Friday, May 15, 2015

The Waves - I'm Not Finished

Why am I not finished yet?  I had the due date for the Classics Club Spin ages ago.  I started the book weeks ago.  It's not very long, not even 250 pages.  Here's the problem: It makes me sleepy.  I can barely get through a page without starting the yawn.  It's been really helpful with my insomnia.  I push myself to try to read five or ten pages, but I think only once have I been able to do more.  That one time was when I had to go into the city and was on the train for an hour both ways.  Even that wasn't enough.  I think I only managed to get through about 50 pages that day.  On this train ride, which I do about once a month, I can often finish half a book or more!  I just couldn't keep reading without wanting to shut my eyes.

Thus far, Virginia Woolf's The Waves is a beautiful piece of literature.  It's lyrical and visual and I do like it.  It's just so very STREAM OF CONSCIOUSNESS.  Very.  

I mentioned in my Spin post, this is my second time reading it.  I wondered why I didn't remember what happened the first time, and now I think I know why.

Also, the Spin was a little funny this time around.  The original post said the Spin date was May 15 (today), but on May 5 a post went up.  No one changed anything, though many Clubbers mentioned the error in the comments.  It was probably either a typo or a mis-scheduling of the post. 5/15, very close.  Oh well.  

When will I finished The Waves?  I hope soon.  Afterwards, I'm going to find something light. I have some options. I think that I want no thinking, maybe lots of feelings and action.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Continuing A Series After The Author's Death

The Hitchhikers Guide To The Galaxy, The Wheel of Time and The Millennium Series, all have something in common (besides being on my bookshelves); after the death of their authors, someone else has continued the series. Why does an author feel compelled to do that, finish someone else's series? Is it love? Why does a publisher go ahead with this? Is it money? Is it also love?

Though all these series are in my home, I haven't read them all. The Wheel of Time is my Hubby's. I'm not sure if I'll read it one day or not. I want to, but the books are huge! I have read The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo and recently The Girl Who Played With Fire (finally), but not The Girl Who Kicked The Hornet's Nest. I don't know why, I suppose I just haven't gotten around to it. I have read the five Hitchhiker books and loved them. Was I a fan of the ending? Not necessarily, but it felt like an ending; it was complete. When I heard about Eoin Colfer's book And Another Thing, as a continuation, I was excited and hesitant. I managed to pick it up (a long time ago - my son was an infant) at a charity book sale. It still sits unread on my shelf.

I've been thinking about this lately. I've also been making an effort to read the books that have been on my shelf for a while, like And Another Thing.  I'm so hesitant to read it, but I want to and I want to love it.  I'm concerned that my expectations are too high. I know Hitchhikers isn't for everyone, but I loved it. What if I hate this "sixth" book?  Would it ruin the series for me? Would my ire be worse than normal? Am I over thinking this?

What do you think about authors who continue a series?  I know I mentioned The Wheel of Time, but that was a different case, right? From what I understand, the series was clearly not finished and Brandon Sanderson worked from Robert Jordan's notes. Someone correct me if I'm wrong.  That is not the case with Millennium, as the author is creating a completely new work, not using the partially finished manuscript Stieg Larrson's girlfriend controls (not that I expect anyone to ever have a chance to finish that novel).  I don't know if Douglas Adams left notes for another book.  Did Eoin Colfer write a book to give himself and fans a better ending to the series? I thought the end of Adams' fifth book was pretty final.

I should just read them, right? No? Do I want to read David Lagercrantz's The Girl in the Spider's Web? I don't know. Yes and no.  If I ever decide to read The Wheel of Time, I will read the books written by Sandersen. That case is different, right? I would go into the series knowing it would be finished by someone else. I finished Hitchhikers years before Colfer wrote his book.  I started reading Millennium as a trilogy. I love reading, and I want to give authors a chance. My fear is that they will change how I feel about Larsson and Adams' work. Though at the rate I'm going, it'll be years before I get around to reading these books.

Thursday, May 07, 2015

Mirror Mirror

It is rare for Julia Roberts play the villain. I can't even think of another time. It's one of the reasons I wanted to see Mirror Mirror. Another, is that I enjoy fairy tale retellings, especially if the heroine gets to be more heroic than in the classic tales. I know the movie is a few years old and it didn't get the best rating, but I was trying to decide what to watch, I felt like I wanted something where I didn't have to think.  I was also thinking about my children and wanted to preview some of the options on Netflix for appropriateness. (I pre-screen occasionally. A while ago, my daughter saw the Waynes getting shot and I had to do some quick talking.  Not making that mistake again.)

Mirror Mirror is a visually engaging movie; it's total eye candy. The sets were fantastic, but the costumes stole the show. The Queen's dresses were brilliantly elaborate. The costumes from the party scene were hilarious and wonderful. Whatever Nathan Lane was wearing on his head was perfect. The simplicity of the dress that the Queen's reflection wore was a fantastic contrast.  The sets and especially the costumes add a lot to the movie.

The movie had a lot of great moments.  One-liners, scenes that were fun, funny and sweet.  I really liked the twist at the end.  I liked the fight between Snow White and the prince; it was a fun way for them to get to know each other a little more, to become confused.  The prince under the spell was hilarious.  The actor did a great job.  It could not have been easy, there must have been some great outtakes.  The plot of the movie wasn't....the best.  It was okay. I think my daughter might like it, though there were a couple of slower parts, so there's a possibility of her getting bored halfway through.  We'll see.  I'm glad I watched it.  It was fun brain candy.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Shadow and Bone

I am so glad that I have the next two books in the Grisha trilogy. Shadow and Bone was fantastic. I couldn't put it down. It's been a long time since I read a book so fast. I loved Alina. I appreciated that she didn't start out as a typically/tragically beautiful girl who was unaware of her own beauty. She's skinny, with dark circles under her eyes. In the army, her nickname is Sticks. What Alina needed to do more than anything was accept herself. I like the idea that you have to accept who you are on the inside before you can change on the outside. Alina learns to find the strength in herself before she can move forward with anything, whether with her powers or with love.

