Monday, May 21, 2012

The World Over, by Lauren DeStefano

The World Over Makes me want to cry.  It is so short and so full of emotion.  I have really enjoyed the first two books in Lauren DeStefano’s Chemical Garden trilogy.  I’m eagerly anticipating the third book.  So, when I saw that she had a few short stories on her website, I decided to read one.  I plan on reading all of them now.

What if you were the last couple on Earth?  What if you knew that both of you would die, no matter what you did and how much you loved each other?  I wonder how they got to this place.  I wonder what happened to the planet. 

You want to have hope as the story progresses, the characters are developed.  You root for them.  It was a short story that packed a lot of punch.  

Short Story Monday is hosted by John Mutford at The Book Mine Set.

Saturday, May 19, 2012


I’m so glad that Charlaine Harris brought the mystery back to Deadlocked, the twelfth book in the Southern Vampires/Sookie Stackhouse series.  Though, it did take a lot of pages before we got to the finding of the dead body; there was a lot of Sookie’s life, the in-between bits, that were included in this story.  I liked the book, a definite improvement on Dead Reckoning.  However, I felt like it was too long.  There were a lot of Sookie-thinking moments; it could have been maybe fifty pages shorter.  I wonder it there’s a sort of page count they aim for with these types of books.  All the Sookie books are about the same length.

I digress.  I liked it.  I’m happy I liked it.  I liked the mystery.  I liked the solution to the mystery.  I’ve gotten to really like Dermot.  I also wonder about Claude’s motivations.  I wonder if he somehow blames Niall for his sisters’ deaths.  I’m glad for Jason and Tara and all of Sookie’s friends.  I’m hoping that Sookie and Amelia mend their relationship before the end of the final book.  I always really liked Amelia and though she’s too impulsive, I think she might have been the most understanding friend Sookie ever had (except for Sam). 

Why is it always Bill or Eric?  I'm sure there are readers, who think Sookie would be better off with a non-vampire, like Sam.  I love Sam.  Sookie deserves better than what Eric has been giving her.  Bill didn’t do much better.  I do have to question Sam’s choices in women.  The next book is the last.  I hope that it tells us who Sookie will end up with, but I’d have to understand it Charlaine Harris left it a bit open.  After all, Sookie is only… 27?  I know lots of people who were/are unmarried/single at that age.

Deadlocked brought me back to loving the series.  Though not my favourite book of the series, it was an enjoyable read and has left me eager for the thirteenth and final book. 

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Wisdom, The Midway Albatross

I almost cried reading Wisdom: The Midway Albatross.  I'm going to partly blame it on the hormones.  I'm also going to blame it on this touching story of survival. (Did I really just call something a "touching story"?). This story is a non-fiction picture book.  The writing and art are great.  Darcy Pattison and Kitty Harvill tell the story of Wisdom, an albatross that is over 60 years old!  Wisdom survives fishing lines, earthquakes and tsunamis, include the one that devastated Japan last year.  It was emotional and beautifully brought to life by Pattison and Harvill.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

The Garden Party and Other Stories

The Garden Party and Other Stories is Katherine Mansfield’s most famous work.  I had heard so many good things about these stories that once I had a copy of the collection, I really had to read them (thank you Project Gutenberg, though the book nerd in me still wants a hard copy).  In general, I thought these were great stories.  I found the characters very believeable.  I wrote a few sentences (or more) on each story.

At The Bay

At The Bay is a good story, but I didn’t see the point.  It was well written and there were definite parts I found interesting, but I didn't feel any real connection to the characters.  I also felt it was very long.
See the full review I wrote for Short Story Monday.

The Garden Party

The Garden Party immediately reminded me of Mrs. Dalloway, though it's been so long since I read that book, I wonder why.

The Garden Party is a great story and deserving of being the title of the collection.  It was easily my favourite. I expected some kind of high society tale. I expected the characters to be more shallow, which many of them were. Laura was different.  Though in the story only for a couple moments, I found her brother Laurie to be different too. They had other dimensions, other facets besides society life. I really enjoyed how Laura grows. She goes from naive girl to a young woman with some new life experience. The end was so unexpected. The entire story was fantastic. 

The Daughters of the Late Colonel

They are the forgotten sisters. It was a well written story, with a pair of very interesting characters, but it was so sad. I didn’t want to end my reading for the day here. I hope Josephine and Constantia find happiness now that they are out from under their oppressive father.

