hard to feel sad that Lord Edgware is dead as Lady Edgware seems such a jolly if frivolous lady who can now marry the man she really loves.  Additionally it seems like Lord Edgware terrorized his daughter who is now out from under his thumb.  That is not to excuse the murder but Christie does like to kill off the bad people, especially when the murderer seems like such a good person (this is a general observation, not a comment on the murderer of this book).

I had no idea who the murderer was.  I thought s/he had an airtight alibi and was thus eliminated.  Interestingly the murderer is quite unrepentant as s/he saw murder as the only solution for his/her happiness.  It was quite fortunate that Poirot got that last snippet of information that sealed the solution for him.

Overall: Fun story although I liked the murderer too much.

Cover: I quite like: the program, wig, and glasses are apt.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

It's Monday! What Are You Reading

 

Read last week:
Full Frontal Feminism by Jessica Valenti
I'd Know You Anywhere by Laura Lippman
My Love Affair With Jewelry by Elizabeth Taylor
The Sorrows of Young Werther by Goethe
A Slice of Murder by Chris Cavender
[Wow-I have eclectic reading habits]

Coming up this week:
Four Agatha Christies: Thirteen at Dinner, Cards on the Table, Death on the Nile, and The Secret Adversary
Chapters 47-53 of Bleak House
A Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole

Currently reading:
Still working on BH
Hunger by Jackie Morse Kessler (Thanks Netgalley!)
Pearl in the Sand by Tessa Afshar for Christian Fiction Book Club

What are you reading?

A Slice of Murder

A Slice of Murder by Chris Cavender
Kensington Books, 2009
275 pages
Mystery; Food mysteries
First in Series
3.5/5 stars

Source: Library

Summary: Ellie almost didn't take the delivery call but as a small business owner, she takes the plunge.  She comes to regret this as she finds the customer dead and is pegged as the prime suspect.  With the assistance of her sister, Ellie is going to clear her name and continue producing the best pizza around.

Thoughts: I started reading this and then immediately wanted pizza, which luckily I was able to have for dinner (plus black olives because I like it salty!)  My grandma actually recommended this series to me as we both like Joanne Fluke's series, which I would say are somewhat similar.

My favorite part was the sister relationship of Ellie and Maddy.  They truly love each other, support each other, and will protect each other.  They work as a team to run the pizzeria and to solve the crime.  Plus they're pretty wise-cracking to each other! I'm a sucker for strong sister/sister relationships in books so this played a big role in the favorable impression I have of the book.

Unfortunately I wasn't as charmed with the rest of the book, in particular Chief Kevin Hurley who seemed quite incompetent.  He didn't seem to explore many suspects beyond Ellie; he denied an attack on her life as a mere robbery; he ignores the evidence of his sister; and he's possibly tangled up in some dirty stuff himself.  The mystery itself wasn't that great either.  Some awkward attempts at romance for the widowed Ellie distracted from the storyline; personally I feel like she'll be more drawn to Kevin than any other guy.  I personally mostly just wanted to hang with Ellie and Maddy.

While I appreciate the recipes in the back, I didn't feel the book did a good job of describing all the delicious smells that come out of a pizza shop.  It also spent a bit too long on the minutiae of running a business, dull stuff indeed.

Overall: Has intrigued me enough to plan to read the second.

Cover: I think it's really good-I like the skull pizza although it's not original and I love the title font.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

The Sorrows of Young Werther

The Sorrows of Young Werther by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
Translated Michael Hulse
Penguin, 1989
Originally published 1774
134 pages
Classic
3/5 stars

Source: Bought for class

Summary: A young man kills himself after being disappointed in love.

Thoughts: I thought this was so boring.  I kept falling asleep while I was reading it.  The most interesting part was the introduction which explained how part one of the book is based on a real-life experience for Goethe and part two is based on a case where a man killed himself for love.

I think I struggled against his ideal of female perfection, which includes a woman who is acting like a mother to her siblings after the death of their mother (reminded me of Bleak House) and just sounds really boring.  The language was a bit too flowery and I didn't sympathize with Werther falling for a woman who clearly states that she is already involved with another man.

Overall: A short classic that you could read fairly quickly but not my taste at all!