I kind of loved the Darkling. As a character, he was brilliant. He's called "the Darkling" so there's already a foreboding feeling before you even meet him. But when he sits by the fire with Alina and when they're together by the lake, you think, maybe... and maybe... I'm interested to see how his character evolves through the next two books.  Plus, the book cover, now that I have read the story, I feel like so much of it is him. The swirling shadows and the bone.

The world that Leigh Bardugo creates is brilliant. It feels very real. Traveling with Alina, the reader gets to see much of Ravka, from the poor villages, to the opulent palace, to the Fold. Bardugo writes about each place with such amazing, engaging detail, it is easy to picture the characters almost getting run over by a carriage, sleeping in the forest or fighting outside a tavern.  I am eager to see where else Bardugo takes us in her world, will we get to visit the other countries, places that sound very different from Ravka? There's a whole world still to explore.

I think they're going to make a movie of Shadow and Bone.  I'm not surprised. As I was reading the novel, imaging all the powers of the Grisha, the palaces, the landscapes and the Unsea, I thought it would make a visually stunning movie.  As long as they cast well and the script is good.... I'm a little weary of all the Young Adult novels making their way to the "big screen".  It seems like there are so many, but only a few really good ones.  Not everything has been a Harry Potter or Hunger Games or even Twilight.  There have been some serious flops, but with all of Shadow and Bone's potential, I hope it isn't one.

I don't know why it took me so long to start the Grisha trilogy - probably because I have so many other series on the go.  I'm glad I did though.  Shadow and Bone was just what I needed.  It was fast-paced, exciting and full of emotion.  I can't wait to read Siege and Storm and future books by Leigh Bardugo.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Dreadfully Ever After

Dreadfully Ever After was exactly what I wanted it to be. It was exciting, fun, and full of zombies! It had most of the characters I wanted to see and some that I was surprised with. I loved Kitty. Who expected her to grow the way she did? Without Lydia around, she became her own person. Though I loved Lizzy and Oscar Bennet, Kitty stood out for me. I found Mary more predictable, her journey based on her experiences in Dawn of the Dreadfuls, was what I thought it would be. I was a little sad that there were no real interactions with Jane and Lizzy, though. I keep coming back to Kitty. She really held my attention. She broke out from what people expected her to be, what they wanted her to be. She became her own person. Steve Hockensmith created a Kitty I could love.

Darcy's family was a little crazy. More than a little. Dreadfully Ever After starts out with Mr. Darcy being bit. This is not a spoiler, it's on the back of the book. Mrs. Elizabeth Darcy can't let her beloved husband turn into a dreadful and she can't cut off his head either, so she sets out on a quest to find the rumoured cure. The only way to do this is through Lady Catherine. The same Lady Catherine who tried to kill Lizzy with ninjas in Pride and Prejudice and Zombies.  Knowing that Lady Catherine prolonged Charlotte's life, Lizzy has no one else to turn to in order to save her husband. Lady Catharine sends Lizzy off to London and away from Darcy, leaving him vulnerable to Anne. I saw what what coming with Anne, from the first time Darcy touched her hand. On the topic of Darcy's family, I wish we had more time with Georgiana Darcy, how would she have reacted to Anne and Lady Catherine's revelation? She seemed to have a great relationship with her brother and his wife and I wish that we could have seen what her journey in Scotland was like. It wouldn't have had to be long. Just a chapter, maybe. 

The Bennets went through some ups and downs looking for the cure. There were dreadfuls, children, dandies and ninjas. I think the man in the box redeemed himself, but I would have liked a closer look; naturally, it was Mary who found him. They struggled to do what they thought was the right thing, with ninjas constantly hovering nearby. I really enjoy Nezu, my favourite ninja.  It's another reason I would have liked to see more Georgina, she spent a lot of time with ninjas too. 

The characters are really what made the story for me. There was growth, doubt, sadness, tragedy and love. I was up late many nights because I had to know what happened next. Lizzy was caught between two worlds. So was Darcy. So was Anne. And Kitty. And Nezu. They all had to make choices. Making those choices was difficult. I enjoyed reading about their struggle and following them on their journeys to the end. Also, the chapter with the king, fantastic!

I suppose that's it for novels in the Pride and Prejudice and Zombies series.  There's really not much left to say in the life of Lizzy (Bennet) Darcy.  If Steve Hockensmith wrote another one, I would definitely read it though.  Maybe there will be one about Kitty or Georgiana.  If not, that's okay too, because those "dreadful" books were wonderful.

Monday, April 13, 2015

Mind of My Mind

I can't believe Mind of My Mind ended that way. I saw the situation, the final scene of the end sequence coming; it was only logical. The result of the final scene was the surprise. Especially after reading the first book, Wild Seed, there were certain characters I thought would continue, would have to continue. Honestly, I'm not sure how to process the end. I don't even know how to talk about it without giving it away...and I don't  want to. I want people to read Seed to Harvest / Patternmaster series. I want people to read Octavia E. Butler. The first two Patternmaster books were amazing. Mind of My Mind kept me up late for a lot of nights. I just can't talk about the amazing ending anymore. 