Mr. and Mrs. Dove

This is another sad story, but not in the same way. It's like the opposite of the underdog love story. The poor-ish young man goes to ask the beautiful, wealthy woman to marry him and she says, no. However, she still wants him to be happy. She wants him not to be upset by her answer. She doesn't want them to be like the doves. Then, why does she call him back as he tries to walk away, with what I think is with a last shred of dignity. Why does she call him Mr. Dove? Why does he go back to her when called? Has she changed her mind? I don't know. This is another great story in the collection.

The Young Girl

She's a snobby teenager, who finally gets a moment to be herself. She spends the rest of the time putting on airs.  

See the full review I wrote for Short Story Monday.

Life of Ma Parker

Life of Ma Parker is an utterly depressing story. Mansfield wrote about the saddest life she could conceive of, I think. At least the rain came so she could have her cry.

Marriage a la Mode

Is it terrible that I've read this story and what I'm thinking is: why can't she be a better wife?

The Voyage

A good story, but I'm not sure what to make of it. It's like a life lesson for Fenella. She learns her grandma is more than what she thought. It's also seems to be a glimpse of her traveling, from an old life to a new one.

Miss Brill

She's treating her fur like a pet! She is a weird lady.  The young couple is so mean!  They make fun of the woman and her fur. She puts the fur away, and she continues to talk to and about it like a pet.  She thinks she hears it crying. Another well-written, though also depressing story.

Her First Ball

Are these the same characters from The Garden Party?

This story was only depressing for a moment, when "the fat man" took her for a dance. Really, Leila's first ball is full of hope and nerves and fun. I hope she gets many more.

The Singing Lesson

It's a miracle she's engaged at thirty! Hahaha! Definitely written a long time ago. Though women today are still so affected by men's changes in emotions, but I suppose it is natural when it's the person you love.  Though after her fiancé’s behaviour, I’d have second thoughts about marrying him, even if I was thirty.

The Stranger

Another poor, sad, depressing story. He just wants his wife to be as happy as he is that they are together after her long trip. She can't be. Now he feels like she'll be a stranger forever. Why not a happy reunion? Come on, Katherine Mansfield! Give me a happy (or at least somewhat positive) ending!  It was such a good story, why couldn’t their reunion bring her back to the woman she was?

Bank Holiday

Not a totally depressing story. It's a fun and exciting day outdoors. There is music and all sorts of people. But what's the point? And that's just what Mansfield asks at the end.

An Ideal Family

Another man unsure of his wife... and family. He worked so hard for them, do they take advantage of him? Do they appreciate what he's done? Is it his own fault his son isn't more reliable? I wish this family could have a happy ending too.

The Lady's Maid

Is the lady's maid crazy? How could she give up a happy marriage to stay, no matter how she cared for her lady? It's such a sad story. I wish I could know what was wrong with her.

In conclusion...

The Garden Party is the best story of whole collection. It is the least sad.  I found it very vibrant, especially compared to the rest of the collection.  I really enjoyed The Young Girl and Her First Ball too.  I found most of the other stories depressing.  Well written and engaging, just sad.  They give us a really good look at life at the time.  There are just not a lot of "happily-ever-afters".  Katherine Mansfield tells the stories of many different types of people. Men and women, young and old.  After Mansfield's death, Virginia Woolf wrote in her diary that the only writer she was ever jealous of was Katherine Mansfield.  I can see why.  While maybe not as famous as Woolf, her writing is very readable, even ninety years later.

I know I complained a lot about the depressing and sad feelings prevalent in a lot of the stories, but don't let that be a deterrent.  The Garden Party and Other Stories is an excellent collection.  I think it has more to do with my own reading choices of late.  I need to find a story that I think will have a happy ending....  If you’re a fan of Woolf or of good narratives, The Garden Party and Other Stories is for you.

Monday, May 14, 2012


Be.hate.d, n. - something hated deep within the heart.  Opposite of beloved.  Examples:  Peter Pan is beloved, Captain Hook is behated.  Sleeping Beauty is beloved, Maleficent is behated.
     - My behated enemy

I think that's the clearest way to explain my new favourite word, behated.  My hubby used it today.  My hubby is a teacher.  He is participating in a fundraiser where the students buy tickets for a draw.  The winner of the draw will get to throw a pie at my husband tomorrow.  More than one teacher is participating.  My hubby has the most tickets in his bowl.  He said that either means he is beloved or behated.  Then we talked about whether behated is a word.  We were pleased with ourselves.  It is not a real word, but it should be.    (Wiktionary was the only place we could find an entry.  I don't think that counts.)  I may start using it in future posts.