Cover: This isn't my cover as I have an earlier Penguin edition but it fits.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Glee-Cap 2X03

"Grilled Cheesus"
I was worried about how this episode would treat religion.  I wasn't too pleased but I'm just going to move on because "Duets" looks like it will have some great music.
  • Why would you have FRIDAY night dinners with a teenager? Isn't Sunday more traditional?  Also it seems weird to me to not have dinners every night with your family because that's what we do.
  • It breaks my heart to see how queer people have been kept away from Christianity by Christians.  I know my college campus has had conflict between the queer group and my Christian group but things are looking up as we're planning a meeting for reconciliation; we don't want to have conflict and we want to be welcoming to everyone seeking Jesus.
  • Saying that, as a believer in Jesus, Finn's praying to the sandwich seemed sacrilegious as it seems like he's basically praying to an idol.
  • Rachel continues her selfish streak-"how it's affecting ME."  Gah-hate her.
  • I'm quite sure that having Rachel sing at my bedside would not make me feel better.
  • Really love young Kurt; looks so much like Chris Colfer
  • "You had me at fabulous hat."
Songs:
1. Only the Good Die Young-Puck; fun, upbeat, nice for Puck to get a chance to shine.
2. I Look to You-Mercedes; I didn't know this song but I think it's my favorite of the episode.
3. Papa Can You Hear Me?-Rachel; so over Rachel's overwrought "look at me, look at me" performances although this was less than other episodes
4. I Want to Hold Your Hand-Kurt; I felt the emotion but while I like the idea of covering Beatles songs, I'm rarely pleased with it in practice.
5. Losing My Religion-Finn; No
6. Bridge Over Troubled Water-Mercedes; I don't like this song.
7. One of Us-New Directions; Tina solo-woot!

The Fairy's Return

 This fantastic meme is hosted by Irena at This Miss Loves to Read.
The Fairy's Return by Gail Carson Levine
This is the last book in the Princess Tales series and it's a retelling of the Golden Goose as you might be able to tell from the cover. Ethelinda has returned after her disgrace.  She is still somewhat leery of magic but she wants to do good. Meanwhile Robin is a commoner who likes to tell jokes while Lark is a princess; they fall in love but her father won't let them get married.  She stops laughing/smiling so the king says that whoever can get her to smile shall marry her.  Well...there's a happily ever after!
It's a cute story and a good end to the tales-I recommend all of them!

Thursday, October 7, 2010

My Love Affair with Jewelry

My Love Affair with Jewelry by Elizabeth Taylor
Edited by Ruth A Peltason
Simon and Schuster, 2002
230 pages
Non-fiction; Coffee Table Book
5/5 stars

Source: Library

Summary: Stunning pictures of some of Elizabeth Taylor's favorite jewelry with some of her anecdotes.

Thoughts: After I read two bios of Elizabeth this summer, I was very intrigued by the jewelry that played a role in them.  Then I saw that this book existed so I requested it from the library.  It's not so much a book as a coffee table book with gorgeous, sometimes magnified, views of some of her jewels and stories from her about them.

My favorite parts were her reminiscences and seeing the Krupp and Taylor-Burton diamonds.  I don't know much about jewelry and I don't own any proper jewels but those diamonds were gorgeous.

Besides the jewelry, there are also many rare photographs of Miss Taylor wearing them, most from her private collection.  I really liked seeing her with Richard Burton; now that is a love story.

Overall: A gorgeous book that would be worth many examinations of its contents.

Cover: Liz is stunning as always although I probably would have preferred to see her with some of her diamonds.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Bleak House, Chapters 39-46

So I'm running a bit behind (had a crazy busy but spiritually uplifting weekend and I had a ton of schoolwork) plus this is an 8 chapter section; Finally I have finished.

Chapter 39: Mr Vholes and a disgusting office; hanging out with impatient Richard.  Weevle and Guppy watch him and discuss stuff. Much description of everything.  The Smallweeds are up to something.  Mr Guppy interacts with Mr Tulkinghorn and then asks Tony (Weevle or Smallweed?) to bury a portrait of Lady Dedlock in order to conceal the communications they've been having (?)  I'm not really sure what's going on with that.

Chapter 40: I don't get when he uses Coodle and Doodle as figures in government; maybe I just don't understand British history/British government (both real possibilities; I'm an Americanist.) So much description-get to the point Dickens!  Mr Rouncewell campaigned against Sir Leicester (outrage!)  Mr Tulkinghorn reveals what he knows about Lady Dedlock's history although without naming names.

Chapter 41: Lady Dedlock goes to Mr Tulkinghorn's room as he is staying at Chesney Wold.  They discuss what must be done: First and foremost Sir Leicester must not be ashamed so she must continue to live with her guilt knowing that Mr Tulkinghorn could reveal everything whenever he chooses.  He's quite judgmental too.