I wanted more Emma. Emma is the name that Anyanwu took at the end of Wild Seed. I thought Wild Seed was amazing and I loved Anyanwu. Though I also thought Mind of My Mind was brilliant, I missed her. I wanted to know more about Emma, her thoughts and feelings in this new world. I wanted to know how much she agreed with Doro, how much she fought him. I wanted to spend time more time with her. Now, I don't know if I'm ever going to find out anything more about her. 

Though I missed Emma, Mary was a great new lead female character. I thought her and Karl were wonderful. I liked that their relationship grew over the course of the novel, that there was hate and love, mistrust and affection. Mary was so complex. She was young, but developed an unexpected wisdom. I enjoyed all of the "First Family". I could easily see how Jesse and Rachel would be pulled towards each other. I really liked Seth and Clay, and wished I could spend more time with them too. The next book is titled Clay's Ark, so maybe I'll see them again soon. 

I appreciated the metaphor (allegory?) of the race of telepaths enslaving the "mutes". To the Patternists, skin colour didn't matter, it was irrelevant. What mattered was their telepathic abilities, their intelligence and maturity. To them, however, if they needed something from a non-telepath, they took it; they used their mental abilities to tweek people, making them compliant and willing helpers. They used them as foster parents, they took over a school, invaded homes. They made it seem nice and they made sure that their mutes were happy, but they weren't free. Is it real happiness if they have no choice.  The breakdown of the girl Page with Ada was what really brought it home. She called Ada and the first family on what they were doing and basically Ada said that they do what they must. It broke Page's heart.

From Wild Seed to Mind of My Mind, the story jumped a large amount of time, probably one hundred years.  So the more I think about it, the more I wonder if Clay and his brother will actually be in Clay's Ark.  Will he turn out to be immortal like Doro?  Will it be about something Clay built?  I was so happy for his and his brother's happiness.  After centuries of manipulation, Doro's people were finally becoming a community.  I want to know more.  I hope to find out what happened to them, even if, like Emma, I don't get to spend a lot of time with them.  I am very much looking forward to the second half of the Patternmaster series.

Tuesday, April 07, 2015

Top Ten Characters I'd Like To Check In With

I haven't done a Top Ten Tuesday in a really, really, long time. But I saw this week's topic and it really connected with me.  How many times have you read a book and imagined what life was like for the character after the story's end? I know I have. Sometimes I wonder if we'll ever find out.I certainly didn't know there would be a sequel (or two) to Oryx and Crake when I first read it. Margaret Atwood isn't known for writing trilogies, but I'm so glad she created MaddAddam. I didn't think there would be books after Wicked either (and I still have to read them). Sometimes that hope to know what happens to the lives of our favourite characters is fulfilled, but most of the time, nope, we don't get to know.

Here are my top ten characters I'd like to check in with - in no particular order:

1. Offred from The Handmaid's Tale - Never going to happen, because the ending is perfect, but I still wish I knew what happened to her.

2. Roland from The Dark Tower series - I will try not to spoil it for anyone who hasn't read the whole series, but I want to know if Roland breaks the cycle.

3. Harry Potter - Harry Potter!

4. Laila from A Thousand Splendid Suns - Did her life turn out okay?  It seemed like it would, but after such a difficult beginning, I'd like to make sure.

5. Scout from To Kill a Mockingbird - ... Oh wait....

6. Del from Lives of Girls and Women - I just want to know.

7. Lena from the Delirium series - That ending! Come on!

8. David & Tell Ullman from The Demonologist - That ending! Come on!

9. The Baudelaires from A Series of Unfortunate Events - Who do they become when they grow up?  (Do they grow up?)

10. The Time Traveler from The Time Machine - Where does he end up?

I refrained from including any series that I know has another book out or coming out that I haven't read yet.  As much as I wanted to include Blue Sargent (from The Raven Cycle) or Betsy Taylor (from Undead), I didn't, because there are books to read and maybe once I reach the conclusions of these series I won't be wondering (I know what happens to MaddAddam's Toby and Katniss from The Hunger Games). These are all characters that still capture my imagination. Who do you wonder about you close the book?

Monday, April 06, 2015

Thoughts On My Spin Book

The spin number is 2!!

That means I'll be reading The Waves, by Virginia Woolf.  This one will be a reread for me.  Though it might be like the first time.  I read The Waves the first time about a decade ago in school.  I wrote a whole essay on it.  I got a decent mark too.  Ask me what it's about.  I have no idea.  I can't remember.  There's some people.  Friends.  I think they have dinner together.  Is someone missing.  I'm not even sure.  I don't know why I don't remember.  I could tell you all about Orlando (my favourite Woolf) or Flush, which I read at about the same time.  Oh well, I'll be reading The Waves really soon and I'm eagerly anticipating relearning the story.

Sunday, April 05, 2015

Northanger Abbey

Northanger Abbey might be my new favourite book by Jane Austen. I loved it. I loved the style of it. There was something cheeky in the narrator's tone that I really connected with. I loved Catharine Morland. I loved her innocence and ignorance. Can we attribute it all to age? To the fact that she was not well traveled? There were times I wanted to yell at Catharine, to ask her why she didn't see what was so obvious to us.

The characters are really what made this story. The story is pretty typical of a Jane Austen novel. There's a young woman, she meets a man. Stuff happens. They get married. There's always a good man, an ideal perhaps, then a bad man, who might be just a bit bad, but who could maybe be awful. There is often a friend/sister. There's a bad girl. There's a conflict between money and love. Nothing happened  in Northanger Abbey that I didn't expect.