Feel For America, by Derek Hayes

Feel For America is the first story in Derek Hayes' collection, The Maladjusted, which I received for review.  Conveniently, Feel For America is available to read on his website.  So I though it would be a good story for this week's Short Story Monday.

I'm not sure what I thought of the story.  It was well written, easy to read with good/interesting character development.  The narrator, John is one of three ex-patriots teaching at an English school in Taiwan.  John is from Toronto, his a-hole roommate and "Academic Director", Adam, is from England and new arrival Samuel is from America.  Mr. Hou, the school's owner, likes John and equates him and Samuel.  He doesn't like the teachers he gets from England.

The story is about the three men and how they react to and interact with each other.  Adam sets out to have conflict.  John is a bit of a pushover and strives to be a peacekeeper.  He also really likes his job.  Samuel is full of ideas as to what this experience is supposed to be like.  I just wanted to yell at him when he was speaking gibberish to that poor man on the street.  There were better ways to deal with it.  I don't know if overseas is where these men belong.  Of course the collection is called, The Maladjusted, so we will just have to see if strange people in strange situations is a theme.

Adam asks Samuel for a Feel For America.  What we end up with is a drunken football player, essentially.  More than that, he's a man who is far from home and I think he misses it.  Feel For America is a good story and I hope the rest of the collection is as interesting.

Short Story Monday is hosted by John Mutford at The Book Mine Set.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

The Sookie Stackhouse Companion

I don’t usually buy “companion” books.  Sometimes I think they’re a money grab.  Sometimes I think they’ll just be filled with fan-loved favourites without really giving us anything new to think about.  I couldn’t resist The Sookie Stackhouse Companion though, for one simple reason, I wanted to read the novella.  

Small Town Wedding is a great story.  I love Sam.  I was so glad to see him return to the forefront.  I enjoyed learning about Sam’s family.  They are loving, wonderful people (not to be confused with Sam’s terrible family on True Blood).  Sam’s brother is getting married and even though he’s not a shifter, people protest.  Much of the trouble is caused by a nasty neighbour and a long lost “friend”, of Sookie’s, Sarah Newlin.  It’s nice to find out what happened to her.  Quinn even makes an appearance.  Small Town Wedding brought me back to what I love about the series, especially after a disappointing Dead Reckoning.  

Small Town Wedding takes place before Dead Reckoning and it had a publication date that put it before Dead Reckoning’s release, so why was it pushed back?  The only thing I could think of was the interview with Alan Ball about True Blood.  It was not a feature I remember seeing in the book originally, so I’m guessing it was a late addition.  It’s a good interview, just like the one with series author, Charlaine Harris.  Part of me wishes I had the chance to read the stories in the right order, but another part of me is okay that I read it after, since I was disappointed with the last book.  I also appreciate that the interviews with Alan Ball and Charlaine Harris distinguish the television series and the book series as two separate worlds.  Ball used Harris’s books as source material, but has taken many of the characters (for example, Tara) in different directions. 

This book is definitely a “companion”, it’s really only for fans of the series.  There are some things I didn’t really need, like a summary of the entire series, though it was nice to be reminded of some of the good things and corrected on a couple of things I remembered differently.  I didn’t really like the quiz, mostly because I didn’t know any of the answers.  (I wonder if anyone could get a pass on those questions.)  There are a lot fun things in the book.  I like the character list.  I think it’ll be helpful in a series this long.  I also really like the recipes.  Not that I’ve tried any of them yet, but I enjoy cooking and I’d like to try out some of Bon Temps’s favourites.  The Sookie Stackhouse Companion is a welcome addition to the series.

Side Note:  I know that the next two books will be the end of the series.  On one hand, I’m sad to see it go; I’ve really enjoyed the Southern Vampires.  On the other hand, Dead Reckoning was not that great.  Dead in the Family was better, but I’m in the minority on that opinion.  I have hopes for Deadlocked.  However, if it is on the same level as Dead Reckoning I’m glad that Harris will be ending the series soon.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Roots Day 9: The Finale

The last Roots of Empathy visit was really nice.  The kids were sweet, excited and a little sad that it would be the last visit with the baby.  We talked about how he’s grown and changed.  Since my son has started walking while holding my fingers (parents know what I’m talking about), I walked him around the circle of children instead of carrying him like I usually do.  They got a big kick out of that.  We even put a small chair in the middle of the circle so he could stand and hold himself up and move around.

