Wednesday, September 30, 2015

The Eyre Affair

I loved The Eyre Affair. I am totally hooked on Jasper Fforde's Thursday Next series. I love Thursday. She was amazing. Thursday was a grown-up. Just a couple years older than me. It's been a while since I've read a book with a main character that was my age. Everyone has been in their twenties or a teen lately. I really related to Thursday and was happy to see a woman in her thirties taking charge, fighting the bad guy and dealing with relationships. Thursday was a complex character, like a real person.

I loved all the fun character names Fforde came up with. There were a lot though, and there was a point, while in the middle of the novel, where I couldn't read for a couple days and I kind of forgot who was who with some of the minor characters. Thankfully, Wikipedia helped me out with that... Not that there were too many characters or anything, you just have to pay attention while reading. I loved Thursday's Dad and the whole Next family. I am a little iffy on Landen. I think I liked Bowden better. I think I know what Hades was, I just wish there was more confirmation in the book. I liked Spike and Victory Analogy, Mycroft and Polly. So many wonderful characters. I wonder who we'll see in the next novel.

The alternate 1985 was intriguing. The English war with Russia. Wales having independence. The Battle of Waterloo. Winston Churchill. Literature is revered. People battle over Shakespeare. There is an entire investigate branch of the government devoted to the preservation of literature.  The LiteraTecs are amazing.  I loved Jane Eyre.  I loved everything about her novel and Rochester's involvement in Thursday's life.  I love the idea of entering a piece of literature, whether it is a novel, like Jane Eyre or one of Wordsworth's poems. Everything in Thursday's world is so different from ours, yet still similar.  It's just that priorities changed somewhere in history (or altered by the French Revisionists). I love the tidbits of history and altered history that Thursday's Dad is always talking about.

The Eyre Affair is such and interested, intricate, engaging, fun novel.  I enjoyed every minute of it. I had heard so many good things about Jasper Fforde (especially from over at What Red Read), that when I saw The Eyre Affair I had to pick it up.  I am so glad I did.  I have to read more by Fforde and I am obsessed with getting the rest of the Thursday Next series, which my local bookstore doesn't have in stock.  Time for online shopping. I need to get Lost in a Good Book.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

The Scorch Trials

There will be some vague spoilers, but I'll try not to give anything away.

The Scorch Trials is the sequel to The Maze Runner (which I watched on Netflix over the summer when I heard that a sequel was going to be released soon). These movies are based on The Maze Runner books by James Dashner. I felt like a lot of stuff was going on in The Scorch Trials. They were saved, then they weren't saved. They were running, finding bits of the old world left behind. Then they thought they were safe, then they weren't.  They met new people. They met monsters.  Is it just me, or were those things basically zombies? I didn't expect that, and I appreciate the unexpected. What I saw coming, was what happened with Teresa.  My Hubby called it too.

I am having a hard time really wrapping my mind around the movie.  It was okay, but like I said, there was a lot going on. The trial was a journey. I like the idea of the journey, some of it was good, but I don't feel like we really got to know a lot of people in the different places.  It's like we were only meant to care about the people we met in the first movie, while maybe being forced to care about Thomas's new friend. The Scorch Trials was entertaining, but I don't think I connected with it the way I did with The Maze Runner.  While they explained why the kids were important, they didn't really explain why they put so many of them in the Maze. Why put them in there and watch them die? It was very much a middle movie too, with an obvious quest set up for a third movie, which I am assuming they will make.

The Scorch Trials was entertaining and I do like the character of Thomas, I like Minho, Newt and Teresa. Though I predicted it, I appreciate the choice to make Teresa do what she did. While it wasn't as exciting as The Maze Runner, I enjoyed The Scorch Trials and I look forward to the third movie in this series.

Saturday, September 19, 2015

Can I Give Away Books I Haven't Read Yet?

Instead of talking about the general idea, I'm going to use a couple examples...

There are these two books I own. They are by the same author. I have only read one of them. Honestly, I didn't really like it.  It wasn't terrible, but it wasn't for me. Why do I have two books by the same author when I didn't like the first book I read? I got them at the same time. The author had one of their books turned into a movie and it was released around the time I made this purchase. Neither of the books were the movie book, but I was eager to give them a try.  After reading the first book, I am 99% confident I will not read the second. Why would I, when I have so many (MANY) books that I am eager, itching to read? I have books by authors I love, books by authors I've never read, but I'm excited to. I wrote about wanting to read first books so that I can know if I should buy an author's subsequent books.  This is one of those cases where it would have been a good idea. I would never have bought the second book if I had read the first. But then I let myself wonder, will I ever change my mind?  What if I meet someone who says they've read and loved the book, will I regret giving it away? The idea of that makes me wary.

My second example...

I have a book that was left at my house... around the time I graduated high school.  I won't tell you how many years ago that was. A classmate and I were working on a project and she forgot it. I tried to give it back, but she didn't want it.  Maybe she left it on purpose because she knew I liked books, or maybe she just wanted to get rid of it.  I've read the synopsis. It's a slim little thing. I honestly have no interest in reading it. I've dragged it around with me because of my book hoarding tendencies, but I think it is time I let it go. Though I fee guilty. I've never read anything by this author, but in all this time, if I can't muster enough interest to even eye the first page, I don't think I'll read it. Yet, guilt. How can I give away something I haven't read yet?

I can though, right?  I can give these and other books like these away.  I can.  I should.  I will. Maybe. If I know, really believe, that I am never going to read these books, then I should make some space on my overcrowded shelves. Bah!