What had me riveted, what had me coming back, was Catharine and the rest of the characters. Listening to the characters speak, but then hearing how Catharine interpreted their words and actions was a good kind of frustrating. Isabella was exactly who I that she would be. Her brother was more sneaky than I thought after what he said to the general, but I was not surprised. Henry was every good part of Austen's heroes. Eleanor was perfect.  Catharine Morland was jsut the right heroine for my mood. I loved how everything surprised her, even something simple, like a chest in her room.

Sense and Sensibility used to be my favourite Austen. I might have to reread it since Northanger Abbey has knocked it off its throne. I know Northanger Abbey isn't the most popular of Austen's novel, but I think anyone who has enjoyed Pride and Prejudice and Emma, should not hesitate to read Austen's first novel as well.

Friday, April 03, 2015

The Grocery Store

Randomly, I found myself thinking about a family I noticed in the grocery store last week, two parents and their children, shopping for the week’s food.  There was some struggling, one child stuck in the cart, the other wandering off.  They were being good, no crying, no fussing, no bribery that I could see, but in my head I still wondered, why?  I try not to take my children to the grocery store.  If my Hubby is home and I have to go to the grocery store (or most anywhere), I give him and the children, a kiss goodbye, then head out.  Even if they are being perfect little angels, I know that a 30 minute trip to the grocery store will certainly double if I bring them along. They don’t make it longer on purpose, it's just how it is.

It is not as though I never take my children out shopping with me.  In fact, I usually can't go on my own, but usually I take just one.  My Hubby and I often “divide and conquer”, we each take one child and split the errands.  Again, it makes it all quicker.  If I have to take both children, I accept that I will be at the store for hours, that I have to take snacks, drinks, and activities.  I try to make it easy and potentially fun for all of us (mostly them).  I give the kids tasks, a scavenger hunt-esque game, finding what we need and putting it in the cart.  I want to avoid the meltdowns, because I've had enough of those.

I was talking to a friend of mine who said that her husband wanted to make errands like this a “family outing”.  She didn't get it.  She wanted to just go in and get out as quickly as possible.  I told her that I understood his perspective, because that used to be mine.  I tried to make grocery shopping a family activity, like perhaps, that family I saw last week.  I told my friend that I had learned my lesson. There had been too many crying, fighting, annoying, anxiety-creating moments.  I had decided, it would be better for me (or my Hubby, but usually me) to do a quick shop and then have family time after.  I didn't want to spend hours struggling at the store.  I wanted to spend that time doing crafts, playing games, running outside or even watching a movie together.  I wanted our family time to not involve yelling or pleading.  So though I may lose an hour here and there, I think quality time is better than quantity time.  This might just be me and my family though.  I’m sure there are others that have loads of fun at the grocery store… maybe. 

Wednesday, April 01, 2015

I Need To Spin!

I'm so excited to be particippating in another Classics Club Spin!  It's been too long since I did one. Though I don't always finish the book, I love the chance and the challenge.

I used to create a spin list divided into categories (categories I created based on the types of works I intended to read for the Classics Club).  Last time I participated in a spin (a long time ago), I took note of a few bloggers who decided to make the list random using  I like random, so that's what I'm going to do again.

So here's my list:

1. Medea, by Euripides
2. The Waves, by Virginia Woolf
3. Little Dorrit, by Charles Dickens
4. The Weapons Shop, by A.E. van Vogt
5. Appointment with Death, by Agatha Christie
6. Daisy Miller, by Henry James
7. Dracula's Guest, by Bram Stoker
8. A Fairwell to Arms, by Ernest Hemingway
9. Macbeth, by William Shakespeare
10. Lyrical Ballads, by Samuel Taylor Coleridge and William Wordsworth
11. Tom Sawyer, by Mark Twain
12. From the Earth to the Moon, by Jules Verne
13. Sherlock Holmes #2: The Sign of Four, by Arthur Conan Doyle
14. Stories from Hans Christian Andersen
15. Cat's Cradle, by Kurt Vonnegut
16. Treasure Island, by Robert Louis Stevenson
17. The Cat In The Hat, by Dr. Seuss
18. Tales of Angria, by Charlotte Brontë
19. Three Series, Complete, by Emily Dickinson
20. Anne of Avonlea, by L.M. Montgomery

You know what I realized while making my list?  I've read enough books that I had to regenerate a lot of my random numbers. That's good, right?  I like the list I've ended up with. There is a bit of everything.  There is some genre, some young adult, a couple short stories, some poetry and even a children's book.  I think it worked out well.

I'm hoping for Agatha Christie though.  As soon as that popped up, I knew I had to read it.  Even if it is not my spin book, I think I'll be reading it soon.  What book are you hoping for?

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Wild Seed

Wild Seed is the first novel in Octavia E. Butler's Patternmaster series, in the chronology of the Patternmaster world.  It is actually the 3rd novel written in the series.  If I had known that before I started, I probably would have read the books in publication order.  Oh well.  The edition of Wild Seed I have is collected in an Omnibus titled, Seed To Harvest.  I hadn't fully decided until I reached the emotional end of Wild Seed, whether I would write about each of the four Patternmaster books individually or if I would write about Seed to Harvest as a whole. It was an emotional ending and a fantastic story. Wild Seed is definitely a story on its own, able to stand alone, not just as a part of a series.  The power of the story decided for me, I had to write about Wild Seed (and now each subsequent story) on its own.