Chapter 42: Mr Snagsby is being harassed by Lady Dedlock's French former maid Hortense.  She comes to visit Mr Tulkinghorn demanding his help in finding a new place or she will continue to harass Mr Snagsby and him.  He replies that he can have her sent to prison so she should leave.  He is cold and his meanness is really being brought out by Dickens.

Chapter 43: Jarndyce defends Skimpole-I just don't understand how.  Skimpole also is married with three daughters-how in the world did that happen?  Sir Leicester comes to visit Bleak House causing great emotion in Esther.  Esther meanwhile doesn't seem to understand the concept of a secret; telling more people (ie Jarnydce) that Lady Dedlock is her mother is not keeping it secret.  We also learn a bit more about Mr Boythorn and Esther's aunt, former fiances.

Chapter 44: Esther worries that Guppy and Hortense know the secret (I'm not sure if they do...yet)  Mr Jarndyce writes Esther a letter.  Esther reflects on her life before reading it.  It turns out that he has proposed to her.  She still likes Mr Woodcourt but she accepts.

Chapter 45: Mr Vholes has come to Bleak House because Richard's finances are in a mess (stupid idiot).  Esther and Charley go to visit Richard to talk this over with him.  Richard changes mood often during that conversation and continues to be annoying.  Esther than sees Mr Woodcourt disembarking from a ship and scurries away so that he can't see her disfigurement. But then they meet and she elicits a promise from him to be friendly with Richard.

Chapter 46: Back to the narrator with his endless passages of description-sooooo boring.  Dr Woodcourt helps a poor woman.  He also sees Jo, looking very sick: thin and gaunt.  Jo tells about why he left and how a man will come after him (Mr Tulkinghorn I presume) and Woodcourt promises to help him hide.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

I'd Know You Anywhere

I'd Know You Anywhere by Laura Lippman
William Morrow, 2010
370 pages
4.5/5 stars

Source: Library

Summary: Eliza Benedict used to be Elizabeth Lerner until she was kidnapped by Walter Bowman at the age of fifteen.  Somehow she lived while his other victims died; somehow she is the girl who got away.  Now Walter is about to be executed but he is reaching out again to Eliza in the hope of getting her to remember those 39 days and nights they were together.

Thoughts: Somebody recommended Lippman so I put this on my list and then happened to see it at the library: it was serendipity!  Right away I was drawn in to the story.  I loved Eliza right away, a somewhat shrinking flower, a devoted mother, someone still broken from her experience.  But she does grow and while the ending is optimistic, there are definitely still problems in her life.

There were also some very awful characters. Barbara is a woman who has become an advocate for Walter and intervenes in Eliza's life in a busybody manner.  Trudy is the mother of a girl who didn't get away who is waiting only for Walter's death, the justice she's been wanting for over twenty years.  She doesn't hesitate to interpose in to Eliza's life.

Walter of course is a man who killed at least one girl and kidnapped Eliza.  He was bizarre with very odd ideas about appearance and difficulties in social interactions.  He also was able to manipulate Eliza and continues to hold strings to her with possible frightening effects on her family.

One of the most interesting aspects to me was the sibling relationship between Iso and Albie. Albie adores his older sister but she resents him.  That broke my heart as I remembered some of the harsh ways I behaved toward my sister.  Now we are older and well she's a teenager and I wish I could go back and appreciate her unwavering adoration of me.  This wasn't the largest aspect but it resonated with me.

Overall: Gripping story introducing a new to me author, whose other works I definitely want to read!

Cover: Hmmm, I think I like it better in person as it's very shiny and eye-catching.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Between Here and Forever

Elizabeth Scott just showed the cover of her next book Between Here and Forever on her website.  Apparently there are two characters from Bloom in it (!) and I think it's absolutely gorgeous!  It's also part of the Contemps challenge and it's a definite buy for me.  It's due May 24, 2011 so mark your calendars!

Full Frontal Feminism

Full Frontal Feminism by Jessica Valenti
Seal Press
248 pages
Non-fiction; Feminism
2.5/5 stars

Source: Library

Summary: A blunt book about why you might already be a feminist but deny it and why feminism still matters.

Thoughts: At first I was really excited because this seemed like a very readable book.  And it was.  But it was readable like a blog where I expect less cogent writing than in books. I also didn't like the language, which is full of curse words.  I know people talk like that but it doesn't mean they need to write like that.  Valenti is also found of big sweeping statements but doesn't find it always necessary to support them.