Saturday, September 12, 2015

The Diviners

I'm still wrapping my head around The Diviners. Libba Bray creates a world brimming with interesting characters, intricate settings and complex plots. There was so much history all around New York, prohibition, flappers, inter-racial relationships. I love that Libba Bray explored different relationships in a story set in the twenties. I loved everything about how these people came together. That being said, I couldn't get enough of Evie. As much as I enjoyed the other characters, I found Evie's character complicated, caught between wanting to do the right thing and being a 17-year-old girl wanting to have fun. I was always racing to find out what was going to happen to her or what she was going to do. What she did at the end was unexpected. The very end. Both things. But I was happy about the second thing because, love him.

I mentioned recently that I had a lot of "first books" and that I should start reading them. The sequel to the The Diviners was just released and I wanted to know if I would want to purchase it. The answer is, yes, I would like a copy of Lair of Dreams stat. There are so many unanswered questions. I want to know about Sister Walker, Sam's mother and James. I want to know what Will is trying to protect Evie from. I want to know more about Memphis and Isaiah. I want to know if anyone is going to find out about Blind Bill. Octavia has to know something about those boys, right? If not, I feel like she'll eventually be a casualty. I want to know about the eye and the dreams. I kind of want more back story on Henry too. Also, I'm a little torn between Sam and Jericho. I think I like Jericho better, but I feel like Sam might win in the end. Also, what does that guy want with Mabel?! Though the beginning took its time introducing us to all these characters, it was worth it. I want to know more about all of them. I want to know about their lives and if they survive the oncoming storm.

Libba Bray notes at the end of the novel, the research that she did to come up with this world.  You can tell that the details were all thought through. The streets, the sounds, the people feel concrete, like they were real places, like Bray had been there. I enjoyed the cabs, the car with a crank, the outfits. Each detail made the world of The Diviners more real. It's nice to find a little reality in my fantasy. I'm so happy and excited that I read The Diviners and I'm eager to read not just Lair of Dreams, but more my Bray.

Wednesday, September 09, 2015

The Omnibus

How do you feel about Omnibuses?  I understand why they are created, popular trilogies (or quartets and quintets) are collected into one volume and sold at a good price. People buy, read, it's great. Sometimes they replace the individual novels.

Here is where my question really comes from: Do you read the omnibus as if it were one book? Typically, when I read series, I break them up. I like variety, I like to think and ponder. It's been a long time since I binge read a series. I can't even think of an instance. Maybe when I read Harry Potter when only the first four books were out? I haven't felt the urge to binge-read either. Recently, I read Seed to Harvest and Underwater Love (two completely different books).  Seed to Harvest is the collection of Octavia E. Butler's Patternmaster series. Underwater Love is the collection of MaryJanice Davidson's Fred the Mermaid series. In both cases, I broke up the series, reading each book, then something else, then coming back. Neither omnibus was that long, but I chose this option anyway. Patternmaster is a series of such different books, I don't know if reading them all together would have mattered.

Part of me feels ridiculous for doing this.  Am I ridiculous?  This is just how I've always read series, interspersed with other books.  The omnibuses have just made me think about my choices.

Monday, September 07, 2015

Of Poseidon

I totally predicted the ending.  Not quite everything, of course....and in the middle of the book, I had a bit of a question about the parentage.  But the big reveal.  I knew it.  There were some things thrown out there to make me doubt myself, but I knew it.

I really enjoyed Of Poseidon.  It was fast-paced with a good story. What really hooked me was the beginning. Anna Banks wrote a scene that I did not expect.  It was so sad and violent and changed the way you thought the story was going to go.  It was traumatic for Emma and coloured the way she thought of her first meeting with Galen.

I liked Emma.  She talked about being "that girl". The girl who gives up everything for a boy, who moons over him and changes all her life plans.  She wants to go to college and have the future she has been planning.  Then she calls herself on it when she does become "that girl".  I like Galen too.  He had a struggle, but he was also able to leave Emma when necessary, he didn't feel the need to drag her around everywhere because he had to be with her all the time.

Toraf and Rayna are fun, but I don't know if I liked what Toraf did.  In the end, it was okay, but what if it wasn't.  Would Rayna have been freed, could she have made her own decision?  I don't know, so I'm not totally sold on this storyline.

I also don't know if I like the ending.  It was too cliffhanger-y.  I like novels, including first ones in a series, to feel finished.  I'd rather the cliffhanger be left for book two. There are so many questions left, even though I knew what was going to happen. The questions all have to do with the future of the characters. I want to know what will happen to everyone, where are they going to go, what will the fate of the kingdoms be? I feel unsatisfied with the ending, though I'm not sure what the author could have done differently.  Continue the story?  End it sooner?  It is not going to stop me from reading Of Triton and Of Neptune

One of the reasons I read Of Poseidon was because I had already read Anna Banks' short story, Legacy Lost, which I re-read after finishing Of Poseidon.  I really enjoyed it, so I felt like I would enjoy the novel too. I've always liked reading a short story to try out a new author, before committing time and money to a full novel. I am looking forward to Of Triton and reading more of Banks' work.

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Jane Austen

Recently, I read Mansfield Park, which once completed meant I had read all of Jane Austen's novels. I know there are other works I could read, but I wasn't sure if I wanted to, they are all either unfinished or Austen did not submit them for publication.  After reading Carol Shields' short biography of Austen, simply titled, Jane Austen, I'm definitely more curious about the other works. Though one of the things Shields' biography taught me was that Austen was an avid reviser, leaving manuscripts for years, then going back to them and revising, after having already made several revisions previously, before sending them for publication.

I didn't really know a lot about Jane Austen as a person when I read her novels.  I know she died relatively young, just forty.  She was unmarried, though there had been opportunity.  She became a spinster/maiden aunt by the end of her twenties - which is really ridiculous when you think of it now, but that's how things were then.  When I was shopping at a used bookstore, I came across Jane Austen, by Carol Shields.  It was a slim volume and I wondered why.  I also wanted to read more by Carol Shields.  Since I also wanted to know more about Austen, it seemed a perfect find.  Austen in August gave me the perfect time to read it.