Wild Seed starts off with Doro. Sensing the presence of Anwanyu, Doro veers off his path to find her. That decision sets their immortal lives on a new course.  I loved this story.  Not only is the plot interesting and unique, it gives us a view of a world we don't often see in fantasy. Doro is a spirit, who's not a spirit; who changes bodies by first killing the spirit of the ones who own it. He can become male or female, black or white, anyone he wants. Anyanwu is an incredibly strong shapeshifter. She can become any living creature, learning all she needs to know about how a body functions by eating a bite of that animal. She can be a woman or man, make herself black or white or whatever she wants. Doro has lived for almost four thousand years. Anyanwu is young in comparison, only about four hundred by the time the book ends. They were both born in Africa, but their lives have moved to the new world, to a secluded part of New York. 

I love Anyanwu. I love how much she loves her friends and family. I love that she wants to be around her people. I love how much she cares for them, wants them to be safe and to grow and think for themselves. I love how much she loved Isaac. She was amazing, they were amazing. I'm so glad that this is a series and I (hopefully) get to see what happens next to her. 

I loved to hate Doro. I just wanted him to see what he was doing was wrong, not just because of convention or superstition, but because it can create bad people. Before finding Anyanwu, he lost most of his humanity. Anyanwu is a good (interesting) influence on him. I'm excited to see what kind of change will happen to him through the books in this series. 

I liked that we got to know Isaac. Besides him, we don't really see much of the other people Doro and Anyanwu interact with. The rest of the characters flit in and out of their lives, though there are a few we get deeper glimpses into, like Stephen, Luisa, Thomas, Nneke, and Leah. I wonder who we will see in future books. I suppose with the unending lives of Doro and Anyanwu, the next book could start with the end of Wild Seed, or it could start a hundred years in the future. 
I wonder about the other books. How much time will have passed? Where are we going to find this immortal pair? Will Anyanwu change Doro? I'm excited that I have started this series and I'll be reading the other books soon.

 *I really like all these interesting covers from over the years.  I had to share.*

Monday, March 16, 2015

The Girl Who Played With Fire

I love a good ending, don't you?

Though I thoroughly enjoyed The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo, I took my time before I read The Girl Who Played With Fire. For two reasons: the length, it comes in at over 700 pages; and the subject matter, I knew it would be a mystery/thriller and have a measure of violence about it. I also knew what kind of violence, so, I avoided it for a while. Recent developments in my life have afforded me some uninterrupted time for a couple weeks, so the length seemed like a non-issue and I decided this was the time to read it.

I'm glad I finally did and I don't know if I should have waited so long. The Girl Who Played With Fire had me hooked from the beginning.  I think I liked it better than the first book. There was character development, intrigue and action. I loved every twist and turn. Stieg Larsson created such a compelling character in Lisbeth Salander and also in Mikael Blomkvist. I liked Berger, Paulo Roberto, Mimmi, Erikkson, Modig, Bublanski, everyone. Admittedly, there are A LOT of characters, and since it's been so long since I read the first book, I had trouble remembering all of them. But I'm used to it... I read Stephen King, after all.

I liked that Larsson created not just a compelling story, but also takes one sensitive topics. I felt that he was not just using it as background to tell a tail, but he also expressed an opinion about them through his work. It gave me something more than just a fantastic story to connect too.

As with so many second books in a trilogy, this felt like a middle book. It didn't until the end. The final few pages created such a cliffhanger, a sense of urgency, I don't think I'll be waiting as long to read the final installment. If it wasn't for those scenes, if the ending was just a bit different, or if the book was just five pages longer, two pages, it could have been a complete story unto itself. This is the Millennium trilogy though, so that it ended that way didn't surprise me.

I'm excited to read The Girl Who Kicked The Hornets Nest. That there is a third book, means I kind of know what's going to happen after that final scene. Part of me wants to keep going about how much I enjoyed The Girl Who Plays With Fire, but I should really just pick up the next book. If haven't read these books yet, even if you don't like mystery/thrillers, I highly recommend them. It is the characters that make the Millennium books amazing.

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies: Dawn of the Dreadfuls.

Was that Hawksworth at the end? Wow. A great ending. Both the main story with the Bennets and the epilogue. I feel like the epilogue was not really created to connect to the first Pride and Prejudice and Zombies novel, but to actually connect to the third, Dreadfully Ever After. Which I will be reading, sooner than later. Dawn of the Dreadfuls actually has me wanting to read more Jane Austen too.  It's been a while since I read Emma and I have Northanger Abbey calling to me from a stack of books nearby.

I thoroughly enjoyed Pride and Prejudice and Zombies: Dreadfully Ever After. It was brain candy. Just what I needed. It had women fighting stereotypes and preconceptions. It had twists. It had Lizzy and Jane. It had zombies! Steve Hockensmith did an excellent job moving backward from the story Seth Grahame-Smith wrote in Pride and Prejudice and Zombies. He gave origins to where the Bennet sisters and their father learned their warrior ways, and Lady Catherine as well. Though we got more details about the zombie plague, we don't know where or why it started. I wonder if we'll get that in the third book.  Dawn of the Dreadfuls was funny, tragic, and exciting.  It's everything I expected it to be.  I loved that the Bennet parents got first names and that they are both given more depth.  I liked seeing who owned Netherfield before Bingley.  There's so much I liked about this novel.  I feel like I could gush.  Instead, I'm going to say, read it.  Even if you haven't read Pride and Prejudice or Pride an Prejudice and Zombies, I'm sure you'll still enjoy Dawn of the Dreadfuls.  The story stands very well on its own.  I wish there was more, but I suppose there is and I'll be reading it soon.  More Regency zombies, please!

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

What's in the Fridge? Homemade Pasta Sauce!