I read some reviews that thought it was very focused on white upper/middle class straight women but I thought Valenti did a decent job of addressing the differences in perspective for nonwhite, nonstraight women and highlighting that as a part of feminism that needs improvement.  I mean, that we need to recognize the different backgrounds from which we come and not pretend it doesn't matter.

Overall: Just not very good.

Cover: It's okay.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

The King's Touch

The King's Touch by Jude Morgan
Review, 2002
536 pages
Historical Fiction; Charles II
DNF

Source: Library

Summary: James is the first illegitimate child of Charles II, exiled would-be king of England.

Thoughts: I've talked before about how I love Jude Morgan so that is the reason why I wanted to read this. But I could just not finish it and I believe it contributed to my reading slump.  When I decided that I would just return it to the library, I felt so much happier.  Knowing that I wouldn't have to slog through this cheered me.  I still plan to read it someday so that I can say I've read all of Jude Morgan's works but I will need to be in a different frame of mind.

The Demon's Covenant

The Demon's Covenant by Sarah Rees Brennan
Margaret K. McElderry Books, 2010
440 pages
YA; Paranormal
3.5/5 stars
Sequel to The Demon's Lexicon

Source: Library

Spoilers for The Demon's Lexicon

Summary: Picking up a month after the first book ended, Mae thought things might be going back to normal.  But then she finds out that her brother Jamie has been sneaking out at night and interacting with another magician Gerald from the Circle that had originally tried to kill them.  So she calls Alan and Nick again as her only resource into the magical world.  Nick knows the truth about himself and something has happened between the brothers that causes a great deal of tension.

Thoughts: This is a switch as it begins in Mae's perspective and is in fact told from Mae's perspective; this makes me wonder if there will be subsequent books told from Jamie/Alan's POV.  I think I liked this book more, possibly because Lexicon is told from the point of view of a demon and that can be difficult for a human to understand.  It also ended up being a lot funnier with many quips. More of Alan/Nick's brother relationship is highlighted and I loved that.

I think my problem (and this is most definitely my problem and one that may not afflict you) is anxiety as I try to figure out the angle each person is going to play: Alan, Nick, Jamie, Mae, and the various magicians all have their own agendas and Mae is the only one we have some insight in to. The tension was awful.  I mean my stomach was tied in knots; it is not a feeling I like.  Will one of them betray another?  Will they all survive? Also sometimes the action was confusing and I had to reread several parts.

I also didn't like Mae's romantic entanglements as she has interactions with three different guys, none of which I can see turning out okay as all will cause her a great deal of trouble and/or heartbreak. 

Overall: I liked it more than the first book but I just don't love it.

Cover: That seems more like Sin than Mae, which is weird as Sin doesn't play that big of a role.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

The Alington Inheritance

The Alington Inheritance by Patricia Wentworth
JB Lippincott Company, 1958
191 pages
Mystery; Miss Silver
2.5/5 stars

Source: Library

Summary: Jenny Hill has always been content as Jenny Hill; until she finds out that she is actually the natural daughter of her parents and is entitled to be Jenny Forbes and claim a property.  But Mac Forbes, as the current owner of that property who would be supplanted be her, will not let that happen.

Thoughts: I follow Meg Cabot's blog and she recommended the Miss Silver books by Patricia Wentworth for fans of Agatha Christie; well if you skim my archives, you'll see that I am a big fan and I'm currently involved in my own personal challenge to read all of her books so I was interested to give these a try.  I went to my library's catalogue and this was the only book they had so I figured I'd give it a try.

This was not the best introduction to Ms. Wentworth's stories, I hope.  First the murder does not happen until nearly halfway through the book and the murderer and motive are actually explained at the time of the murder.  The only suspense is if the characters will figure it out, which I never doubted they would.  So it fails as a mystery.

Then the writing, while enjoyable, is very repetitive.  I read every piece of information at least twice although sometimes as many as five times.  And it's not as if the words are varied; it is nearly word for word repeated.  And it is not as if it happened in the beginning and then was explained at the end again; instead it happens and then is repeated something like two pages later.  I ended up having to skim .I hope this is not indicative of Wentworth's other works because I would like to give some of the earlier Miss Silver books a try.

Another problem for me is that it takes place in 1958 and a huge part of the plot is whether someone is illegitimate (and thus not an heir to a piece of property) and the goings on of stereotypical small English villages.  The first just seems so stupid to me in a time where it seems like so many people are having children out of wedlock and the latter is gossipy women with no ambitions in life other than to gossip about each other.