Shields' writing is fluid and insightful.  The book is structured around Austen's writing life, as Shields tells us about what was happening in Austen's life while she was creating her various novels.  I like that Shields didn't just record everything chronologically.  I like that the focus of the book was her writing and what affected it, the inspiration behind it, as well as the frequency in which Austen wrote. It's a little sad, her early life, but once she finally had Sense and Sensibility published, she was happier.  The end was sad too.  It's interesting through her letters, accounts of her health, and the way her aunt and cousin died, people guess that Austen died of breast cancer.  At least, that's the theory that Shields ascribes to; there are others.  Austen died too soon, with works left unwritten, unfinished.  I wonder if she would have revised Persuasion* more if she had the time. Shields gives the impression of Austen racing to finish the work before the end. 

Shields includes at the end of the biography, her sources. It is a nice list of further reading. I'd like read what nephew James Edward Austen-Leigh wrote of his aunt. I've also heard that Claire Tomalin's Jane Austen, A Life is quite good. Though the real source of pleasure for me will be Jane Austen's six finished novels.  I've enjoyed all her books and look forward to re-reading them. I very much enjoyed Shields' Jane Austen.  It is an easy read and illuminating volume.

*I just read my old post on Persuasion.  It's so short!  Written in November 2006, I had only been blogging for a few months, before these wordy things I post know ;)  I definitely need to re-read Persuasion.  Also, Sense and Sensibility, which I read before I started blogging.

Friday, August 28, 2015

Undead and Underwater

Undead and Underwater is a collection of three novellas by MaryJanice Davidson.  In it, Davidson has included a crossover story with Queen Betsy and Fred the Mermaid, a grown-up Lara Wyndham, and a character I've never read about before, Hailey Derry.  While I love Queen Betsy and the Undead books, I've been interested in reading something different by Davidson and more about the world of the Wyndham werewolves and Fred the Mermaid.

Super, Girl

Hailey is great (aka It Girl - a name she hates) and has an unusual power. She doesn't wear a cape or have a crafted persona. She just does what's right, what needs to be done.  I love where Hailey works; her office has its own personality. If Davidson ever writes more about Hailey, I feel like she'll need to flush out that company and its CEO a little more. Even with the unanswered questions, I really enjoyed the story.  I felt like we were getting a peak into Hailey's life. I appreciated that Hailey wasn't just a copy of Betsy.  She talked "a mile a minute", but before Linus, she felt like she had no one to talk to.  Unlike Betsy, from the beginning, she puts others first. She has no life except for her Human Resources job and saving people.  She owns her gifts.  She makes excuses at work, but the end is no surprise.  I wish I could know more about Hailey's minions, who love her and want her to be happy.  For a novella, it was good, with just enough mystery that will make readers want more.

Undead and Underwater

Will there be more Betsy and Fred crossover? Because I think I would enjoy that. Betsy has changed the way Fred thinks about the world. With both of these characters, having them change in any way affects how they deal with the problems that come up in their stories. It is Betsy that has kept me reading the Undead series and who influenced me to pick up a trilogy about mermaids. I think Fred is seeing Betsy the way her friends and other strangers don't, maybe because of her unique perspective.

In Undead and Underwater, Betsy and Fred accidentally come together because they were asked to help the same person. At first Fred can't stand Betsy, which is understandable for anyone who's read any of the Undead books, but she sees the way that Betsy is willing to help Madeline, a human and someone she doesn't know. Fred reluctantly gets to know Betsy. You can feel a lot of different things towards the reluctant vampire Queen, she's ditzy but likable, self-centered but fierce. Betsy is often perfectly put together, but in a flash, she can also be covered with someone else's blood. Fred knows that Betsy is someone she never wants to piss off and never wants to lose track of. Those final lines of the Undead and Underwater novella make me think that Fred and Betsy will come together again. There are Undead novels I have yet to read and one or two more yet to be published and I am excited to see what Davidson has in store for them.


I really enjoyed Incomer it might be my favorite of the three stories. Incomer is about Lara the daughter of Michael Wyndham and new Pack leader. The story takes place in near the future, when Lara assumes leadership of the Pack. Incomer is about her first day, her first challenge and becoming an adult. I loved her brother, Sean and I loved Jack. It was nice to know what happened to Derik and Sara after Derik's Bane. I appreciate that there wasn't the typical werewolf fight to the death.  Laura, after taking on her father's mantle, is also continuing Michael's new tradition of excepting change. When Lara addresses the challenge in an unusual way, the result is unexpected.  I appreciate the unexpected, especially when using familiar stories, like werewolf fight to the death or challenge for leadership.

I also really liked Davidson's vision of technology in the future.  It's only about 20 years, but foldable iPads sound awesome, though even if our homes get wired to the Cloud, I think some of the young folk will know what iPhones are, because their parents had one. I loved the glimpses of future Queen Betsy and future Fred.  They're the same, but older. They might give Lara a hard time, but they are loyal and seem to have genuine concern for her well-being.  Betsy seems to be at home, still with Sinclair, living life, trying not to turn evil.  Fred is in the Caspian Sea, the seat of power for the Undersea Folk, with kids. How did she end up in the Caspian Sea when she loved Boston?  I think more than Betsy, I have questions about Fred.

I enjoyed getting to be in the Pack and experiencing it through their perspective.  There have only been two Wyndam Werewolves novels, the rest have been short stories, most of which I don't think I've read.  Neither of the novels took place in Cape Cod, where the Wyndhams live.  What is it like there, what has Michael Wyndham had to deal with? What were his children like as teenagers?  How did humans fit into their world?  What was the fallout after Queen Betsy's visit?  Incomer gave me some of that, some of what I've been wanting to read.  But I'd like more.