What happens when you have to make dinner and you don't have time to go to the grocery store and the cupboards are bare?  You take a bunch of stuff from the fridge and throw it in a pot!  I looked through the food stocked in the kitchen, I found that I had butter, milk, flour, various leftover vegetables and the usual herbs and spices.  First, I decided that I needed to use the broccoli, asparagus, and spinach (I hate when produce goes bad).  Then, I saw the butter.  I don't usually have butter, but I baked recently and had some left over.  Butter, plus flour and milk, add some parmesan, throw in the greens and now I have a veggie cream sauce! I added some black pepper, basil and oregano, what more do I need?  I checked out what pasta I had, and surprisingly, I actually had some fettucine.  It was a quick dinner and it tasted fantastic. Sometimes, you just need a few minutes, imagination and determination to find what you need.

Monday, March 09, 2015

Call Roxanne, by Andrew Pyper

After reading Andrew Pyper's exciting novel, The Demonologist, I just had to read something else by him.  After a quick search, I found a free short story (I'm a sucker for a free short story), Call Roxanne.  (Also, I just finished Cyrano de Bergerac and Roxane!)  This is not a story about a girl named Roxanne, it is a story about a boy and his father.  Something is wrong with the boy and I think something is wrong with the father.  I thought the relationship between father and son was interesting.  I wish I knew more about them.  I loved the way the trip to the hospital was woven into the story without being obvious.  I thought the introduction of Roxanne was interesting and the way she popped back up at the end.  It ends so abruptly though, I wish I knew more about the boy and what happens to him.  Call Roxanne has definitely made me eager to read more of Andrew Pyper's works.

Saturday, March 07, 2015

Cyrano de Bergerac

I want to see this play! The story is brilliant, tragic, and full of emotion. If you don't know Edmond Rostand's most famous work, Cyrano de Bergerac is about love and appearances. Cyrano has a rather large nose and is considered by himself and others as ugly. He is in love with a beautiful woman, Roxane. Roxane is in lust with Christian, though for the time, they call it love. Christian is also in love with Roxane, but must work to woo her. He has no words. Cyrano is an expert at words, he is a poet and perhaps could have been a playwrite. Cyrano believes that Roxane could never love him, so gives his words to Christian. First in a letter, then in the famous balcony scene where Cyrano whispers from the bushes, a scene that has become a part of pop culture and parodied in so many different forms.

The end is just so sad. Though familiar with the balcony scene and the play, I didn't know how it began or ended or the other man vying for Roxane's affections. I hoped for truth, for love to conquer all. I wanted for Cyrano and Roxane to find happiness. You'll have to read it to find out what happens. It's one of those works that is so frequently referenced, that you think you know what happens, but you actually don't. As when I finished Death of a Salesman, I want to see Cyrano de Bergerac now. I'm going to be keeping my eye out to see if the play will be preformed in Toronto or Stratford. I should check a couple of the local theatres too. I have to find a good movie adaptation. Suggestions? Cyrano de Bergerac was a fantastic play and I'm eager to see it performed.

Thursday, March 05, 2015

Shopaholic On Honeymoon

Shopaholic on Honeymoon is a perfect little taste of the Shopaholic series.  It is full of Sophie Kinsella's humourous tone and Becky's insanely wonderful personality.  Shopaholic on Honeymoon takes place during the gap of time between Shopaholic Ties The Knot and Shopaholic and Sister. There's an entire year in there where Becky and Luke go on honeymoon.  They travel the world and come home to all of Becky's purchases.  But was it smooth sailing the whole time?  Was it a perfect year?

I love that Kinsella was inspired to write this short story.  I'm glad it was free too!  Though it had what I believe is the desired effect, I want to read more Shopaholic.  I don't own Shopaholic to the Stars yet.  I want now more than I did before.  I'm itching to read more Kinsella.  I do have a couple of her stand-alone books that I haven't read yet.  Maybe it's time for Twenties Girl or Can You Keep A Secret?.  I have been spending some time commuting with strangers this week, maybe Can You Keep A Secret? is the perfect book to be reading.  I think I just need more Sophie Kinsella in my life.

Saturday, February 28, 2015

I Am Employed!

I'm very excited.  Not only am I excited about this new opportunity and looking forward to my new job, I'm excited to have money.  It'll be nice not to have to worry so much about what I'm spending. It'll be nice to be able to save money eventually, for a vacation, a new car, for the future.  No more interviews with questions that drive me crazy.  No more ads, agencies, reading between the lines... no more searching!  I start on Monday.  There's some training and then a really amazing work schedule and location.  Then I'll be on my own, achieving goals, getting to know new people and finding my place in a new environment.  I'm eager to begin.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

How Job Interviews are Like Blind Dates

It starts simply: two people look at profiles. X is a person looking at a job description, she decides to apply. Y reviews the résumé, the detailed profile, listing traits, with a cover letter talking about all their good points.  The exchange can be a biased, since there is a lot of history on a résumé and often less in a job description, but an industrious X can go online and search out the company "creep their Facebook", finding all kinds of un/interesting things.  Y might be checking out X's online profiles too.  How much of what they find is true? How many people lie on their resumes?  How many people make a company seem more impressive through a fancy website? There is only so much you can learn from these profiles.

A meeting is agreed upon.  X "dresses to impress".  We hope Y would do the same.  If they don't, won't they also be judged by the person coming to meet them?  Like a blind date, clothing can be crucial. Does X want to work somewhere, be with someone, that doesn't look put together, that doesn't look like they know what they're doing?  Also, don't be late.

After that first impression, X and Y have a chat.  They talk about their histories.  X talks about her previous employers, past relationships.  Y gives a history of the company, may talk about previous employees.  Are X and Y getting along?  Y might start talking about what will be expected of X.  X might ask questions of Y, trying to figure out what she would be getting into and if it is worth her time.  