We got a goodie bag from the class too.  They gave me a little album with a few pictures from each visit.  I got a copy of one of Mary Gordon’s books, Daniel’s Day.  (I haven’t read it yet, but I’m sure I’ll let everyone know what I think.)  The class also made us two books.  One book is full of wishes for my son as he gets older, with drawings of those wishes.  The other book is of wishes for themselves, also with drawings.  We also got a certificate from the official Roots of Empathy office for our participation.  I don’t know what I’m going to do with that.  Put it in some sort of scrapbook?  The other thing I have no idea what I’m going to do with is the giant card the kids made.  It has a photo of all of us from the first day and all the kids signed their name.  Again, it’s really nice and sweet, but where am I going to put it?  It’s huge!

I’ve been going to this class since October.  It’s been nice to see the children smile as we walk in.  I hope that they really have gained something from this experience.

Wednesday, May 09, 2012

Blockade Billy

Blockade Billy actually consists of two stories.  Blockade Billy is the first and takes up two thirds of the short book and Morality is the “bonus story” that makes up the final third.

Blockade Billy was a great story.  I enjoyed the narrator, Granny.  He was the third base coach of the Titans and he’s the one who tells the story of Blockade Billy Blakely to Mr. King (Stephen King putting himself in another of his works).  Granny is an excellent narrator, he tells the story (with an amazing memory) and keeps his voice.  He gives us the opportunity to feel sympathy, shock and awe as he felt it while telling Blockade Billy’s story.

Blockade Billy is one of the stories King tells which focuses on the horror of individuals rather than the horror of the supernatural.  Though I enjoy these types of stories, they disturb me on a different level.  Of course, I’m reading Stephen King, so what else do I expect?  [Vague allusions to spoilers, but I won’t be specific.]  While I like the actions that constituted the end of the story, I didn’t like the reason for it all.  It left me a little disappointed.  Billy talked to himself.  More than once, he is referred to as a “black hole” for luck, meaning that he sucks away the good luck of those around him.  In the description of the book, it says that he is erased from the game; the entire first half of the Titan’s season is erased.  These sorts of descriptions led me to believe that the reason for Billy’s behaviour and amazing ability would be more… complex.  The reason for it all just seemed too mundane for the build-up.  That being said, I still really liked the story, maybe my expectations were just too high.

Morality is another utterly messed up story from Stephen King.  Morality is another tale that is about the horror of people.  Would you agree to do something awful (and get away with it) for the right price?

I don't really have much more to say on the short piece.  It kept the King creepy vibe going after Blockade Billy.  It was difficult to put down.  I had to be careful when reading though, this story could give me nightmares.

Two great stories, nicely paired.

Monday, May 07, 2012

At The Bay, by Katherine Mansfield

At The Bay is a good story, but I didn’t see the point.  It was well written and there were definitely parts I found interesting, but I didn't feel any real connection to the characters.  I also felt it was very long.

I could do an analysis of the duality of the characters.  The women and children are one person when the man of the house is home and another when he leaves. Even he has his own duality.  I could comment on family life at the time Katherine Mansfield wrote this.  I could discuss gender differences.  I could even talk about the possibility of the mother having post-partum depression and that here is a glimmer of hope of her coming out of it.  All these interesting topics are present within the story. But I don't feel like talking about them.

Does At The Bay have more of a point than the first Mansfield story I read, The Young Girl?  No, I don't think so.  Maybe then, it's the length plus the enigmatic characters. I don't know.  It just left me feeling a bit meh...

Short Story Monday is hosted by The Book Mine Set.

Saturday, May 05, 2012


I loved The Avengers.  My husband called it outstanding and he’s not one for exaggeration.  I don't even think this will count as a review since I only have good things to say.  The actors brought to life some of my favourite superheroes.  The actions scenes were fluid and amazing.  There was a lot of CG, but it blended well with the real people.  I loved the humour.  Joss Whedon fans can really appreciate his sense of humour.  (Is it bad that in my head I'm comparing some of the movie dialogue to Buffy?)

So, I want to list all the things/scenes/moments I loved, but there are two problems with that.  One, that would be an entire list of spoilers.  Two, it would be a long list.  Let's just say, that I already want to see it again.  (I probably won't though.  The logistics of going out with my hubby to see a movie drives me nuts sometimes.  I'll just highly anticipate the DVD.)

Whatever you do, don't leave the theatre before the credits are completely over.  Three-quarters of the theatre were out, but we and the other geeks waited until the final names rolled by for one last scene with the team.

I don't know if I could have asked for more.

I couldn't resist adding the Lego poster too. They all look so angry