In the end...

It was a great threesome of novellas.  I enjoyed each story, each character accepting their positions of power, their responsibilities.  It has reminded me how much I enjoy Davidson's writing and I look forward to the next book of hers I pluck off the shelf.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

First Sentences

I recently changed the entire first page of my work-in-progress and that got me thinking of first sentences. The first one that popped into my head was from Pride and Prejudice, "It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife." While I enjoyed Jane Austen's most famous work, part of the reason I thought of this quote was because that line gets a lot of air play. Then I wondered, what were the first sentences of some of my favourite books...

The story had held us, round the fire, sufficiently breathless, but except the obvious remark that it was gruesome, as, on Christmas Eve in an old house, a strange tale should essentially be, I remember no comment uttered till somebody happened to say that it was the only case he had met in which such a visitation had fallen on a child. – The Turn of the Screw, Henry James

Whether I shall turn out to be the hero of my own life, or whether that station will be held by anybody else, these pages must show. – David Copperfield, Charles Dickens

We slept in what had once been the gymnasium. – The Handmaid’s Tale, Margaret Atwood

When I wake up, the other side of the bed is cold. – The Hunger Games, Suzanne Collins

The servants called them malenchki, little ghosts, because they were the smallest and the youngest, and because they haunted the Duke’s house like giggling phantoms, darting in and out of rooms, hiding in cupboards to eavesdrop, sneaking into the kitchen to steal the last of the summer peaches. – Shadow and Bone, Leigh Bardugo

There was once, in the country of Alifbay, a sad city, the saddest of cities, a city so ruinously sad that it had forgotten its name. – Haroun and the Sea of Stories, Salman Rusdie

The day I died started out bad and got worse in a hurry. – Undead and Unwed, MaryJanice Davidson

The man in black fled across the desert, and the gunslinger followed. – The Gunslinger, Stephen King

Ships at a distance have every man’s wish on board. – Their Eyes Were Watching God, Zora Neale Hurston

Mrs. Dalloway said she would buy the flowers herself. – Mrs. Dalloway, Virginia Woolf

A few years ago it dawned on me that everybody past a certain age – regardless of how they look on the outside – pretty much constantly dreams of being able to escape from their lives. - The Gum Thief, Douglas Coupland

My mother thinks I'm dead. - Legend, Marie Lu

All this happened, more of less. - Slaughterhouse-Five, Kurt Vonnegut Jr.

Across genres and eras, the first sentence of a novel is important. It can captures a reader's interest or make them roll their eyes in annoyance. I've learned that not all first lines hold mystery, sometimes it takes the first paragraph or first page. I have a lot of respect though, for writers that can take you away, pull you in, grab and never let go, with that first sentence.

Monday, August 24, 2015

The Spin Number is.... 5!

I looked up 5 on my list and it's MacBeth. Why did I put that on my classics list? Because I was an English major, who took a class on Shakespeare, and never read MacBeth. I've never even seen it. I thought, it's one of Shakespeare's most well-known plays, I aught to read it. Looks like that time is now.  So, on October 23rd, look out for my thoughts on MacBeth

Now, do I read it from the giant complete works that I have or do I download and ebook?

First Books In A Series

I think I might make fall First Books Season. I look at my shelves, as I so often do, and I see all these books that are "the first", the first in a series. Often I see the second and third books for sale and I wonder, should I buy the next book? I haven't read the first book yet, what if I don't like it? I don't want to waste my money on buying more books in a series if I don't like the first book. When the books are on for a discount, that makes them so much more tempting.  I know I'm two steps from being a total book hoarder, but I'm resisting those steps.  I'm trying to make smarter choices with my limited space. So, I need to read these first books.  I need to decide if these series are for me.  I need to know which books to spend my money on.

Some firsts I might read this fall:

Daughter of Smoke and Bone, by Laini Taylor
Enclave, by Ann Aguirre
Bloodsucking Fiends, by Christopher Moore
Cinder, by Marissa Meyer
The Diviners, by Libba Bray
A Discovery of Witches, by Deborah Harkness
Of Poseidon, by Anna Banks
The Eyre Affair, by Jasper Fforde
Omens, by Kelley Armstrong
Partials, by Dan Wells

I think I'll stop here.  I could go on, but it's not like I could even read these 10 in 3 months unless I took some time from my job and family life (I could stop sleeping).  Which one should I start with? They all sound so good!

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Mansfield Park

I am just going to assume that people have read Mansfield Park or seen one of the movies....

I am finally finished Mansfield Park. I shouldn't say "finally" like it is a bad thing. I enjoyed Mansfield Park, it just took me longer to read than other books. I was eager for the ending, because I have come to know Jane Austen and I knew in this story, it would be the unrequited love fulfilled. Though, I was eager for the ending, I loved the beginning and middle too. I found it all very interesting. How could one sister have 10 children, another have only 4 and the third have none? (I know how someone could have no children, it was more the 10 to 4 thing.) It sparked an interesting discussion with my husband. Fanny Price's mother had more children than she knew what to do with. Her sister, Lady Bertram, married much more advantageously, and offered to take one of the children. Mrs. Price assumed it would be their oldest boy, William, but instead the sister asked for the oldest girl, Fanny. Mrs. Price, who favours the boys over the girls, was surprised, but sent her off; one less mouth to feed. I think it was kind what Sir Thomas did for his wife's relations. Fanny and William are much better off for having such an uncle, who showed them this kindness, as the Bertrams did help William also. It is Mrs. Norris, the childless sister, who drove me crazy, as I think she was supposed to do. She was so awful to Fanny and I'm glad Sir Thomas finally saw her true colours.