After they part, it's left of to Y to call.  Is X the right fit?  Y might need a second date.  If Y decides against pursuing a relationship with X, there's often disappointment and sadness.  If Y offers, then there is joy and a new relationship. However, X does have the option to decline. What if, after meeting Y, X knows she'd never be happy there? What if X gets a better offer? After that first meeting, that first date, there's more than one possibility.

My job search has been going on for a while.  I've been on a lot of interviews in the past few weeks. It was maybe two weeks ago that I started comparing job interviews to blind dates.  The interviews are so often the same conversations, just had with different people in different locations.  Which got me thinking about dating (something I honestly haven't done in a very long time), then thinking about blind dating, since I'm not actually meeting anyone until after the exchange of information.  Like blind dates, I'm hoping one of these meetings works out for me.

Monday, February 23, 2015

Star Wars Jedi Academy: Return of the Padawan

Jeffrey Brown's Star Wars Jedi Academy: Return of the Padawan was fantastic.  It was everything I expected after reading the first Star Wars Jedi Academy book.  It was cute, funny, and sweet. Roan really grew, more than he did in the first book.  It wasn't just him getting through a year of school and getting used to Jedi training.  In Return of the Padawan, Roan learns about himself.  He learns about maintaining friendships, listening to others, and resisting the dark side.  Even though it's the Jedi Academy, there are so many relatable moments for kids. This could be any school.  

I thoroughly enjoyed Brown's style of drawing and the way that the book is pieced together. Including the report cards, the Ewok Pilot cartoon, and journal entries is fantastic.  I really liked the inclusion of "Holobook", the Jedi Academy's version of Facebook.  It showed how, as in real life, you can make a simple post, and then receive negativity.  Holobook is my new favourite part of the Jedi Academy.  I was happy reading this latest installment and I can't wait to read about Roan's third year in The Phantom Bully.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Breaks Between Books

How long are your breaks between books?  Mine used to be non-existent.  I frequently had the next book picked out before I finished the one I was reading.  It had nothing to do with the enjoyment of my current book. Even if I found the book all-consuming, crazy-amazing, I would still have something ready and waiting.  Not that I always read the book I thought I was going to read; I occasionally changed my mind, but there still be only a day between books.  With blogging, I like to get my thoughts down before I start something new. Often, I would throw down my points and then start the new book, cleaning the post up when I had more time.  What happened?

Lately, probably the last three or four months, it is sometimes days before I pick up my next book.  It's not that I feel like I'm in a slump, I've enjoyed the books I've read.  I loved, The Demonologist and The Flying TroutmansBlue Lily, Lily Blue and Specials had me riveted.  Why did it take me so long to pick each of those books? There were days between all of them.  I could have read another (short) book in the time it took me to pick something.  Is it because I have Emily Dickinson's collection on the go?  Usually, I only have one "currently reading" book at a time, but I started her poems months and am taking my time. The poetry is an ebook, so if I'm out, without space for my novel, I can take in a few poems.  I also find by spacing them out, I'm enjoying each poem more. (I'm taking lots of notes too.)  However, I don't think that's it.  I've been reading the poems for about eight months now and this change is newer than that. 

So, what is it?  Why am I now leaving so much space between books?  How long do you let go by before you pick up another book?

It's been two days since I finished my last book. 

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Malai Kofta Kabab

As mentioned in a previous food post, I've been trying to make dinnertime more interesting for me and the Hubby (the kids would be happy with chicken nuggets and apples, they need to try new things).  I have loads of ground beef in the freezer, but wanted to make something besides pasta sauce or tacos (not that we don't enjoy those things).  I did a quick search online and came up with this recipe from Kraft Canada.  Their online recipe site has really expanded its "ethnic" offerings.  I looked at the ingredients list.  I had everything except the cooking creme*.  Since I was going shopping anyway, I picked it up.  I also added my own twist on a few of the ingredients. Below are pictures of my journey making Malai Kofta Kabab for the first time.

I enjoy toasting my own spices.  I use a regular steel pan, I think it does the job better than a non-stick pan.  In the pan I have cumin and coriander seeds.  I have burnt my seeds in the past, so I try to keep on top of them.  When they smell awesome, is usually when they are done.  Then I put them in my marble mortar bowl and then pestle them until they're ground up.

Here are all the ingredients, with my iPad shining in the background.  I think in this first attempt, I used too many breadcrumbs.

After the ingredients are mixed together, the slightly flattened meat balls goes in the oven.  FYI, that's how we tried to sell it to the kids, they're meatballs in a new sauce.

Time to start the sauce.  Sautéed onion smells so good!

Now it looks like a sauce.  It was my first time using the cooking creme.  It didn't melt as fast as I thought it would.  It worked out just fine.  All I needed was patience.

The "meatballs" are ready to go into the sauce.  It smelled so good.  I sneaked a taste of the meat before the sauce was done.  It's really a great combination of spices.

Okay, that picture is way smaller than one serving.  It smelled so good (and it made me and Hubby so hungry) that I totally forgot about taking a picture.  I also took the picture at the dinner table, which makes the sauce and rice look yellow for some reason.  It didn't look like that.  It did get a slight yellow tinge from the spices, but it looked more creamy.  Hubby and I were really happy. The kids ate the rice.  We made them taste the "meatballs".  I think they'll get to like them eventually.  I also made a cucumber salad to go on the side.  There are no vegetables in this dish, unless you count onions and cilantro.  Looking at the pictures makes me want to eat this again. I think I'd like to make this for a dinner party some time.... with people who are less picky than my kids.