The detective Miss Silver seems a bit Marpleish, which is good as I adore Miss Marple but she doesn't appear until almost halfway through the book.  Jenny, the main character, is super lame.  And most of the other characters don't have much personality.  The most irksome part is the way everybody blames the victim of the murder: she deserved it because she had a strong personality and knew what she wanted (ugh, the attitudes about women that are sometimes expressed.)

Overall: Repetitive and without suspense. Not recommended.

Cover: My copy from the library did not have any cover but I like the purple and I find it funny that the author's name and the detective's are bigger than the title and thus more important/recognizable to the audience, presumably.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Glee-Cap 2x02

Britney/Brittany
  • I liked that there was just a sprinkling of Britney for the characters; luckily she didn't have to act...because that would not have been successful (yes I saw Crossroads in theaters and own the DVD) I know of what I speak, er, write
  • Love Kurt's arguments for using Britney and his increasing passion
  • Hated how Will continues to be a jerk; despite Carl's very logical point that Will would not want anyone interfering in his relationship with Emma (he's such a whiny loser and he'd be even more pissy), he continued to try to woo Emma in a not at all subtle way.
  • John Stamos is here! I'm a huge Full House fan although I didn't like Uncle Jesse as much as others did (if he hadn't favored Michelle so much, maybe it would have been okay).  He seems like a nice guy although maybe a little too into anesthesia
  • Seriously, they live in conservative, suburban Ohio; no way would Rachel be allowed to bare her stomach like a tart.  Just no!
  • Rachel then tells Finn he has to choose between her and football and further tests his devotion by having Quinn try to get him to stray; this should not end well.  She is so pathetic in their relationship.
  • Due to the focus on Britney Spears, we get all sorts of fun tidbits about Brittany S. Pierce as well as lots of great lines.
  • Not much Sue but at least Beiste let Finn back on the team! (and no Sam?)
Songs:
1. I'm a Slave 4 U-Brittany; this incorporates three iconic Britney looks: the red jumpsuit, the Toxic diamonds, and the snake
2. Me Against the Music-Brittany and Santana; WOW-Brittany can really dance, I kind of already knew that but this just confirms it.
3. ...Baby One More Time-Rachel; I did not think this was suited to her voice at all; nor can she really dance.
4. Stronger-Artie; interesting incorporation of Finn and Puck to help fulfill Artie's dream of being on the football team, I hope he doesn't drop it if/when he wins Tina back.
5. Toxic-Will and New Directions; why would anyone think it was appropriate for the teacher to sing with the students?! Nonetheless my fave.
6. The Only Exception-Rachel; does she have to cry every time she has a closing solo? I'm really fed up with it and Rachel in general (see above)

For Biddle's Sake


Hosted by Irena at This Miss Loves to Read.


For Biddle's Sake by Gail Carson Levine
Not sure what fairy tale this is based on, although there are echoes of Rapunzel.  Parsley is a sweet girl who only wants to eat that green herb.  Unfortunately the only place that grows is in the wicked fairy Bombina's garden.  She catches Parsley's father and takes Parsley as her own.  She also has to work on her impulse to turn humans in to toads.
Meanwhile in the castle, Prince Tansy is continually caught in disputes of his brothers and then receives all of the blame and punishment from the king.
Tansy and Parsley happen to fall in love, displeasing Bombina and most of the royal family, leading to somebody being turned in to a toad, and culminating in a happily ever after!
Not my favorite (I know I was turned off by the names!) but it's quite different from the usual fairy tale retellings and I would recommend it to people for a quick, easy read.

September Stats

September Sum Up
I had a huge slump these past two weeks; none of the books I had around me were appealing and I had a ton of homework because I'm going away this weekend and won't have internet access and thus won't be able to blog/comment/tweet/etc.

Books Read This Month: 27 (not bad)
Favorite Book: The Secret Adversary by Agatha Christie
Least Favorite Book: So many options but I think I will choose Harry Potter Should Have Died.
Longest Book: Russian Winter by Daphne Kalotay, 459 pages
Shortest Book: Cards on the Table by Agatha Christie, 115 pages
Most Read Genre: As I am back at school, non-fiction has won with 10.

Total Pages Read This Year: 66,975
Total Books Read: 210

October Plans: I have Small Gods by Terry Pratchett which will complete my Discworld challenge.  Otherwise just continue to interact with other bloggers and strength my review writing skills.
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