I was really hoping for a little more build up to Fanny and Edmund. I've read the other five main Austen novels and there is always some kind of movement, moments, before we get the final couple. Not with Fanny and Edmund. Instead, it felt as though the Crawfords would get paired, as so much of the novel was spent on those relationships. Thinking back on it, maybe Austen was making sure that we knew how unsuitable these relationships would be. For a minute, I thought Fanny would soften towards Crawford, just enough so that his betrayal would hurt her more, but nope. She was a rigid heroine. I liked her though. I feel like Fanny had a real sense of who was around her and how they all really felt towards her and each other.

I hated Mary Crawford. She was so insipid. She played at friendship. I feel like I've known people like her, who don't make a choice exactly, yet spin things in their favour, but it is something in them that has thoroughly skewed their judgment and they just don't see that they are wrong. I felt a little bad for the Bertram sisters, too much ruled by emotion and not enough by rational though. Crawford was a cad, he was Wickham and Willoughby, but worse. He was an awful "flirt", though I do think he had genuine affection for Fanny. Crawford lacked patience. If he had waited, he (and his sister) might have ended up with the people they desired. I still wish that everyone, especially Edmund could have, could have seen what Fanny saw.

I know Mansfield Park is Austen's least popular and regarded as her most difficult novel (probably why it's the least popular.) It definitely lacked some of the romance and lovable, relateable characters that fill her other books, but the story, the view of English society, was fantastic.  I know I was hesitant to read Mansfield Park and it certainly took me a little while to finish it, but it was fantastic and definitely a book I will re-read one day.  

Yay for Austen in August!! - Check out Austen in August at Roof Beam Reader

Friday, August 21, 2015

Classic Spin #10 (What??)

I just realized that it's been weeks since I posted anything.  What?! Life has just been busy, I guess.  I mentioned on my other blog, which I also have been posting to infrequently, that you think you're going to have all this free time in summer, but nope.  The kids are home, but they need occupation. We have swimming and gymnastics and playdates. Everyone is having a barbecue.  Everyone wants to enjoy the hot weather (except me).  My work life has been pretty busy to, so not a lot of sneaking away to post on the blog.  That's one of the reasons I love the Classics Club Spin, it's inspiring me to carve out a few minutes and post my list.  I'm so excited to find out what I'll be reading.  For the last few spins, I've been using because I enjoy the randomness of it... and there's a lot less thought.  The list is:

1. Sherlock Holmes #1: A Study In Scarlett, by Arthur Conan Doyle
2. Under The Knife, by H.G. Wells
3. Middlemarch, by George Eliot
4. From the Earth to the Moon, by Jules Verne
5. Macbeth, by William Shakespeare
6. The Raven, by Edgar Allan Poe
7. Tales of Angria, by Charlotte Brontë
8. Three Series, Complete, by Emily Dickinson
9. The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, by L. Frank Baum
10. Anna Karenina, by Leo Tolstoy
11. The Woman in White, by Wilkie Collins
12. The Weapons Shop, by A.E. van Vogt
13. The Tale of Peter Rabbit, by Beatrix Potter
14. The Handmaid's Tale, by Margaret Atwood
15. Queen Mab/The Daemon of the World, by Percy Bysshe Shelley
16. The Big and The Little, by Isaac Asimov
17. The House of Mirth, by Edith Wharton
18. A Farewell to Arms, by Ernest Hemingway
19. Medea, by Euripides
20. Anne of Green Gables, by L.M. Montgomery

(Please don't be 10)

I'm really hoping for 14.  One of the poetry or genre classics would be fun too.  Also 20, it's been decades since I read it.  Maybe it was 7th or 8th grade... maybe earlier.  I should check the publication year on the edition I have.  

Also, I can't believe this is the 10th Classics Club Spin!  I haven't participated in all, but I have in most.  I love the Spin, more than anything else, it really motivates me to keep plugging away at my list.  Thanks, Classics Club!

Saturday, August 08, 2015

The Maze Runner

This will be vaguely spoilery, but I think a lot of people by now have seen The Maze Runner....

Let's experiment on people! Is that a thing with dystopian movies (novels)? I really enjoyed The Maze Runner. It was better than expected, which is always good. I like the way that Thomas, the main character, was introduced into the Maze. Of course, he immediately made friends but also had his detractors. And of course, one of those friends happened to be the most innocent looking of all the boys in the Maze. Immediately I felt that something was going to happen to this kid (Chuck). My hubby looked at me and said, "awe poor Rue." I told him to shut up. There were other aspects of the movie that reminded me of The Hunger Games, The Maze Runner also reminded me of Divergent. The Maze Runner was published two years before Divergent, though, so I feel like it's a bit of a backwards comparison.

I haven't read The Maze Runner novels, but now I want to. I don't need to read every book that's being turned into a movie, right?

I kind of loved how shocked all the boys were to see a girl. Some of them have been in the Maze for over three years. That means seeing only boys for a long time. Not that it looked like these boys needed a girl (or even an adult), but just having one around or more than one, would have made for a different and more diverse three years. Though I suppose the introduction of a girl at the end was representative of the change that the community of boys was about to go through.

One thing I didn't like was that The Maze Runner does not feel finished. At least at the end of other first movies in a series, the film is complete, it is a story in itself. The Maze is over and it does look like the survivors are possibly going to a better place, but that is only from their point of view. We all know as viewers that there are more trials for them in the future. I wonder and kind of suspect that the book ends in a similar way. I don't know if I would have liked that in a book. I like my books and movies, specifically the first and last in the series, to feel like they're done. I think the helicopter bit was fine, it's the part with the doctor that changed it for me. 

I'm glad I finally watched The Maze Runner and I'll be looking out for The Scorch Trials.