*I tried to look up this recipe on other sites without the cooking creme, but it was too complicated for a weeknight meal, so I went with easy. I might try totally from scratch next time.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Where Do You See Yourself in 5 Years?

Where Do You See Yourself in 5 Years?

I hate that question.  Sometimes it's ten years, then I might hate it even more.  I've mentioned before that I am currently unemployed and looking for work.  I've had a couple interviews where this question has been asked.  What I want to say is: working for you; or NOT unemployed; or having won the lottery, on vacation.  It's hard for me to answer, when five years ago, I did not picture myself in this situation.  I thought I'd be working for the same company, enjoying the office community, sharing pictures and stories of our children, reading good books together, having a nice time, while doing work that related to the environment.  Instead, I've had a different job since and been unemployed for almost a year.  Five years is not a long time, and it's also forever.

Instead of talking about those things and sounding like a madwoman, I come up with a relatively "correct" answer, talking about being with the company for the long term and taking on increasing responsibilities. I do hope some of the things I say.  I want to have a job in five years.  I'm tired of looking for work.  But after the previous five years, I know anything can happen and something unexpected always seems to.  Instead of trying to predict the future, I'd rather concern myself with the present.

Monday, February 09, 2015

The Flying Troutmans

The Flying Troutmans was amazing, more than I expected.  I remember buying the book ages ago, reading the synopsis repeatedly over the years and leaving the book on the shelf.  Why did I finally read it? I was in the mood for a grownup book and that is what The Flying Troutmans sounded like. Something about real life.  Something I could relate too.  It spoke to my mood.  I didn't expect to enjoy it as much as I did, though.  The writing was engaging and unique, just like the characters.  Sometimes, I wished that Hattie and the kids would just get there.  I wondered how many more crazy stops they could make.  The tension drove me a little nuts, wondering what they would find.

I enjoyed the story so much, I "suspended my disbelief".  Some of the decisions Hattie made, thinking back on it, were so unbelievable.  Who would take those kids where she took them?  Who would make those decisions?  Hattie?!  But within the context of the story, it seemed right.  Hattie was making the best decision for her sister and her sister's children.  

A quote on the front cover of my edition commented on the humour of the book. Other quotes I looked at also mentioned the novel was funny.  I did not find it humourous, at least not in the way the quotes implied.  It was funny in a sad sort of way, not a haha, kind of way.  I did not find myself laughing out loud, I found myself empathizing with Hattie, Min, Logan and Thebes.  I found myself thinking about mental illness.  Maybe part of that was the recent Bell Let's Talk day.  Miriam Toews created some of the most interested characters I've ever read about and I'll miss their road trip.

Thursday, February 05, 2015

It's Not a Special Occasion, It's A Turkey Breast!

Lately, I've been a bit bored with dinner.  It seems like I make the same chicken and beef recipes all the time.  I'm a busy parent, so I do tend to like what's easy, but I also think variety is the spice of life.  Not only will different foods be fun, but it would be nice to vary the different vitamins and minerals we are taking in.  When considering the possibilities, the first thing that came to mind was turkey.  I love turkey, but like most people, I only make it for Thanksgiving and Christmas.  I thought it was time to change that.  I always see the turkey breasts in the meat section, but haven't bought one since I was pregnant with my daughter (and chicken made me sick).  So, this week I picked it up.  

I'm good at making a turkey, but I was nervous about making just the breast.  I didn't want to over cook it.  I definitely didn't want to under cook it.  I wanted to get the skin nice and crispy.  I considered pan-frying, but thought for my first time out in 6 years, I should just roast it.  It turned out fantastic.  I rubbed it down with the same seasonings I used during the holidays.  I put it in the oven for about an hour and a half and it came out perfectly.  It was juicy and brown.  

My one mistake, too small of a dish.  It didn't quite fit.  The bone prevented the meat from actually touching the bottom.

Brown on the outside, juicy on the inside, it couldn't have turned out better.  (I don't know why I didn't move the knife and fork when I took this picture.  It's a nice knife, at least.) 

What do I use to season my turkey?  It's pretty simple: olive oil, garlic, thyme, sage, salt and pepper. Easy, good and tasty.  

Any suggestions for changing up my dinnertime repertoire?  I'm excited to try more new things!

Friday, January 23, 2015

The Demonologist

I think I loved The Demonologist.  The story was riveting.  I was up late many nights because I just had to know what happened next.  I loved the characters, I empathized with them, I shouted at the book, I gasped out loud.  I loved the trip the character took, from New York to Venice, Florida to Northern Ontario.  It was the road trip from hell, but it was amazing.

Why don't I know if I loved The Demonologist?  I am not sure how I feel about the ending.  Quite a few unexpected things occurred. The emotional climax hit, but there was no after-moment, if you know what I mean.  I didn't need an epilogue or anything, I just wish there was a little bit more. There were so many unanswered questions.  I had to double-check to see if this was the first book in a series, because it seems to be calling for a sequel.  I do appreciate the ending though, there's a certain artistry to it.

Last weekend, I met author Andrew Pyper and wrote a bit about my experience.  I wish I had finished the book before the meeting, because there is so much I want to know.  Not that I think I would have broken out of my bumbling shell and asked him any of my burning questions.  The film rights have been sold, will it end the same way?  Why isn't there more?  I thought there'd be more running, more hugging, more tears.  I did love O'Brien though.  She was amazing throughout the novel.

I appreciated that though this was a horror/fantasy type novel, with evil demons straight out of Paradise Lost, that essentially, The Demonologist is about a father looking for his daughter.  He loves her, she is so much like him, they want each other to be happy. Their relationship anchored the emotional context of the book; my heart was always pulled back to David Ullman's loss.