Thursday, August 06, 2015


I thought I did not want to read anymore vampire books. I did, however, want to read something by Meg Cabot, who I kept hearing all kinds of wonderful things about.  I see her books everywhere, but for some reason, had never read one.  Then there was that sad thing that happened to a local bookstore.  I found one of her books there and I had to have it.  I knew it was a vampire book when I bought it.  Just look at the cover, there's a stake on it. Insatiable is a vampire book that makes fun of other vampire books though. The main character, Meena, hates vampires in fiction.  She makes fun of the girls that get all swoony, but guess what happens to her? Also, Meena...Meena Harper! Has anyone read Dracula or seen the movie?  Mina Harker is the name of the leading lady in Bram Stoker's classic. Her husband is John Harker.... Insatiable also has a Jon Harper.  Meena's brother. When I realized this, I had a tiny "eww" moment.  But I got over it. Insatiable has a few of the vampire "conventions", but the book is so entertaining

Meena, oh Meena.  She's not just an ordinary girl, or even a girl.  She's a twenty-something woman with a career.  She can also predict people's deaths. Meena had me reading the book, the way that she behaved like a twenty-something, the way she accepted her gift, that she tried, but didn't want people to think she was crazy.  Meena, especially in the end, did not do what was expected.  Lucien, the prince of darkness, he was kind of typical, but when he is perceived by Meena, it makes him different.  I appreciated a lot of the characters.  Alaric did have an annoying side though.  I liked that he wasn't a talker, he was all about business, but he was also very narrow-minded. He learned something and changed. The Señor Sticky thing though, seemed a little out of place for a guy who liked the finer things.

I was hooked by Insatiable.  I love that it is the name of a soap opera series.  The vampires story-line thing was so funny.  I like that people text in this book too.  I was out all night, better text my brother and my friend.  I just haven't noticed it a lot with stories lately, the use of modern technology beyond email.

I am also hooked on Meg Cabot now.  I've already sought out the sequel to Insatiable, Overbite.  She has written so many books though, I feel like it might be my desire to read all of Stephen King's books, it'll either take forever or never happen.  I'll be keeping her in mind though, whenever I head out to a bookstore.

Tuesday, August 04, 2015

Man Of Steel

I know I'm a little late to the party, but I finally saw Man of Steel. Strange for a nerd like me, but for whatever reason it just didn't happen when everyone else saw it. I heard about the changes, the controversy, the nonstop destruction, and was worried. I loved the old Superman movies with Christopher Reeve as a kid. I enjoyed the Lois and Clark series as a teen. I know things change and have to adapt as we move forward, but I was concerned that I would be disappointed. Maybe I wasn't disappointed because my expectations were not that high. Is that bad to say? I watched Man of Steel knowing that it was good enough to warrant a sequel and that it would not be like any of the previous Superman movies.

I liked it. I like Henry Cavill. He's handsome and strong and brings his own interpretation to the role. I liked that Clark went out into the world to try and find himself. I found this version of Clark Kent a little more realistic. Clark wasn't some 20-something moving to the big city, he was an adult who had life experiences, was a mature and intelligent person. Lois Lane was very much the person I expected her to be, but what really needed to change? She was always an intelligent, independent, strong-willed woman. 

As soon as it happened though, I can see where the controversy came in. Superman is always been held to an ideal and maybe he did not necessarily live up to that in this movie. Would that be really realistic though? How else would Zod have been defeated? There was no kyptonite, there were no more ships, he was as strong and perhaps more skilled than Superman. He was about to murder a defenseless family, what could Superman have done differently? I think also DC is trying to do what Marvel has done, they are trying to place their heroes in the modern world, isn't that what they did with the first Iron Man movie? These heroes are going to have problems we can relate to and have to deal with consequences. Isn't that what Superman v Batman is going to be about, the consequences of Superman in the world and what he means to everything. 

In the end, I enjoyed Man of Steel.  It didn't ramp up my excitement like the first Avengers movie, though I think it was trying to, but I liked the story.  I liked Clark Kent and his parents, all four of them.  I liked Lois Lane, I liked the Colonel and the General.  I really loved the ending.  I'm looking forward to more from the Man of Steel.

Monday, August 03, 2015


Embroideries was hilarious. I couldn't put down Marjane Satrapi's (second) nonfiction graphic novel (graphic memoir?) about these Iranian women sitting down to have a sex talk. The women were so bold and so honest and their stories were just incredible. I loved the grandmother. I loved how she started the book and how she ended it. I loved finding out what "embroideries" actually means.

I don't often read nonfiction but I was intrigued by Embroideries. I had been wanting to read something by Marjane Satrapi and her nonfiction graphic novel came into my possession. I found the idea of a nonfiction graphic novel fascinating. It meant that Satrapi would be drawing real people from her life. Their stories are also represented through her drawings, her interpretation of what they are telling her.  The art is amazing, intriguing and adds another layer to their tales.

There is so much I could talk about with this book. Iranian women, how they are perceived, what they are really like.  That broken hearts are common no matter the culture, so is using a relationship to escape.  In this conversation, the women are so bold and so open. They talked about everything. Marrying certain men have their advantages, like being able to move to Vienna. Keep your jewels safe. How to fake virginity. What happens after divorce. Embroideries.

I love this book. I've read some great books recently and this one might be the best of them. It was funny, heartwarming, emotional and unique.  I look forward reading more from Satrapi and hope to see the films based on her work too.

Friday, July 31, 2015

Ruin and Rising

The Grisha series might now rank among my favourite books.  I loved Ruin and Rising.  There were so many times when Leigh Bardugo surprised me.  I did not expect what happened to Nikolai, not at all.  It was interesting and made sense to the story and definitely left a lasting impression on him and me.  I also didn't expect what happened with Mal and the Firebird.  I thought there would be some kind of thing, like with the Stag or the Seawhip, but nope, something else.  Though I did suspect there was something about Mal.  He was just too good.

There were just so many wonderful moments.  I loved how Bardugo always kept the action going.  The first big bang is pretty close to the beginning, it was the same with Shadow and Bone and Siege and Storm, something happens to get your heart racing.  There are so many great fights, that could have finished Alina or the Darkling and the book, but no, they weren't big enough.  They didn't cost enough, break enough hearts or cause enough tears.  I loved the characters.  All of them.  I loved the Darkling, Nikolai, Zoya, Tamar, Tolya, all of them.  Bardugo created people that Alina could count on, but were flawed and had their own motivations.  None of them were the same and they all had distinct personalities.  I loved Tamar and Nadia, unexpected and subtle.  I adored Genya and David's relationship.  I know Zoya was so mean, but she was also very loyal.  I loved the scenes when Alina finds she needs friends, that she can't be separate from everyone from everyone all the time.  It is a brief moment of lightness when Alina gathers her "girlfriends" and brings them to her room to get their opinions on Nikolai's gifts.  I loved when they gathered again to comfort her.  I could see them becoming her "ladies" at court if she married Nikolai.

I feel like I should stop talking about all the things I loved about Ruin and Rising, but honestly, I loved everything about it.  Characters, world-building, scenery, plot, pacing, everything.  I know that one day, I will read the Grisha series again - likely before the first movie comes out.  I've read Leigh Bardugo's novels and all but one of her Grisha short stories and they were all wonderful.  At this point, I will read anything Bardugo writes.  The imagination, the twists, I could not put Ruin and Rising down.

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Digital Parent

When I had my first child, I used to write everything down, all her milestones in a red notebook that a friend had given to me.  Not a baby book (though I have of those too), but a book filled with lined paper, writing down all the little details, like a diary or journal entry.  I did it for a long time, until that book was filled.  Then I got a new book, a Dr. Seuss journal, which my Hubby bought me.  I tried to continue to write down all the things that happened, first teeth, steps, funny moments, as my second child was born.

What happened?  Were my hands full with two children now, an infant and a two-year-old?  I was still making notes, but more often they were on my iPad (which my Hubby got me for Christmas the year our son was born).  I think back on it and it's not the same.  Even now, with my children 6 and 4, I don't write things down, tell the story.  I take a multitude of videos and pictures on my phone.  I take pictures and post it to social media with captions for my friends and family to see.

I have all these digital notes, saved and backed up, but I still want those paper to turn through.  I want the book sitting on my shelf, whenever I want to open it.  But I don't have time to write all those notes out.  What I am considering is a bit of a copy and paste project.  I print all those notes, maybe edit them for spelling, and glue them into my Dr. Seuss book.  Then I think I might have what I wanted, though not in the way I intended.

I am left now wondering if this happened because of the "digital age" we not live in, where it is easier to take a picture with smartphone, then a camera and we can transmit it to whoever, wherever we want. Or did it happen because I became busier, I had two little ones who demanded my time, I worked full time, I had projects that needed my attention? Did the smartphone and tablet actually save things that would have been lost 30 years ago? I can message a photo or video to family members who haven't seen the children in a while, instead of handing them a stack of photos or an album filled with months of memories, like my parents used to do.

Am I disappointed I didn't keep up with the notebook?  A little, but I had to balance my time (and sanity). Do I think my cut and paste idea is a bit like cheating?  A little, yes, but if I want it done now instead of in five years, this is how it will happen.  I also like to think that when it is done, I might start writing in it again, since it won't feel like I'm behind anymore.  Also, I'm glad for my smartphone and tablet, always being right there, grabbing all the cute pictures that needed to be taken.

Should I have been working at my day job instead of writing this?  Maybe.

Monday, July 27, 2015

Star Wars Jedi Academy: The Phantom Bully

I really enjoyed Star Wars Jedi Academy: The Phantom Bully (and it's two predecessors).  It is a very cute story, that is light and fun and reminds us how difficult it can be at that age.  Your first feelings for a girl/boy, your first fight with your best friend, dealing with bullies, trying to understand teachers.  Of course, the books are targeted to that age group, I'm just a geek who enjoys Star Wars.

What? It's a Star Wars book.
I think Roan is a relateable main character. He is clever, but awkward. He is new to the school, wants to be cool, but also values good grades.  I like that his artwork is valued and popular with the kids at the school; I think it is important to show that the arts are important.

Though she isn't the star of the story, Gaiana is a great character. She is smart, independent, and loyal. She is shown having her own awkward growing pains, but that doesn't not in any way change how Roan feels about her. I also loved that she comes in first, not Roan or even his best friend, Pasha. Also, the person who was best at sports was the new girl, Lilly.

I also appreciate the subtle diversity of the story, which I didn't pick up on until part way through the book.  Roan's best friend, Pasha, is clearly a person of colour. Roan's last name is Novachez, and it looks as though his father is dark-haired, while his mother has lighter hair.  It's kind of hard to tell, since the book is in black and white.  Most of the rest of Roan's classmates are aliens.  So, they could be whatever colour.  I don't know if that was on purpose or just how Jeffrey Brown saw his own middle school.  There maybe could have been a couple more girls, but it was still pretty good.

I really enjoyed the Jedi Academy series and in a year or two, I will be giving (lending?) the books to my daughter. Brown has also written some adorable children's books, so I'm wondering what his next project will be.

Also, a quick note on his "about the author" bit at the end, it is really cute. Brown has drawn himself in the style of the book, as a Jedi, using the Force to levitate little drawings of all his books.  I really like a fun, quirky, unique about the author blurb.

(Did I just end this post with "blurb"?)

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Little Knife, by Leigh Bardugo

Leigh Bardugo's Grisha folk tales are amazing. Little Knife lived up to all my expectations. Like The Witch of Duva and The Too-Clever Fox, there was more to the story than what first appeared on the surface. Little Knife is the story of a ghost town, Velisyana. There once was a girl, Yeva Luchova, and she was so beautiful that the mid-wife, various nurse-maids, an artist, etc., tried to steal her. Duels were fought for her, but after the second death they were stopped. The Duke, her father, decides to hide her away for the protection of the people. Her response is great, '"Papa,” Yeva said to the Duke. “Why must I be the one to hide?”' Seriously.  It's not her fault, the people need to learn some self-control.

It's described as if it was magic to look upon her face. When a rich man suggests Yeva marry his son, after seeing her for himself, starts fighting with his son for her. Then the colonel, who comes to break up the fight, sees her too for the first time, and starts fighting. After she leaves, and they can no longer see her face, it is as though a spell is broken.  The colonel then suggests that the Duke end all the madness and marry off his daughter.  He puts forth three tasks and the winner gets her.  Again, Yeva has a great response, “Papa, forgive me, but what way is this to choose a husband?" So true, right?  She says it essentially three times, after he sets forth each task. Her father's response is basically, you want the Prince to win, so you can be rich, right? I'm pretty sure it doesn't matter to her if she is rich.

I love the end.  I loved the river.  Little Knife is what the river is called by a poor man vying for Yeva's hand.  Little Knife and Yeva are the real focuses of the story. Yeva is punished for the actions of other, Little Knife is used and not respected. I wish we could know her true name.  I wonder how this story will be mentioned/used in Ruin and Rising.  Is Alina Yeva?  Is the firebird Little Knife?  Or will they just be passing through a deserted town and told to stay close to the group, remembering the legend of Velisyana?  I'm so excited for more Leigh Bardugo and I feel like Little Knife is a story that's going to stay with me for a long time.

Friday, July 24, 2015

Iced Tea

Ever tried to make your own Iced Tea at home?  I started a few years ago, when I realized that I was paying A LOT for some something I could make at home for less than a dollar.  You can buy a giant box of tea for what it costs to buy a jug of iced tea that lasts a week.  You also need lemon juice and honey, but not a lot.  Lemons are versatile and the honey will get used to make multiple jugs of iced tea.

To recap, here are your ingredients:

1 teabag
~2 tbsp honey
~3/4oz of lemon juice / half a lemon

This is all to taste.  If you like your tea sweeter, use more honey, if you want a more lemony flavour, use more lemon.  I've made the tea with only honey, having not realized my lemon had gone moldy after already starting the process. It still tasted good, just sweeter than I was used to.


Boil a full kettle of water.  My kettle holds 1.8 litres (just under 4pts).  Get a boiling-water-safe container, a glass jug or pot if you don't have one.  Put the teabag in first, poor the water on top. Steep for 10 minutes. White it is steeping, add the honey and lemon juice. Stir. After 10 minutes, take the teabag out. Let the tea cool a bit, then put it in the container you want to use for serving/storing, if it isn't already. The put it in the fridge.

If you want the tea to be consumed sooner, used less boiling water and add ice cubes after steeping.

I don't know if you've noticed, but the jug on the left is a different colour than the one of the right. That is because the jug on the left is raspberry iced tea, which I have only made once, on the above occasion.  How did I do it?  I boiled about a handful... so 1/2 a cup (ish) of raspberries in about one litre of water (2 pts?).  Then I pour that on the teabag, with water from the kettle, to make up the 1.8 litres. I know my stuff, so I eyeballed it. It came out really well, as you can see from the picture.  I was too slow and most of it was gone before I had a chance to document my first raspberry iced tea. All of it was super easy to make and an easy way to save a few dollars at the grocery store.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Promise Of The Witch-King

I loved the ending, everything about it. I liked the epilogue, Jarlaxle secretly planning for his and Entreri's future, and Entreri's encounter with someone he thought an enemy. In Promise of the Witch-King, we follow the stories of former Legend of Drizzt antagonists, making their way across the world. What Artemis Entreri is searching for is unclear. Jarlaxle is searching for power, but hopefully not something like the Crystal Shard, which was very bad for him in Servent of The Shard (which I just realized it's been six years since I read!).  I wonder what R.A. Salvatore has waiting for them in Road of the Patriarch.

A fifth of the way through the novel and I'm reminded about how much I like the way Salvatore writes female characters. Ellery, Calihye and Parissus are all strong and independent. They can handle themselves against any man or monster. They echo the strength and skill we find in Catti-Brie from the Drizzt novels and Danica from The Cleric Quintet. Salvatore makes it a part of his story that within the world of Forgotten Realms women have to fight twice as hard to get the same rank and respect as men, but that doesn't mean that it is impossible. I think it just might be a bit of life in art. 

I recent wrote about the anti-hero.  Of course, I used Deadpool as an example, finding a dark hero, someone who was "bad", but is now "good" or at least "good-ish" I think is relateable.  We all make bad choices sometimes, some more than others, and we sometimes wonder if we can come back from that.  I don't think Jarlaxle is trying to come back from any of his choices.  Having read several books featuring his character, I think he he did the best with the situation given to him, he's a different kind of anti-hero than his friend.  Right now, Jarlaxle's choices seem to be leading him on a good path. Will that last? Entreri also did the best with what he had, but he closed off from his emotions. Now, with perhaps the help of a magic flute, his emotions are opening up and they are definitely affecting his choices, though he still doesn't have a problem with killing people who are in his way.  Promise of the Witch-King was balanced in the best way, action, emotion, dialogue and descriptions of a battle-torn landscape, with a plot that kept moving.  I had a hard time putting down Witch-King.  Even if you haven't read any Drizzt books or any Forgotten Realms stories, I think Promise of the Witch-King might be a fun place to jump in.